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Where every Mississippi player went in the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft has wrapped up and several players from Mississippi are hoping to make an impact on Sundays this fall with their new teams. Some were picked early, some late and some went undrafted but signed as free agents. Below is a comprehensive list of where Mississippi players are headed.

  • Ole Miss:

DL Breeland Speaks – Kansas City Chiefs – Round 2, Pick 14

Speaks was the first player from Mississippi to hear his name called during the draft. Speaks was named as a second-team All-SEC performer in his final season at Ole Miss and finished with 67 tackles, eight for loss which included seven sacks. Speaks’ high motor impressed the KC coaches, and he will now have to prove that he can keep that up in the NFL.

“I had a chance to talk to his coach (Matt Luke) and [Speaks] is a good kid, hard worker,” said Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. “I never saw him take a play off, and he played a lot. A lot of times you put on college tape and these kids are on these rotations where they might make it through 50 percent of the snaps, but when you put on the tape, you’re going to see this kid play. He’s on the field. He chases everything and he’s relentless.”

DE/LB Marquis Haynes – Carolina Panthers – Round 4, Pick 36

The Panthers traded up to pick the Rebels’ all-time leader in sacks and tackles for loss. Haynes was a disruptive force for the Ole Miss defense with 12 forced fumbles throughout his college career. Haynes led Ole Miss in many statistical categories, but also served as leader of the defense and was awarded the Chucky Mullins Courage award last season.

“He’ll be a situational pass rusher for us,” said Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. “His greatest asset as an athlete is his speed off the ball. He’s got a great first step, he’s explosive, he gets off the ball very quickly. He’s got an array of pass rush moves we think we can exploit and we can move him around.”

RB Jordan Wilkins – Indianapolis Colts – Round 5, Pick 32

After he was declared ineligible in 2016, Wilkins came back to the Ole Miss offense in 2017 and proved that he was capable of leading the Rebel running game. Wilkins averaged 6.5 yards per carry, which was good for 2nd in the SEC and the senior finished with over 1,000 yards. Wilkins was not the only back taken by the Colts as they selected NC State’s Nyheim Hines earlier in the draft, but Wilkins’ running style made an impression on the Colts scouting department.

“(Wilkins) is an interesting runner,” said Colts GM Chris Ballard. “I don’t ever want to put names, but his run style reminded me a lot of Matt Forte. We thought he had as good a vision as any back in the draft.”

OL Rod Taylor – Cincinnati Bengals – Round 7, Pick 34

Taylor was a four-year starter for the Rebels and played numerous positions along the O-line. As a late-round pick, Taylor will have to prove his worth to his new team and versatility is a valuable asset to offer.

Free agents:

DB A.J. Moore – New England Patriots

OL Daronte Bouldin – New Orleans Saints

OL Martinas Rankin – Houston Texans – Round 3, Pick 16

Rankin was an AP second-team All-SEC performer last season and helped anchor an offensive line which allowed the fewest sacks in the SEC. 18 of Rankin’s 23 starts came at LT, arguably one of the most important positions on the field. Rankin is also able to be moved around the line and do whatever he is asked to do. He says that versatility has helped to land him in the NFL, and he will now help protect QB Deshaun Watson coming off of an ACL injury.

“It’s just something I always wanted to be able to do,” Rankin said during a draft conference call. “I wanted to be able to do more than one thing. I knew it would help me get to this part of my life. I’m grateful for this opportunity. I get to come into a great organization, and I get to come in and help protect a great young quarterback.”

TE Jordan Thomas – Houston Texans – Round 6, Pick 37

Thomas joins Rankin as a member of the Texans’ rookie class. The TE caught just 22 passes last season, but at 6’6 he also played WR and could give the Texans an intriguing addition to their offense.

“Thomas has rare size, speed and athletic traits and that might be enough to hear his name called on Day 3 of the draft,” said the NFL Network’s Lance Zierlein before the draft.

LS Hunter Bradley – Green Bay Packers – Round 7, Pick 21

It’s not every day that a long snapper gets selected in the NFL draft, and Bradley was the only the one. Bradley completed all snaps successfully in the past two seasons as the starter, and he knows how rare this opportunity is to be taken in the draft by a storied franchise like the Packers.

“It’s a dream come true,” Bradley said. “Being a long snapper, it’s not something that happens often. I’m just thankful and blessed to be one of those selected to be drafted by an organization like the Packers.”

P Logan Cooke – Jacksonville Jaguars – Round 7, Pick 29

Cooke averaged 41.7 yards per punt in his MSU career and became the first punter from State ever to be drafted.

Free Agents:

J.T. Gray – New Orleans Saints

  • Southern Miss:

S Tavarious Moore – San Francisco 49ers – Round 3, Pick 31

Moore started all 13 games for USM last season and led the team with 87 tackles. Moore also added three interceptions and 10 pass breakups. Moore was also able to prove himself against the highest level of competition as he had a career-high 14 tackles in the bowl game against Florida State. Mike Mayock with the NFL Network sees potential with Moore and his fit in San Francisco.

“This is a quintessential late riser,” Mayock said. “He can run. He’s got hips to open up and play deep middle. You realized right away that this guy can play.

RB Ito Smith – Atlanta Falcons – Round 4, Pick 26

Smith was highly-productive at USM and became the school’s all-team leader in total yards with 6,543 all-purpose yards. The 5’9 RB also finished with 49 total TDs which is also a school record. Smith was one of only 10 players in FBS history to record at least 4,000-yards rushing (4,538) and 1,000-yards receiving (1,446) during his USM career, so he’ll make a name for himself in Atlanta if he can help Matt Ryan as a pass catcher out of the backfield, but he will fight for time with RBs Tevin Coleman and Devonte Freeman.

DB Cornell Armstrong – Miami Dolphins – Round 6, Pick 35

Armstrong became the third USM player to be chosen in the draft, the most since 2004. The Mississippi native has 2 INTs last season including one pick-six. Armstrong also added 7 pass breakups and 22 tackles on the season.

“Just a kid from Bassfield, Mississippi! I won’t let y’all down,” Armstrong tweeted after the selection.

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