A player-by-player breakdown
- Julius Kizzee
Former Southern Miss receiver Mike Thomas has been hailed as one of the most productive receivers chosen in the entire NFL Draft this past weekend. But you would not have known if you looked at his draft position.
Thomas was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the sixth round with the 190th pick.
Thomas was rated much higher than when he was drafted by pundits, as most expected him to get drafted anywhere between the second and fifth round range.
When he fell to the sixth round, it was a foregone conclusion that whoever drafted the receiver would find a hidden gem late into the drafting process.
Thomas left Southern Miss as maybe the most productive USM receiver in a single season. He finished 2015 as a Golden Eagle racking up 1,391 yards on 71 catches. He also finished with 14 touchdowns with his 6 feet 1 inch frame. Where Thomas fits on the Rams roster is uncertain.
Although talented, it is difficult to gauge where he may fit because he does not excel in any single area more than any other receiver on the roster.
He will not be the fastest or tallest pass-catcher on the roster, and he may not have the most sure hands on the roster thanks to future Hall of Famer Wes Welker.
The Rams will start the offseason with 12 receivers on the roster, including Thomas, and it remains to be seen how long it will take for him to crack the opening rotation.
The optimistic Golden Eagles fan can expect Mike Thomas to occasionally crack the rotation this year. But barring a major injury to either Kenny Britt, Brian Quick or Nick Toon, he may not see the field no more than 200 snaps all season.
Prediction: Thomas starts the season on the practice squad. By season’s end, he should crack the rotation.
Rashod Hill, OT, 49ers
- Julius Kizzee
Former Golden Eagle left tackle Rashod Hill is another Southern Miss player that will have a chance to prove his worth on the football field in the offseason. His chance will come for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Hill went undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft but was offered a free agent contract to head to Florida and showcase his talents to land on an NFL roster.
The undrafted tackle was a longtime anchor on the left side of the offensive line for Nick Mullens’ tenure as quarterback.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hill had a 93.5 percent run block success rate, which was good for sixth among the offensive tackles in this class.
Although this should have warranted him at least seventh round status, in my opinion, it would not have been enough for him to warrant draft consideration.
For Hill, it also starts with him being injured in some games this season. He was injured specifically in the crucial game against Nebraska where Southern Miss fell 36-28.
He was sturdy at the left tackle position and was prone to injury at various times in his senior season.
Although Hill may have his negatives, he has a bright opportunity with the Jaguars.
The Jaguars only have four offensive tackles on the current roster, and they did not draft any this year. That leaves Hill with a more than well-off chance of being a key part of the rotation in not just his rookie year but in the years to come protecting third-year starter Blake Bortles.
Prediction: Hill gets more playing time in his rookie season than Mike Thomas.
- Kyle Williams
With the 253rd pick of the NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans selected former Golden Eagle cornerback Kalan Reed.
Reed did not only become a Titan on the night, but also became the 41st “Mr. Irrelevant.” But this “Mr. Irrelevant” has a plethora of talent to bring with him to Tennessee.
Reed is a little short for the typical cornerback, measuring at 5 feet 11 inches. But what Reed lacks in height he makes up for with his weight and speed, checking in at 195 pounds and running a 4.38 40-yard dash.
To put it in context, if Reed would have participated in the NFL combine, his 40 time would have been eighth among the other cornerbacks, and his 41.5 inch vertical jump would have been first — not too shabby for “Mr. Irrelevant.”
Reed’s versatility could be a valuable piece to help improve the Titans 12th ranked defense that allowed 112.3 rushing and 229.9 passing yards a game, respectively. Reed allowed 48.3 percent of the passes his way to be completed this past season while he played for the Golden Eagles.
While playing efficient defense, Reed also recorded four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, and a school-record 19 pass breakups. Reed’s game is not just limited to pass deflections and interceptions, though. He also finished last year with 56 tackles and 152 total in his career with the Golden Eagles.
Reed is a “give it your all” type of player. Throughout this past season, his efforts were never questioned. When the big play was needed, one of the first players that teammates would look to was Reed, and his statistics show that.
The amount of athleticism he posesses is a rare find in someone of his size. Reed could impact the team instantly as he can gain the knowledge of current Titans Jason McCourty and Perrish Cox.
“Mr. Irrelevant” could prove to be more valuable than many think.
Prediction: Reed makes the 53-man roster. Fourth on the depth chart from day one.
Jalen Richard, RB, Raiders
- Kyle Williams
Former Golden Eagles running back Jalen Richard went undrafted in this past week’s NFL Draft but signed with the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent.
Last season, the 5 feet 9 inch running back rushed for 1,113 yards and 14 TDs last season for USM.
Richard weighs 207 pounds and runs a 4.6 40-yard dash. Compare this to Oakland’s starter, Latavius Murray, who is 5 inches taller and 16 pounds heavier, Murray runs a 4.4 despite the heavier features.
Speed has been a concern for Richard throughout his career. He has above- average vision for a running back but lacks the breakaway speed to complement it.
Richard had many runs last year that had potential to be scoring opportunities, but Richard was either tracked down or stopped before he even reached the secondary.
With three running backs on the roster already in Oakland, current starter Murray handled all the heavy lifting with 1,066 rushing yards gained off of 266 attempts. Murray only finished the season with six touchdowns but was the only running back on the roster to record a touchdown.
Richard is a big running back who resembles the frame of Pittsburgh Steeler running back DeAngelo Williams and is difficult to tackle at times.
Richard still has a lot to learn as a running back. He is not the most athletic back and is in some cases considered a one- direction back. But that is not always a bad characteristic.
Prediction: Richard is designated to the practice squad for two to three years while developing his skills.