Hugh Freeze took the podium for a press conference on Monday afternoon, and between canned answers to Robert Nkemdiche inquiries, updated us on the pro prospects of a few other underclassman.
"I think Tony [Conner] for sure is coming back. Evan [Engram], I think is still up in the air some," Freeze said.
As far as Freeze knows, the only two players that have submitted formal grade requests to the NFL are Engram and defensive end Fadol Brown, though Freeze has been out on the crootin trail for the last two weeks and said that there could be more he doesn't know about. He suggested that Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil won't bother filing paperwork -- they'll just "make a decision at a certain point."
Conner was considered a potential first or second-round selection coming into the season, but a torn meniscus against Bama knocked him out for all but two of the remaining games (and even then, Freeze said he was playing at no better than 60 percent). He recently underwent a scheduled surgery that will keep him out of the Sugar Bowl and likely knock him down NFL big boards. CBS Sports currently has him as a sixth- or seventh-rounder and the No. 8 strong safety, two spots above senior Trae Elston.
Engram's situation is a bit more interesting. Despite a disappointing season (just 368 yards and two scores for a guy who was expected to terrorize the SEC), CBS still has him projected as the second best tight end in the 2016 class (behind Hunter Henry ... yea, that Hunter Henry) and a second- or third-round selection.
As for Brown, I think this is just a curiosity thing. At 6'3, 280, he has the frame for a 3-4 NFL end, but I don't know that he's a leave early type of talent. The fact that he recently had season-ending surgery for a foot fracture doesn't help.
By the way, the prospect grading system has been tweaked this year. It used to be that scouts would tell the kid whether he was a first-rounder, second-rounder, third-rounder, no potential to go in the first three rounds or no potential to be drafted at all. The new system simplifies things: they're either a first-rounder, a second-rounder or they're advised to go back to school. That could work to Ole Miss' advantage in a case like Engram, who could be a fringe third-rounder.
Unsurprisingly, Freeze is a fan of the change.
"The last few years, you had 50 percent of the kids that declare for the draft didn't get drafted," Freeze said. "You talk about a slap in the face, a cold bucket of water, that's a different animal. A kid needs to know if he should come back to school."