NCAA Football Mississippi State BulldogsSEC Football

Trio of Mississippi State Defenders Heading to NFL Combine

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State has three players heading to the NFL combine held from Feb. 20-26 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The headliner of the trio of Bulldogs to head to the combine is Jonathan Banks; the 2013 Thorpe award winner is a projected first round pick after a career that saw him intercept a school-record tying 16 passes. The man whose record he tied is former first round pick Walt Harris who enjoyed a long NFL career.   I have Banks ranked as the No. 2 cornerback prospect in April’s NFL draft.

The key for Banks at the combine will be the 40-yard dash, because some scouts have doubts about his straight line speed and if a move to safety is in his future. He will also need to show he is fully recovered from an injury that prevented him from participating in the Senior Bowl.

His teammate in the secondary, Darius Slay, actually led the team with five interceptions, but was overshadowed by Banks. He is a very good player in his own right. He won’t be a first round pick, at 6-0 and 190-pounds, he has the size teams are looking for at the position.

His biggest question mark is if he has the necessary speed to line up on the outside and run with premier wide receivers in the league. He has ball-hawking skills, but if he can’t run well at Indy, he may be limited to a role on special teams and as a reserve. He should be drafted somewhere on day three in rounds four-seven.

Josh Boyd is the third member headed from Starkville to the combine and the 6-3; 300-pound defensive tackle had 33 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks as a senior. His numbers took a drop this season after Fletcher Cox went to the NFL and wasn’t lining up next to him and occupying blockers to free up Boyd.

As a junior, Boyd had 51 total tackles, eight tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. The drop in production will no doubt hurt Boyd, but will have the opportunity to showcase his skills in front of every team and if he can show good explosiveness, agility and strength, then I would expect to see him drafted in rounds four-five.

The trio is part of the winningest senior class in more than a decade at Mississippi State and will look to continue their success in the NFL, and the first step in that transition is two weeks away.

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Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” on Sportstownchicago.com airing Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.