The 2021 NFL draft begins Thursday, and though no Mississippi State player is likely to hear his name called on the first night of the three-day event, the following two days could see a number of Bulldogs coming off the board.
The first round starts at 7 p.m. Thursday in Cleveland, with Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) beginning at 6 p.m. Friday and Day 3 (Rounds 4-7) starting at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Five Mississippi State players heard their names called on the second and third days of the 2020 draft, with Willie Gay Jr. in the second round the first Bulldog off the board.
Jeffery Simmons, Montez Sweat and Johnathan Abram were all picked in the first round in 2019. Elgton Jenkins was a second-round selection, and Gerri Green was drafted in the sixth round.
Projections indicate this weekend’s draft will adhere more to last year’s event than the 2019 draft when it comes to Mississippi State’s eligible players. The Dispatch looked at five seven-round mock drafts — NFL.com, Pro Football Focus, CBS Sports, Sporting News and WalterFootball.com — to see where this year’s crop of Bulldogs will find their new homes.
RB Kylin Hill
Hill played in just three games in 2020, finishing with only 15 rush attempts for 58 yards but also making 23 catches for 237 yards and a touchdown. On Nov. 3, the Columbus High School product confirmed he had opted out of the rest of the season to prepare for the draft.
And he’s quite likely to be the first Bulldog off the board this weekend and possibly the only one with a shot at hearing his name called Friday.
WalterFootball was the lone mock draft to place Hill on Day 2 as a second-round pick by the Miami Dolphins as the No. 50 overall selection.
Two mocks had Hill considerably lower. CBS Sports was most bearish on the Bulldogs’ back, slating him to come off the board to the Baltimore Ravens with the 210th overall pick in the sixth round. PFF also projected Hill to be drafted in the sixth round by the Los Angeles Chargers at pick No. 198.
The other two mocks each had Hill as a fourth-round selection. Sporting News had him off the board at pick No. 122 to the New England Patriots, while NFL.com had him going to the Cleveland Browns at No. 132. All five mock drafts projected Hill to land with an AFC team.
DT Marquiss Spencer
Spencer had a solid season along the defensive line for the Bulldogs in 2020, totaling 30 tackles — eight for loss — and three sacks while playing in nine games.
But only one of the five mock drafts expects the Greenwood native to hear his name called.
NFL.com slated Spencer into pick No. 164 in the fifth round, a selection owned by the Chicago Bears.
QB K.J. Costello
Costello delivered a phenomenal performance in his first game at Mississippi State, torching LSU for a Southeastern Conference-record 623 passing yards as the Bulldogs upset the defending national champions 44-34 in Baton Rouge.
The rest of the Stanford transfer’s first and only season in Starkville didn’t go so well.
Costello struggled through the remainder of 2020, eventually losing his starting spot to freshman Will Rogers. He finished with 1,283 passing yards, six touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in six games.
Only one mock draft projected Costello to be drafted this weekend. WalterFootball.com had the signal-caller off the board in the sixth round at pick No. 200, landing with the Las Vegas Raiders.
S Marcus Murphy
WalterFootball.com was also the only mock draft to project two more Bulldogs to come off draft boards this weekend.
Safety Marcus Murphy, who opted out of the 2020 season Nov. 12 because of his son Mason’s rare genetic abnormality, is projected to be drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth round with the No. 224 overall selection.
The West Point product had 34 tackles — one for a loss — before opting out in 2020. He recorded two interceptions in five games in 2019, including a pick-six against Arkansas, after playing 12 games the year prior.
LB Erroll Thompson
One of Mississippi State’s best defenders in 2020, Thompson has an outside shot of being drafted.
WalterFootball.com mocked the Bulldogs middle linebacker to the San Francisco 49ers with pick No. 230 in the seventh and final round.
Thompson played in all 11 games, racking up 96 tackles including four for a loss. The Florence, Alabama, product added three sacks and an interception.
The senior is an “old school Mike ‘backer that will be on every special teams (play) and would stick his face in a wasp nest if it means the team would win,” an SEC defensive coach told AL.com on Monday.
Only time will tell if those qualities will pay off for one of Mississippi State’s leaders this weekend.