STARKVILLE — One year after watching three former Bulldogs go in the first round, the next slate of former Mississippi State players are slated to begin their professional football careers on Thursday as the NFL Draft gets underway.
And while fans may not see quite as many names fly off the board as last year, MSU boasted plenty of NFL-caliber talent in 2019.
The Dispatch caught up with The Athletic NFL Draft Analyst Dane Brugler this week to break down the Bulldogs’ crop of prospects. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Cam Dantzler is a guy who has been slotted anywhere from the late first round to early third round, how do you see him translating at the NFL level and what’s his talent level?
Dane Brugler: “Dantzler is intriguing because of his height and fluidity for the position. He can turn and run on command without losing his balance, which helps him shadow routes up and down the field. However, the reasons why I think most view him more towards the third than the first round are his lack of bulk and play strength and his inconsistency turning to find the football. He is highly competitive, but there are some question marks there that push him down behind several of the other corners this class has to offer.”
Q: Tommy Stevens has drawn a lot of comparisons to Taysom Hill given his history at Penn State and the athleticism he possesses, what’s his value and is he a guy who a team may roll the dice with late in the draft?
DB: “Stevens won’t be draftable for most teams, but for a team looking for a project in the later rounds, Stevens will be an interesting name. He has impressive size and athleticism with a big arm, but his mental process isn’t anywhere close to being NFL ready. He has a better chance of signing as a priority free agent, but all it takes is one patient team to believe in the raw skill.”
Q: Willie Gay Jr. entered the draft early and has some question marks in terms of disciplinary things that went on at MSU, how much do you see that affecting his stock and what kind of talent is he sans the baggage?
DB: “The interview process has been paramount for Gay after his junior year went sideways, missing eight games. And for a lot of these team interviews, he has been saying the right things and helping himself. Teams want to believe in him because he is super explosive with 4.4 speed and the range to cover both sidelines. He is somewhat undisciplined on the field as well and needs to better sort through the action, but he plays with urgency and closing speed. As a talent, he is in the top-50 picks. And he might still go that high.”
Q: Darryl Williams and Tyre Phillips both physically look the part of NFL linemen, do you think either guy is undervalued at all or could be a guy someone picks earlier than they’re slated?
DB: “I think both are intriguing. Williams has the guard-center versatility and has taken the Elgton Jenkins path. He’s not quite as talented as Jenkins, but he is physical and offers the finishing attitude and study habits that will stand out to coaches. Phillips is a one-year starter so a little bit of a late bloomer, but he is massive with long arms and heavy hands to create movement in the run game. I think Phillips is in the early day three range while Williams is more in the late range.”
Q: In today’s NFL a guy like Brian Cole II at nickel can be really valuable given his versatility, how do you see him translating and what’re his NFL prospects?
DB: “Cole is interesting because he is a terrific athlete with linebacker/safety size, giving him potential versatility across multiple positions. I don’t think the football instincts are there and that’s not shocking considering he has more of an offensive background. Cole is a traits-based prospect who will likely hear his name somewhere on day 3 as a special teamer and defensive project that a team will look to develop.”
Q: Stephen Guidry never really lived up to his billing as the No. 1 JUCO receiver in his class at MSU, but he tested off the charts. With how deep this year’s wide receiver class is where does he fall?
DB: “Guidry has good size and speed, but consistency was missing from his film. Too many focus drops and you want to see better urgency and fire on his route-running to sell DBs and break off his stem. And in this stacked wide receiver draft class, that could be the difference in him being drafted late or being a priority free agent.”
Q: Chauncey Rivers was a really highly rated guy out of high school, was kicked off the team at Georgia and kind of reinvented himself in Starkville, what’s his stock given MSU’s development of defensive linemen in the past few years?
DB: “Rivers played his best football as a senior at MSU, leading the team in sacks and tackles for loss. And he has put himself on the draftable radar. He looks the part and uses his length to power his way through blocks. He doesn’t have the elite speed or creativity to win in diverse ways, which is why he is more of a late round option. His interviews are important after his checkered past, primarily at Georgia. But he has a chance to hear his name called late.”