The Battle Upfront: Three Ole Miss Players named to Early NFL Mock Draft

Derek StephensSenior Analyst IJuly 10, 2008

I've heard the same thing all summer: Ole Miss doesn't have the talent that they think they have.

Quite funny, I always said. My homerism can sometime show out, but I truly think that Ole Miss is not in a rebuilding mode, due in large credit to their recently fired coach Ed Orgeron.

Why do I say that? For the past three years, Ed Orgeron has taken a chance on high-ranked players that are risks. Some panned out, some didn't.

Ole Miss registered the 30th ranked recruiting class in 2005, the 16th ranked recruiting class in 2006, the 27 ranked recruiting class in 2007, and the 29th ranked recruiting class in 2008, according to

Average those numbers together, you get an average ranking of 25.5.

You say, "Derek, you can't go with that because of the non-qualifiers." Well, you have a point, BUT usually the majority of teams have non-qualifiers, and the number should only indicate that Ole Miss has the talent for a top-25 football team, and that it is not out of the reach with a new head coach, Houston Nutt, but I'll take just a winning season and a bowl game.

Here's the thing. Not only do I (with my self-proclaimed homerism) believe that Ole Miss has serious talent, so do media outlets with early NFL Mock Drafts. recently released their early 2009 NFL Mock Draft. Three, count them, three Ole Miss players were put in the first round.

First, there's Michael Oher, projected as the No. 1 overall pick at OT for the Falcons. The 6'5", 318lbs. All-American monster initially declared for the NFL Draft and was projected as an early-to-mid first-round pick.

But after consulting his family members, he decided to come back to school his senior year to sharpen up his skills and possibly be the No. 1 pick in 2009. He definitely adds depth to an experienced offensive line.

Next, you have DE Greg Hardy checking in at No. 16 for the Redskins. The All-SEC defender played in 10 games last season, not even 12, and led the SEC in sacks at 10 and ranked 6th nationally.

Believe it or not, but he also lined up some at WR and caught two TD passes. The athletic defensive end will be a deep contribution on the pass rush next season for the Rebs.

Finally, senior DT Peria Jerry projects as a first-round pick, going 29th to the Colts. A beast at 6'2" 290lbs, the South Panola alum creates havoc on the defensive line and ranked 6th in the SEC in tackles-for-a-loss at 14. He definitely has the body and the determination to be a future first-round draft choice.

There you have it, folks!

My claims to the Rebs' talent are now backed up with three potential draft the first round. This doesn't even include the other Rebs that could potentially go in rounds two through seven.

If the phrase, "the battle is won in the trenches", is true, Ole Miss looks to have tons of success with three potential first-round picks wearing their jersey for the 2008 season.

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