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Ole Miss Football: 2024 NFL Draft Primer

Ole Miss Football: 2024 NFL Draft Primer

DETROIT – (Release) NFL franchises are almost on the clock as the 2024 NFL Draft is set to begin April 25-27. While Lane Kiffin and the Ole Miss football team have begun work toward the 2024 season, several departing Rebels are hopeful their dreams of playing in the National Football League will be realized this weekend.

Fans can watch the NFL Draft live on NFL Network, NFL+, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. Coverage of Round 1 begins at 7 p.m. CT on April 25. Rounds 2 and 3 begin at 6 p.m. CT on Friday, followed by Rounds 4-7 starting Saturday at 11 a.m. CT.

Now that you know how to watch the NFL draft, read on to see what they’re saying about Ole Miss’ NFL Draft prospects.

Cedric Johnson

Lance Zierlein, NFL Analyst

Overview:
Johnson passes the eyeball test with flying colors, and there will be teams who gravitate toward his NFL body type and play strength. With that said, his tape fails to consistently hit the mark. He’s strong at the point of attack and will set firm edges but needs to become more intent on ridding himself of blockers and making more plays. As a rusher, he has strong hands and some tools to work with, but he needs to develop go-to moves and counters and attack the pocket with greater urgency. Johnson has upside but might never be more than a solid edge backup if his rush doesn’t improve.

Strengths

  • Built like an NFL edge, with broad shoulders and thickly muscled legs.
  • Sets firm edges with leveraged knee bend and powerful, jolting punch.
  • Can play through contact and maintain a steady base beneath him.
  • Lower-body power to sink and counteract redirect blocks as a rusher.
  • Has potential to become a much better bull rusher with work.

Brad Crawford, 247 Sports

“One of the early momentum-makers at the combineCedric Johnson placed the best among his group of defensive linemen with an official time of 4.63 in the 40-yard dash. Later, Johnson flexed an impressive 1.61 10-yard split, a 10-foot, 2-inch broad jump and perhaps the most impressive, a 38-inch vertical that was among the top 5-best among defensive linemen and linebackers. Johnson had the highest mark for the majority of the scouting day, per Inside The Rebels. At 6-3, 265 pounds, Johnson is agile for his size and had 40 tackles in his final season at Ole Miss.”

Dane Brugler, The Athletic
Ranked #14 Edge

STRENGTHS: Sports the athletic frame and length NFL teams desire on the edge … has done a nice job filling out (220 pounds as a high school senior) … gets off the ball with functional first-step burst … solid cornering skills because of his arc strides and body flexibility … active in hand-to-hand combat, using a variety of swats and swipes to knock down the reach of blockers … improved discipline on zone read and spill plays … has enough body strength to hold his ground in the run game … young for his class and still relatively new to the defensive side of the ball … named the 2023 Chucky Mullins Courage Award winner, which is given to the Ole Miss defensive player that embodies courage, leadership, perseverance and determination … didn’t play much special teams but blocked a punt in 2022.

SUMMARY: A three-year starter, Johnson lined up as a hand-on-the-ground edge rusher in defensive coordinator Pete Golding‘s hybrid fronts. Though he was an offensive skill player most of his life, he put himself on the NFL map with his backfield numbers as a sophomore — but his production was sporadic the past two seasons. He is inconsistent in timing the snap and doesn’t rush with dynamic elusiveness, but Johnson has NFL-quality movement skills to get around blockers and finish with the closing burst to seal the deal. Against the run, he has the body flexibility to wriggle free but needs to be more urgent with his hands to work off contact and more reliable breaking down to finish. Overall, Johnson is still learning how to build an efficient rush sequence, but he has interesting athletic tools, and an NFL team should be able to coach more out of him. Although he might never reach three-down-starter status, he can develop into a serviceable subpackage rusher.

Daijahn Anthony

Dane Brugler, The Athletic
Ranked #14 Safety

STRENGTHS: Experience as a corner, safety and nickel … roughneck striker who creates jarring collisions with his stopping power at contact (laid a lick on Jayden Daniels with his right shoulder that forced a fumble and turnover) … trusts his radar in run support and rarely runs himself out of position … didn’t have many missed tackles for a big-game hunter … quick footed and agile in his mirror and coverage transitions … has a feel for undercutting routes with an extra gear and takes the angles of a ballhawk … shows terrific adjustments and ball skills at the catch point to take the football away … plays with a dog mentality that is infectious on the field… overcame a lot in his first five years of college to receive his SEC opportunity, and he didn’t disappoint in 2023.

