By Parris Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
By Parrish Alford
Dexter McCluster’s first-round prediction was off, but not by much.
The All-American multi-purpose offensive threat for Ole Miss, McCluster was taken by Kansas City with the fourth pick of the second round, the 36th pick overall, when the NFL draft resumed Friday evening.
On back-to-back picks in the third round, Buffalo (No. 72) selected defensive end Alex Carrington, a Tupelo native from Arkansas State, and Miami (No. 73) picked John Jerry, an offensive lineman from Ole Miss.
The final four rounds of the draft are today, starting at 9 a.m.
McCluster (5-foot-8, 165), who had hoped to be a first-round pick, joins a Chiefs team that had two 1,000-yard rushers last season in Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. That could mean that McCluster’s early NFL future will involve work at receiver and on special teams.
McCluster viewed the draft with family and friends in his hometown of Largo, Fla., and the room erupted in celebration when his name was called.
“I always expected to go high,” McCluster told reporters on an NFL conference call after his selection. “I was a little nervous, had a lot of family around. That put a little extra pressure on me but when I got that phone call, it was a blessing.”
McCluster will join a rookie Chiefs class that will clearly have strong SEC ties. Safety Eric Berry of Tennessee was the fifth overall pick by Kansas City on Thursday and Alabama cornerback Javier Arenas was the 50th overall pick.
Wherever the Chiefs need to use him, McCluster insisted he was ready.
“My role I think will be whatever Coach (Todd) Haley wants me to be,” McCluster told reporters after his selection. “If he wants me be a slot receiver, if he wants me to be running back or return punts and kickoff return, that’s where I’ll be. It’s up to the big guy.”
Ole Miss had four players drafted in 2009, two of them – defensive tackle Peria Jerry (Atlanta) and offensive tackle Michael Oher (Baltimore) – in the first round. The Rebels have had at least one player drafted in 10 of the last 11 seasons.
“I’m really excited for Dexter,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “Kansas City has gotten an excellent person who will be outstanding in the weight room, on the practice field, in the lockerroom and on gameday. This is a special young man who inspires his teammates to achieve at a high level.”
McCluster’s selection is the highest for an Ole Miss running back since Deuce McCallister went to the Saints with the 23rd pick in 2001.
McCluster becomes only the second Ole Miss player drafted by Kansas City. Offensive lineman Tre Stallings was selected in 2006. He is no longer with the franchise.
The Chiefs’ first-round pick, Berry, was across the line from McCluster when McCluster ran for an Ole Miss record 282 yards against the Vols last November. “I had quite a game,” McCluster said.
McCluster finished No. 2 on the Ole Miss career all-purpose yardage list with 4,089 and seventh among the all-time Rebel rushers with 1,955 yards. The two-time All-SEC honoree is just the second back-to-back offensive MVP in the 74-year history of the Cotton Bowl Classic, joining SMU’s Doak Walker in 1948-49.
McCluster earned first team All-America honors in 2009, when he became the first player in SEC history with 1,000 rushing yards (1,169) and 500 receiving yards (520) in the same season. It marked the second-highest rushing total in school history.
Both Carrington and Jerry were projected as possible second-day picks.
Carrington (6-5, 285) is expected to give a big boost to Buffalo’s pass rush, but must adapt to the Bills’ 3-4 scheme after playing as a defensive end in a four-man front.
“I had a chance to open a lot of people’s eyes at the Senior Bowl,” said Carrington of the postseason game, where he impressed coaches with a dominant effort in the practice sessions. He was unable to complete the workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine due to an injury but performed well at the Arkansas State pro day on April 11.
Jerry (6-5, 328), a native of Batesville and younger brother of Peria Jerry, started 46 of 49 games for the Rebels and earned All-SEC first-team honors as a senior. The Dolphins are unlikely to need him to step directly into a starting role.
“I’m willing to play wherever they need me,” said Jerry, who moved from guard to tackle as a senior. “Honestly, I feel like I can play either position.”
Among the players hoping to hear their names called in the final four rounds today are Mississippi State running back Anthony Dixon and linebacker Jamar Chaney and Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead, safety Kendrick Lewis and receiver Shay Hodge.
Contributing: John L. Pitts, NFL.com.