Four Rebels selected in 2018 NFL Draft, Speaks goes in second round

Posted on Apr 30 2018 - 5:50am by Benton Dodd

Last week’s 2018 NFL Draft in Dallas was surprisingly successful for Ole Miss and resulted in four Rebels selected. Defensive ends Breeland Speaks and Marquis Haynes went in the second and fourth rounds, respectively, after highlighting pre-draft coverage. Both were projected to be drafted no earlier than the third round.

Speaks was seen as the Rebels’ best pro prospect due to his NFL size and ferocity coming off the edge, but had fallen on numerous teams’ draft boards due to conduct concerns. He was selected surprisingly early, as the 14th pick of the 2nd round by the Kansas City Chiefs after they traded up to select him.

Breeland Speaks throws up his fist after making a tackle in 2016. (Photo by: Cameron Brooks)

The traditionally deadly Kansas City pass rush slipped to 24th in 2017 in sacks, and this selection is clearly an attempt to reverse that trend. He is initially being listed as an outside linebacker on the depth chart, with Andy Reid intending to fill the void left by Tamba Hali.

The next Rebel to come off the draft board was defensive end Marquis Haynes, who was selected with the 36th pick of the 4th round by the Carolina Panthers.

Carolina is coming off of a year in which they finished third in the NFL in sacks. Adding Haynes will certainly bolster their already impressive defense. The Panthers traded up to get him, giving up a 5th and 6th round pick in order to get their man.

At 6’3” and 229 lbs, Haynes is undersized for a linebacker in the Panthers’ 4-3 scheme, and may struggle to receive playing time with stars Shaq Thompson and Thomas Davis ahead of him in the depth chart.

Running back Jordan Wilkins was selected with the 32nd pick in the 5th round by the Indianapolis Colts. The selection of two mid-round running backs seems to indicate a desire to bolster their current committee of Marlon Mack, Robert Turbin, and Matt Jones. The Colts averaged just 3.7 yards per carry in 2017, the 4th worst in the league.

Wilkins is coming off of a career year where he rushed for over 1000 yards. He’ll be looking to keep proving the doubters wrong in a system where he will likely be battling for carries for his entire career.

The final Ole Miss player selected was offensive lineman Rod Taylor, who was selected with the 252nd overall selection by the Cincinnati Bengals. After a lackluster season, he was predicted to go undrafted, but a strong showing in the combine in which he posted high bench reps and showed explosiveness off the line landed him back onto the radar of at least one NFL team.

He split time at guard and tackle in his time at Ole Miss, but is likely to suit up as a right guard for the Bengals. He currently sits behind Trey Hopkins and Alex Redmond on the depth chart, but will likely harbor a permanent roster spot due to his versatility and athleticism.

Defensive back AJ Moore went undrafted but was signed to the New England Patriots roster Sunday afternoon. DeMarquis Gates, Gary Wunderlich and Daronte Bouldin went undrafted and will be working out with teams in the coming weeks with the hopes of finding a landing place.

A.J. Moore performs for NFL scouts during Pro Day at the Indoor Practice Facility on Tuesday. Photo by Ariel Cobbert