Mississippi’s colleges usually produce some outstanding football talent, and this year was no exception. The world champion Kansas City Chiefs chose Willie Gay Jr. of MSU in the second round of the National Football League draft. The Vikings and the Redskins drafted Cameron Dantzler and Tyre Phillips, respectively, in the third round. The Saints and the Vikings took Tommy Stevens and Brian Cole II, respectively, in the seventh round. The Philadelphia Eagles took USM’s speedster Quez Watkins in the sixth round.
High School stars from the past taken
Former high school football stars in Cam Akers, Saahdig Charles, Damien Lewis, Raekwon Davis and BoPete Keyes were all selected. Akers of Clinton and Florida State was taken in the second round by the L.A. Rams; Lewis of Canton, NWCC and LSU was taken in the third round by the Seattle Seahawks; and LSU teammate Lewis Charles of Madison Ridgeland Academy was selected by Washington in the fourth round. Miami selected Davis of Meridian and Alabama in the second round, while Keyes of Laurel and Tulane went to the Chiefs in the seventh round.
JUCO draft connections
Three former JUCO stars were taken, led by Jones County Junior College player and first round selection Javon Kinlaw by the San Francisco 49ers with the 14thpick. It was the second year in a row that Jones has had a first round selection as the Raiders selected Jonathan Abram last year. Davion Taylor of Coahoma and Colorado went to the Eagles in the third round. Taylor, who did not play high school football at South Pike High School because of religious reasons, went to a Coahoma football tryout and then walked on.
LSU & SEC tops
The Tigers broke the SEC record with 14 selections in this year’s draft. It tied the all-time Ohio State record in 2004. Ten of those LSU players were chosen in the first three rounds. The SEC had 15 selections in the opening round of the draft, setting a new standard. Overall, Michigan and Ohio State were second in total selection with ten, while Alabama had nine picks. This marks the 14thconsecutive year that the SEC has dominated the draft with 63 selections -- only one behind last year’s record of 64.
Breaking the draft down by conferences, the Big Ten followed the SEC with 48 picks, the Pac-12 with 32 picks, the ACC with 27 picks, the Big 12 with 21 picks, the AAC with 17 picks, and Conference USA and Mountain West each with nine picks.
Free Agent signings
MSU had nine players sign as free agents with NFL teams while Ole Miss had six players and USM had two players. Plenty of quality NFL players have been found via this route. There are 17 former free agents in the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame and only 14 first-rounders. The undrafted free agent period followed by the NFL draft is even more hectic than the draft itself, and remote work by front offices could complicate the process. All 32 teams are competing against one another for hundreds of prospects in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately for this year’s free agent class, they will be more challenged than any other class because of COVID-19 and the possible lack of practice time.
Saints have surprise signing
The Saints had a big signing over the weekend as former Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston became a Saint. Last year, Drew Brees was injured for five games and did not play well in the latter part of the season. In this period of uncertainty the back up quarterback may be the second most important player on the roster.
Godfather of SWAC passes
Marion Casem, the former Alcorn football coach and AD, died this past week at age 85. He led Alcorn to national championships, won four SWAC titles and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Dale is a Waynesboro resident