DALLAS – After Breeland Speaks was selected in the second round yesterday, three more Rebels – Marquis Haynes, Jordan Wilkins and Rod Taylor – were picked on the final day of the 2018 NFL Draft, marking the third consecutive year that Ole Miss has had at least four draft picks.
The Carolina Panthers traded back into the tail-end of the fourth round to select Haynes with a compensatory pick at No. 136 overall (No. 36 in the round), bolstering their defensive line that includes NFL veteran Julius Peppers. Haynes left Ole Miss as the greatest pass rusher of the modern era, leading both all-time lists in sacks (32) and tackles for loss (47.5).
“He’ll be a situational pass rusher for us,” said Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. “His greatest asset as an athlete is his speed off the ball. He’s got a great first step, he’s explosive, he gets off the ball very quickly. He’s got an array of pass rush moves we think we can exploit and we can move him around.”
Haynes is the third Rebel to be drafted by the Panthers, and the first since defensive end Greg Hardy in 2010 (sixth round, No. 175 overall). Haynes was a second-team All-SEC selection in 2017, adding to a second-team honor his sophomore year, a third-team honor his junior year, and selection as a first-team Freshman All-American in 2014.
Wilkins, who last year became the fifth Rebel to ever rush for 1,000 yards in a single season in 2017, was taken almost exactly one round later near the end of the fifth round by the Indianapolis Colts at No. 169 overall (No. 32 in the round). Wilkins was one of two running backs drafted by the Colts Saturday, joining N.C. State’s Nyheim Hines.
Wilkins earned second-team All-SEC honors for his stellar senior season in 2017, which saw him finish the season ranked second in the SEC and 13th nationally at 6.5 yards per carry. Wilkins is the 14th Rebel ever selected by the Colts (eight while they were in Baltimore, six now in Indianapolis), the first since wide receiver Donte Moncrief in 2014 (third round, No. 90 overall) and the first Rebel running back to be selected by Indianapolis.
“(Wilkins) is an interesting runner,” said Colts GM Chris Ballard. “I don’t ever want to put names, but his run style reminded me a lot of Matt Forte. We thought he had as good a vision as any back in the draft.”
The Cincinnati Bengals owned three of the final eight selections in the draft, and with the 252nd pick they took Rebel offensive lineman Rod Taylor at No. 34 in the seventh round. Taylor is the fifth Rebel to ever be selected by the Bengals, the first offensive lineman to do so since Stacy Andrews in 2004 (fourth round, No. 123 overall).
Taylor was a four-year anchor on the Rebel offensive line, starting 23 total games and helping Ole Miss to high offensive prowess along the way – including two historic performances in the 2014 Peach Bowl and 2015 Sugar Bowl.
Several other Rebels could potentially be targets for undrafted free agent contracts in the coming days.