22 Sep 2020

Home of the NFL Offseason

Ole Miss Rebels 2021 NFL Draft Preseason Guide

I love the SEC and Saturday’s in the southeast during college football season. There is no better conference in America when it comes to college football than the SEC. The rich tradition of the league and the list of stars that have come from this league that changed the game of football and the way that it was played and coached.

Let’s kick this off with a little run-through of some of those names. The coaches are legendary, from Paul William “Bear” Bryant, Pat Dye, and Johnny Majors to Urban Meyer and Nick Saban, this conference has seen coaches that changed the game forever.

Its player’s history is extremely rich too. From Peyton Manning to Herschel Walker, to Bo Jackson and Julio Jones, national championships and thousands of players that have moved on to play in the NFL. The prestige surrounding the conference is incredible, and it makes our Saturdays better in the long run of the fall and winter months.

Every season, there are NFL prospects lined up in large numbers looking to make an impact on the future NFL. The game that they love, that they have given so much for and pursued an almost impossible dream is becoming a reality for many of these players. This, to me, is one of the biggest things that really makes this game special.

Ole Miss has been with the SEC since it’s conception, joining the original 8 members in 1933. They’ve been an up-and-down school, seeing a lot of success back in the 1950s and 1960s under head coach John Vaught. They competed for National Championships every year from about 1959 to 1963, and were very well respected.

Consistency at the school has been the main problem. They’ve struggled to keep a good coach and recently got themselves into a lot of trouble with the NCAA. Still, they’ve produced some fantastic names to the NFL, such as the Mannings (Archie and Eli), Patrick Willis, and Tony Bennett.

What Ole Miss lost from last season

Ole Miss took an embarrassing hit this year with the NFL Draft: They were the only school in the SEC who didn’t see one of their prospects get drafted.

That shouldn’t be the case in 2021.

The only player that the school really considered to be “draftable” was running back Scottie Phillips, who gained 619 yards from scrimmage last season and scored 6 touchdowns.

Luckily, for Ole Miss and new head coach Lane Kiffin, most of the talent on this team that impacted last season return in 2020 as seniors or juniors. This team is just hitting it’s maturing point, and now they have someone who feels like a formidable coach to lead them.

The prospects this season

Ole Miss has some respectable names up-and-coming this season, including a couple who weren’t eligible to go pro last year. Here are the 7 names that you need to know about before the season starts.

WR Elijah Moore (Jr)

#8 | 5’9″ | 180 lbs | Saint Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

Elijah Moore is one of those names quickly rising to the forefront as a legitimate NFL Draft prospect in 2021. As a sophomore, he was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list, and will undoubtedly be there again this season.

Moore is fast, quick, and agile. He played almost exclusively out of the slot last season, running a broad route tree at both the short and intermediate levels. He’s an excellent route runner, capable of making clean, crisp cuts and getting out of his break with excellent acceleration.

I think that Moore struggles to locate the football sometimes. Part of this might be the fact that Ole Miss didn’t really have route structures. Rather, they’ve told their receivers to go get open and don’t so much rely on timing concepts. That creates issues all across the board for an NFL prospect, who will never receive that type of instruction in the NFL.

There are also questions regarding his maturity as his late touchdown celebration against rivals Mississippi State was unwarranted and ended up costing the Rebels the game as the extra point, pushed back by a 15-yard penalty, went wide right.

Regardless, Moore is an excellent slot prospect in a league now needing that position filled more than ever. He could have a very successful career because of the traits and abilities that he has already displayed.

Grade: Low Impact (Future Starter).

WR Braylon Sanders (Sr)

#13 | 5’11” | 185 lbs | Callaway (Hogansville, Georgia)

Braylon Sanders has appeared in just 25 games and started 5 over his three seasons at Ole Miss. He’s logged 30 career catches and a single touchdown during his freshman season.

The thing about Sanders is that he isn’t the most athletic guy. His strides are very long for someone his size, and that limits his overall quickness and acceleration. Regardless, he’s a solid blocker and has a good pair of hands. I’m sure an NFL team would be willing to give him a summer to see if they could fit him into their scheme somehow.

Grade: Low Priority (UDFA).

TE Kenny Yeboah (Rs-Sr)

#88 | 6’4″ | 235 lbs | Parkland (Allentown, Pennsylvania)

A graduate transfer from Temple, Kenny Yeboah joins Ole Miss just in time to catch instruction from Lane Kiffin, who just produced one of the top tight ends in the 2020 NFL Draft class in Harrison Bryant. He started 11 games last season and made 5 touchdown catches in 2019.

Yeboah played both as an in-line tight end as well as an H-Back in the Rod Carey scheme. There are some similarities between Carey and Kiffin’s offensive schemes, so it shouldn’t be anything too new that Yeboah will be learning at Ole Miss.

The thing about Yeboah is that he’s not a great athlete, he’s actually a bit lumbered. He’s not very quick, because he’s tall. His blocking is alright, it would be suitable, but it’s nothing to write home to mom about. He’s a very average prospect all around and doesn’t really have much to offer until he puts on about another 20 pounds.

