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Ole Miss could have three 1st round NFL Draft picks... again

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Greg Little, A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf have all declared early.

Photos by USA Today | Design by Jeff Gray

On Monday afternoon, in a subdued tweet that noted he “will always be a Rebel,” star left tackle Greg Little announced that he will forego his senior season at Ole Miss and declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. Little, who signed with Hugh Freeze’s team in February of 2016 as a unanimous five-star, is projected by ESPN’s Todd McShay ESPN’s Todd McShay to be the first O-lineman off the board and a top-10 overall pick. Like former Rebel star Laremy Tunsil, Little came out of high school as the No. 1 offensive line prospect and heads to the NFL Draft with the same title.

It’s Freeze’s 2014 class, which included Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell and Robert Nkemdiche, that’s best known, but his 2016 class was even better, landing Ole Miss in the top five of national recruiting rankings for the first time in program history. It’s poised to deliver three first-round picks in April, which could be more than any school not named Alabama.

Little’s announcement came a week and a half after that of stud wideout A.J. Brown, who’s been projected as high as the No. 2 pick and is a probably a lock in the top 15. He followed fellow wideout D.K. Metcalf, who may just have the biggest upside of the group. Metcalf would probably be a top-15 guy if not for a season-ending neck injury, but even still he’s ranked 31st by CBS Sports.

On that CBS ranking, only Bama has more than three prospects inside the top 32 (Ohio State is the only other with three).

Make your jokes about Freeze and his bag men, but the level of offensive talent he was able to aggregate at a school with middling historical success is astounding. That Ole Miss could have three first-rounders in any year is surprising in itself—that it could happen twice in the span of three years is mind-blowing.

The returns on that talent acquisition are another story. Little, Brown and Metcalf leave Ole Miss with just a 16-20 overall record. Freeze’s dramatic resignation in 2017 certainly disrupted things and offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s inability to capitalize on the talent Freeze left him is a big reason he’ll be coaching in Chapel Hill instead of Oxford next season.

Still, Little, Brown and Metcalf made Ole Miss football a hell of lot more fun to watch over the past few years than it otherwise would have been. In the past two seasons alone, the two wideouts combined for 225 receptions, 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns. Little anchored one of the most reliable line groups in school history and was no small part of a massive improvement in the running game.

Here’s a look at each guy’s profile heading into April’s draft.

Greg Little

CBS Sports overall rank: 16th
Mel Kiper OL rank: 5th

What scouts are saying: “Little, who just announced he’s entering the draft, is a true left tackle. He won’t have to move to the right side in the NFL. He’s light on his feet and can get to the second level to take on linebackers, and he consistently overpowers SEC edge defenders at the point of attack. The former five-star high school prospect protected the blind side of Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray in high school.” - ESPN’s Mel Kiper

A.J. Brown

CBS Sports overall rank: 24th
Mel Kiper WR rank: 5th

What scouts are saying: When I go back and study the successful wide receivers at the NFL level, I’m always reminded of the most underrated quality they all have in common: toughness. That is the best aspect of Brown’s game. He plays physical from snap to whistle and isn’t afraid to work in the middle of the field. He can continue to learn and develop the craft of being a successful route runner and pass catcher, but you can’t coach toughness. He’s got it. - NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah

D.K. Metcalf

CBS Sports overall rank: 31st
Mel Kiper WR rank: 4th

What scouts are saying: Metcalf is undoubtedly one of college football’s most intimidating downfield threats. He’s not only a burner. Metcalf has consistently showcased impressive wiggle in the open field and plus contact balance when absorbing hits in the open field. Unsurprisingly, he’s a capable high-pointer as well. My comparison for Metcalf is Josh Gordon, another tall, physical receiver with impressive athleticism and serious speed to take the top off any defense.” - CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso