Some take-aways from pro day at Ole Miss

Some take-aways from Ole Miss pro day …

Trae Elston upset about not getting an invite to the combine or any of the made-for-NFL all-star events.

You could pick up that vibe from Elston on social media before pro day.

Elston was an incredibly productive player for Ole Miss, but the draft is far more about potential than production.

The knock against Elston is effort. I saw some analysis that said he didn’t follow the play full speed, and that registered with me. I recalled thinking that from a couple of highlight clips during the season.

That said, Elston is a fierce hitter and a big-play maker. Production should count for something. …

I’ll say this about Robert Nkemdiche. The guy takes your questions.

Since his arrival at Ole Miss there has always seemed to be a sub-plot with Robert Nkemdiche, some kind of side story, often something that caused Hugh Freeze to limit Nkemdiche’s interview appearances.

That was a sort of nuclear option that wasn’t necessary. I know Freeze was concerned about the questions Nkemdiche would receive about the sub-plot of the day, but Nkemdiche has always handled his interviews with a smile and with an outgoing personality.

That’s including the last two times he’s stood before a large group of media, at the NFL combine and Monday at the campus pro day.

Yes, he threw Laremy Tunsil under the bus in Indianapolis, and the accuracy of Nkemdiche’s comment is up for some level of debate. Nkemdiche knew those character questions were coming then, and he’s handled them with grace. Some will roll their eyes about the changed man tone of his answers. That’s fine. He deserves the skepticism.

But he doesn’t run away from the topic.

I thought his response to questions about his brother were particularly interesting. He basically said a family decision has been reached that includes he and Denzel being separated “for the beginning of my career.”

What exactly that means is unclear. Piecing some things together I took it to mean that Denzel and Robert won’t live together and that Denzel won’t be the head of some elaborate entourage that is on the sideline at every practice.

I could see Denzel being somewhere in the background at games, maybe walking off the field with Robert after games, something like that.

Whatever the case, the family has acknowledged that Denzel’s presence, something that helped recruit Robert to Ole Miss, may not be the best thing for the next phase of Robert’s career. Someone – in this case someone means NFL executives who have become more cautious about investing millions in Robert – has put that bug in the family’s ear. It’s a good bug to have, and hopefully Robert and his family will follow through with their new plan. …

In his interviews at the combine Robert took responsibility for his action, but wanted to bring the media in with him when he said, “The media’s done a tarnish to my name but I’ve just got to make them understand me as a person who I am.”

He was asked directly about the medial role in name tarnishment and amended his statement.

“It was off my mistake.”

That didn’t completely absolve the media’s role in tarnishing his name. I haven’t read all the coverage regarding Nkemdiche’s off field incident, and it’s quite possible that some facts were misrepresented, lost or left out along the way. I also know there’s a tendency to bring along company for misery, and Robert appeared to be doing that with this statement.

That’s one of the things the NFL would to see him grow from, and he showed no problems Monday.

At one point he was asked about the NFL’s apparent desire that he focus more on football. He said he doesn’t understand where this idea has come from and suggested it could be because he also plays the saxophone.

I, for one, would love for Nkemdiche to break out the sax at a presser, but we’ve never seen that. …

Outside the Big 3 I would think the most draftable Rebels will be Fahn Cooper, Cody Core, Trae Elston and Channing Ward.

Cooper, Core, Elston and CJ Johnson all have similar draft grades from at 4.9 or 5.0 which means that analysis gives these players a 50-50 chance of making a roster.

I think someone is going to take a chance on Ward, who at 280 pounds ran a 4.61 on Monday. The NFL is a specialized league. There’s a niche for special teamers, and I think Ward can fit in that.

Mike Hilton’s draft grade is a fraction lower than that group. I would love to see Hilton get a chance somewhere, but at 5-foot-9 I’m not sure It’s coming.

He will be evaluated too much on his size and not enough on his production and heart. …

Speaking of lesser known guys who could make a roster and contribute, Freeze listed nose tackle Woodrow Hamilton.

Freeze said, “Somebody in a 3-4 scheme could get a guy that’s going to play like 8-10 years as a 2 gap nose guard and play on first and second down.”

It would be great to see Hamilton fill that role. We’ll see. …

Freeze said he has been asked, though not very much at all, about Laremy Tunsil’s seven-game NCAA suspension.

The only way an NCAA suspension could have any meaning at this stage of the game is if it’s a window to a larger character issue.

I didn’t see a character issue with Tunsil. I didn’t see a choir boy, but Tunsil didn’t the constant sub-plots that the Nkemdiches did. If he had an entourage, and it looks like his mother’s husband, Lindsey Miller, could have been part of that, Tunsil kept it out of public view.

The sheer fact that Tunsil is not a big social media guy helped him keep his profile somewhat low for a player of his notoriety.

Freeze says he’s seen no issues of poor character with Tunsil. The NCAA allegations are there for everyone to see. Tunsil was at some point misleading to the NCAA during the investigation.

All of this is public record, but I don’t see a pattern for issues for Tunsil. If the NCAA had more or suspected more it didn’t prove more.

There is nothing here that’s going to give any NFL team second thoughts about drafting Tunsil, and while the Tennessee Titans haven’t indicated their intentions with the No. 1 pick, I think he’s right in the mix with them. …


Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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  • Killer_Beeze

    What happened to Denzel? He just imploded…out of the blue. Was it drugs?
    Inquiring minds want to know:
    Where is he, what is he doing and is he okay?

    • Parrish Alford

      Robert talked about him briefly on Monday but was very vague and only said that he’s doing OK. There were many rumors of drug use.

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