6 players from SEC who entered NFL Draft early last year but didn't get picked
Just because a player declares a year or two early for the NFL Draft, that doesn’t mean he’s ready to play at the next level.
This past year, 96 prospects put their names in for the draft despite having at least one season of eligibility remaining. Believe it or not, 30 of them (31.3 percent) didn’t hear their names called by the time all seven rounds were complete.
If a player is a lock for Round 1, then there’s no reason to stay in school — chances are, he’s accomplished everything he’s going to accomplish on Saturday. Even if he’s been given a second- or third-round grade, more than likely he’ll earn a healthy signing bonus and is just about guaranteed to make a roster on Sunday.
However, as the numbers clearly indicate, many prospects would’ve been better served returning to college. Perhaps they don’t elevate their draft stock for the following spring, but at least they’d be closer to a degree.
Here are six SEC alumni who opted for the draft a year ago but weren’t selected. Some still managed to have success. Others, well, didn’t.
Auburn RB Peyton Barber
It’s certainly understandable why Barber left the Tigers early: He revealed prior to the draft that his mother was homeless at the time.
Barber signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent and got some chances here and there as a rookie. He rushed 55 times for 223 yards and 1 touchdown, a 44-yarder against the San Francisco 49ers. However, it was the only carry he had all season long that went for double-digit yardage.
The good news is that Barber was able to buy his mother an apartment. The bad news? He’s still a backup at best in 2017.
Mississippi State LB Beniquez Brown
The Bulldogs didn’t play a whole lot of defense last season, so they could’ve used another year of Brown’s presence.
Instead, Brown departed the program as a redshirt junior with an eye on the pros. A limited athlete as far as NFL linebackers are concerned, he didn’t test very well during the pre-draft evaluation process. While he signed with the Green Bay Packers and then got relegated to the practice squad, he was released shortly thereafter.
Brown is currently out of work. The Packers thrive on developing young players, too. They usually don’t spend much in free agency.
Arkansas G Denver Kirkland
Considering how much Austin Allen was clobbered in 2016, he wouldn’t have minded seeing Kirkland return to Fayetteville.
The 6-foot-5, 340-pounder didn’t have any luck in the draft but caught on with the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent. Following a few weeks on the practice squad, Kirkland was promoted to the active roster and even started four games for one of the better passing offenses in the league. Not a bad rookie year.
While he isn’t expected to start this season assuming all the veterans in front of him are healthy, Kirkland is a now an experienced reserve.
Tennessee WR Marquez North
North’s return may not have swung the balance of power in the East, but Joshua Dobbs had room for another target in the passing game.
Understandably undrafted after a rather forgettable college career in Knoxville, North inked a deal with the Rams, who were fresh off a transition from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Injured throughout training camp, he didn’t even make it to the final round of cuts. He’s still part of the organization but no closer to playing time.
The Rams have been weak at wideout for quite some time, yet North hasn’t been able to make any sort of impression just yet.
Mississippi State WR De’Runnya Wilson
Unlike North, Wilson was actually productive in the best conference in America. Nick Fitzgerald certainly could’ve used him.
Despite being compared to the likes of Carolina Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin due to his 6-foot-5, 224-pound frame, Wilson was incredibly disappointing at the Scouting Combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.85 seconds and had a vertical leap of 28 inches. Those are lineman numbers. They were both dead last among receivers.
No team touched him in the draft. Even getting an undrafted-free-agent contract proved to be difficult. Wilson will likely never catch an NFL pass.
Auburn OT Avery Young
His brother, Willie Young, has been a solid pass rusher for the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears with 30.0 career sacks.
But while Willie was a seventh-rounder out of N.C. State in 2010, Avery was unceremoniously left on the draft’s cutting-room floor a year ago. Young agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent, although he didn’t see the field as a rookie. Currently, he’s not even a third-stringer on the team’s depth chart.
Young spent a lot of time on the non-football injury list and, therefore, didn’t practice much. He’s a long shot to make the roster next season.