Back The SoCon’s NFL Prospects

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The SoCon’s NFL Prospects

By Russell V.
SouthernPigskin.com
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The SoCon led all FCS conferences with five drafted players in the recent NFL Draft.

It was yet another banner weekend for the Southern Conference, as 13 players were either drafted or signed free agent deals shortly after the end of the NFL Draft. The SoCon led all FCS conferences with five drafted players, while Appalachian State was the only FCS team with multiple draft picks for the second time in three years. The Mountaineers are also the only program with a draft pick in each of the last four drafts. In addition, Samford became one of two FCS schools who have had a draft pick each of the past two years.

Safety JJ Wilcox became the highest draft pick in Georgia Southern history when he was drafted in the third round by the Dallas Cowboys, while receiver Aaron Mellette became Elon’s second draft pick in 21 years.

The question now becomes how each player will do with their new team and what are the chances they have of staying with that squad? Well, that’s what we are here for, to answer questions like that.

Appalachian State

Jeremy Kimbrough, LB, undrafted free agent (UDFA) signing by Lions – Kimbrough, a finalist for the Buck Buchanan award, earned himself a chance to join Sam Martin and possibly Steven Miller in Detroit. As of this writing, the backup linebackers on the team are Tahir Whitehead, Ashlee Palmer and Travis Lewis. Make a strong first impression and Kimbrough’s chances to make the squad look quite bright. Grade: B

Sam Martin, P, drafted 5th round (165th overall) by Lions – One of two punters drafted, Martin finds himself in a grand situation. His competition for a roster spot is 13-year vet Nick Harris, who averaged just 41.5 yards per punt last season – last in the NFL. Martin’s ability to kick field goals could also come in handy, considering the team’s kicker, David Akers, just came off of the worst season of his career. Grade: A

Demetrius McCray, DB, drafted 7th round (210th overall) by Jaguars – A fellow Buck Buchanan finalist, McCray has a bit of a challenge ahead of him. He finds himself near the bottom of the depth chart on a team that finished just outside the top 10 of the NFL’s top passing defenses. But he should be able to impress with his ballhawking skills that made him a two-time conference leader in interceptions. Grade: C+

Steven Miller, RB, UDFA signing by Lions – Miller faces a major uphill challenge to earn a spot on the Detroit Lions roster. The team just brought in Reggie Bush, already has Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell and Jahvid Bell and also brought in Theo Riddick. Miller’s best hope may be to impress another team with his play. Grade: F

Troy Sanders, DB, UDFA signing by Falcons – Sanders did well to earn himself a contract with the Atlanta Falcons, who are one of the most talented teams in the NFC. Unfortunately, the team has already spent plenty of time working on their defensive secondary, including spending two draft picks on cornerbacks. Grade: D

The Citadel

Chad Billingslea, DL, UDFA signing by Seahawks – The former cadet joins arguably the most intimidating defense in the NFL and a defensive line with the likes of Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, Bruce Irvin and the newly-acquired Cliff Avril. Good news is Seattle is a team that loves having depth. The bad news is the team brought in three new defensive linemen in free agency and three more in the draft. Grade: C-

Elon

Aaron Mellette, WR, drafted in 7th round (238th overall) by Ravens – Once considered a second round draft pick, Mellette dropped all the way to the very end of the last round of the draft. But he was picked up by the Super Bowl champion Ravens, who are looking for a possession receiver to replace the recently traded Anquan Boldin. Mellette could fit that role perfectly. Grade: B+

Furman

Colin Anderson, TE, UDFA signing by Vikings – Anderson was possibly the most underrated player in the Southern Conference who is now talking his talents up north to join the likes of Kyle Rudolph and the newly acquired John Carlson. The problem is there are three other tight ends listed on the Vikings unofficial depth chart. He’ll have a few major hills to climb in order to clinch that spot on the roster. Grade: C

Jerodis Williams, RB, UDFA signing by Vikings – Clearly, Williams has some work to do in order to take the jobs of Adrian Peterson or Toby Gerhart, but he has a few things going for him. First, the Vikings only have three running backs listed on the roster. Secondly, Minnesota is looking for a new kick and punt returner to replace Percy Harvin. And what’s that? Williams was the top kick returner in the SoCon last year? This should end well. Grade: B+

Georgia Southern

Darius Eubanks, DB, UDFA signing by Vikings – Another SoCon-er trying out for the Vikings? Sure, why not? But like Anderson, Eubanks will have some difficulty finding a roster spot in an already crowded defensive backfield. A quick glance at the Vikings’ roster shows there are already 15 defensive backs. For no fault of his own, Eubanks’ chances look slim. Grade: F

Brent Russell, DT, UDFA signing by Bears – Ok, enough with Minnesota, let’s move to Chicago, the newest home of one of the most dominant defensive players in SoCon history. Russell has found himself in a great situation in joining the Bears’ vaunted D-line. He will most likely be finding himself battling for a top backup role, which is all he could ask for at this point. Now he needs to take advantage of the situation. Grade: B+

JJ Wilcox, DB, drafted 3rd round (80th overall) by Cowboys – Many have been singing Wilcox’s praises for months now, and we can add Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to that list. The famous Cowboys owner said that Wilcox will become a starting safety for the team sooner or later. He will be most likely be battling Will Allen for a starting spot at safety, and his return skills and time spent on offense do not hurt his cause at all. Grade: A

Samford

Nicholas Williams, DL, drafted in 7th round (223rd overall) by Steelers – Williams must be honored to join the legendary Steelers defense. He will be one of many battling for a backup role with the team. Perhaps Williams’ raw potential will give him an edge up on the competition. Clearly, the Steelers saw something in Williams and it is not often that they are wrong. Grade: C

In addition, best of luck to the following players, who all have earned tryouts with teams.

Appalachian State

Rod Chisholm, RB, invited to Redskins rookie camp

Elon

Chris Harris, TE, invited to tryout with Ravens

Wofford

Eric Breitenstein, FB, invited to tryout with Panthers

Mike Niam, LB, invited to tryout with Browns

Russell V. - A recent graduate of Elon University, Varner is a Southern Conference enthusiast who now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. His love for SoCon football can only be matched by his love for Carolina Panthers football. He has been published in multiple newspapers in North Carolina, has worked on television and radio and now covers SoCon football for Southern Pigskin.