Grade: Project (Uncertain Future).

IOL Ben Brown (Rs-Jr)

#55 | 6’4″ | 310 lbs | Saint Aloysius (Vicksburg, Mississippi)

A two-year starter at right guard, Ben Brown is a two-time SEC Fall Academic Honor-Role student and was named to the 2018 SEC All-Freshman team after being one of three freshman to start every game at guard in the country. He was also named to the 2019 Chancellor’s Spring Honor Role, showing that he is an extremely accomplished student.

Brown is versatile, as he played the majority of snaps at right guard but also played 99 snaps last season at center. Brown is very strong, and quick enough to be used as a puller. He has an excellent anchor, shows good footwork, and his hand placement is very good.

There really isn’t that much more that Brown can do to improve his game, so it’s hard to see him not declaring for the NFL Draft after this season. I think that he can be overaggressive to finesse movements, and that can cause him to lose the assignment prematurely.

Grade: Instant Impact (Immediate Starter).

EDGE Sam Williams (Sr)

#13 | 6’2″ | 245 lbs | Lee (Montgomery, Alabama)

The SEC doesn’t really have an “elite” or well-known pass rusher in this years class, unlike just about every season to date. That being said, Sam Williams has already been spotted by Jim Nagy and the Senior Bowl, and they seem to be expecting a big season out of him.

My favorite thing that pops on tape about Williams is his motor. The guy does not give up on a play and it’s quite refreshing to be honest. He’s a very high intensity player who consistently gives on every play. Not only does he have a good motor, but he’s also very athletic and moves extremely well in space, something that’s a little rarer in 3-4 outside linebackers.

Williams is also very powerful to the point of attack, and pushed around some of the better tackles in college football last season. I saw several instances where very good teams tried to limit his impact by doubling him. He can be a real nuisance, and that’s why people are talking about him in the media already.

If I had to knoick him for a couple of things, I think it would be the limits he has as a finesse rusher, he doesn’t have a real pass rush move outside of being used in stunts and his power rush. Sometimes, we have not seen that translate well to the NFL. However, with his motor, we should see him collect a fine number of “effort sacks.”

Grade: Low Impact (Future Starter).

LB Jacquez Jones (Jr)

#10 | 5’11” | 225 lbs | Hillcrest (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)

A member of the 2018 All-SEC Freshman team, Jacquez Jones enters his second season as a starter, with 10 career starts over his first two seasons. He’s a tackling machine, finishing second on the team last season with 71 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss.

One thing that’s for sure about Jones is that he has had to learn a lot on the fly. When MoMo Sanogo went down with an injury against Arkansas in week two, Jones became an instrumental part of the linebacking corps and had to play most every snap.

He shows a lot of promise as an athletic, rangy linebacker but still has a ways to go before he is instinctual. The number of snaps that Jones got last year should help with that tremendously. He also will take very poor angles from time to time, something that, again, can be improved with repetition.

Grade: Project (Uncertain Future).

LB MoMo Sanogo (Rs-Jr)

#46 | 6’2″ | 240 lbs | Plano West (Plano, Texas)

MoMo Sanogo was primed for a big season in 2019. Named to the Butkus Award Watch List, big things were expected from Sanogo in 2019. Unfortunately, an injury derailed his campaign but that didn’t stop Sanogo from making an impact on 2019. He was named to the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll for the third consecutive year and was on the SEC Football Student-Athlete Leadership Council. He majors in Banking & Finance, and he’s already living up to that expectation.

Sanogo is a very promising box-linebacker who has the athleticism to be more rangy. He’s an excellent tackler in space and has very good form. He plays with a very low pad level and that allows for him to make more impact plays.

I’m intrigued to see how much he has improved this year, and I hope that he stays healthy. I think he’s still a little bit susceptible in pass coverage, and he can learn to be much better in zone coverage. Regardless, this is a guy who will be playing somewhere on Sundays.

Grade: Low Impact (Future Starter).

Ole Miss Rebels NFL Draft Projections

I think that out of all of these guys, the player who has the most upside and will probably be drafted the highest will be Sam Williams. EDGE is such an important position, and I think he’s going to show out this year.

The player who will have the best career, though, will be Ben Brown. He’s an incredible guard talent and I think he will start for a decade in the league.

Don’t forget about Elijah Moore. He’s a very reliable slot option, and if he’s mature enough he will be drafted pretty high next season too.

Instant Impact (Immediate Starter)
IOL Ben Brown

Low Impact (Future Starter)
WR Elijah Moore
EDGE Sam Williams
LB MoMo Sanogo

Project (Uncertain Future)
TE Kenny Yeboah
LB Jacquez Jones^

Low Priority (UDFA)
WR Braylon Sanders

^Denotes prospect has a 50% chance or more of increasing draft grade during the 2020 season.

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