SUMMARY: A one-year starter at Ole Miss, Anthony played strong safety in defensive coordinator Pete Golding‘s 4 -2-5 base scheme. He has overcome a lot of adversity, including having to walk on at two different schools (Shepherd and Liberty), and put together a career year in his lone SEC season after moving to safety (primarily played cornerback and nickel his first five years in college). An amped-up competitor, Anthony plays with an edge on every snap and delivers knockout blows as a tackler, although he needs to balance his aggressive nature with more sound finishing execution. In coverage, he is at his best keeping things in front of him to limit wasted movements, but his cornerback background serves him well. Overall, Anthony doesn’t have top-tier speed or fluidity, but he is an aggressive athlete, and his physicality and ball skills really shine when he has an opportunity to go make a play. He projects best as a nickel defender who can work underneath and overlap responsibilities in the secondary.

Lance Zierlein, NFL Analyst

Overview
Hard-hitting safety with man cover tools but potential limitations if asked to play on the back end. Anthony is high-cut but with good size and an aggressive field demeanor. He aligned as both a big nickel and a split safety. He’s fairly comfortable handling man coverage duties over the slot and does a nice job of staying connected with routes and disrupting catch tries with timing. He’s fast enough to play over the top from center field, but the instincts are average, and he can be clunky swiveling hips with the changing gaze of the quarterback. He needs to take more consistent angles and do a better job of wrapping up, but Anthony has the talent to become a versatile backup.

Strengths

  • Good size and length with the ability to line up and cover the slot.
  • Adequate top-end speed to carry receivers up the seam.
  • Above-average ball skills when it comes time to make a play.
  • Slices in on half-man angle and swings inside arm through catch point.
  • Runs full speed through the target to jar throws loose from zone.
  • Experienced and capable jamming gunners on punt returns.

Deantre Prince

Lance Zierlein, NFL Analyst

Overview
Starter for the better part of three years while at Ole Miss. Prince plays with an upright posture and lacks desired hip fluidity in his transitions. He could become a more effective press corner but needs to play with greater physicality and effort. He allows receivers ample workspace as route runners due to the amount of deep zone coverage Ole Miss runs but might have the athletic ability to squeeze routes tighter if asked to play more man. He has average instincts and an average nose for the football. His size and willingness in run support help and could make him a Day 3 selection with a chance to become a CB4/5.

Strengths

  • Dealt with tragedy (the deaths of a cousin and friend in car accidents) and overcame publicly self-described issues with maturity to finish the job at Ole Miss, transferring back to the school he started with after a stint at Northeast Mississippi Community College.
  • Plays with good eye balance from shuffle technique in deep zone.
  • Pretty solid gather-and-plant footwork to shadow comeback routes.
  • Swats through the receiver’s hands with accurate attacks at catch point.
  • Is more worker than watcher when it’s time to support the run.

Dane Brugler, The Athletic
Ranked #36 CB

STRENGTHS: Above-average blend of height and speed … accelerates cleanly with his first step downhill … does wide receiver-like things at the catch point … has a knack for playing through the hands of pass catchers to get the ball on the ground (wears No. 7 because of Tyrann Mathieu) … tough-minded nature to get physical in press and will use the sideline as his friend … solid open-field tackler with good breakdown mechanics to aid his finish when working downhill … played on special – teams coverages all four seasons at Ole Miss, with experience as a gunner/jammer on punt units … durable and played in all 51 games while he was at Ole Miss.

SUMMARY: A three-year starter at Ole Miss, Prince played primarily field cornerback in defensive coordinator Pete Golding‘s scheme (mostly zone looks with some man-to-man mixed in). Including a one-year hiatus at the juco level, he had an up-and-down career at Ole Miss with some key interceptions — but several pivotal plays allowed. At his best working from press, Prince does a nice job returning his eyes to the backfield and aggressively crowds the catch point when in position to sway 50-50 balls in his favor. However, he needs to better pick up on route clues for more timely breaks on the ball, as he lacks the reactive quickness to smoothly recover once he guesses wrong. Overall, Prince will have a tough time staying connected to NFL-level route runners, especially in off coverage, but his speed and toughness (on defense and special teams) will stand out once he gets into an NFL camp. He projects best as a press-man corner and will have a chance to make the bottom of an NFL roster or practice squad.

Other Rebels looking to get their shot at the next level include:

Isaac Ukwu, Stephon Wynn, Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste, Ahsanti Cistrunk, Monty Montgomery, Teja Young, Deshawn Gaddie, Jalen Knox, Zamari Walton, Spencer Sanders, Dayton Wade, Quincy McGee, and Victor Curney.

 

Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn’s love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship. Evelyn created the Rebel Walk in 2013 and has served as publisher and managing editor since its inception.

About The Author

Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn's love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship. Evelyn created the Rebel Walk in 2013 and has served as publisher and managing editor since its inception.

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