As the off-seasons inch along, professional sportswriters are trying to help fill the slow time with their way-too-early mock drafts, predicting how teams will finish in the standings and then guessing which player they will take at that spot. Obviously, these mocks have about as much chance of being accurate as my chance of filling out a perfect bracket (no need to do the math, this checks out). But what is much less an exercise in futility is trying to examine a college roster to determine who, if anyone, could be selected in one of the 7 rounds of the NFL Draft.
This past year, Michigan State saw three of its players get selected by a team. Jayden Reed went in the second round to Green Bay. Bryce Baringer got picked up by the New England Patriots in the sixth round. And 22 picks later, New England double-dipped into the Spartan roster by grabbing Ameer Speed. One player that many expected to be picked but remained undrafted was DL Jacob Slade, who ended up signing as an UDFA with the Arizona Cardinals.
In looking at next year’s roster, it’s not just a matter of figuring out who are the best players on the team, but also who are among the best at their respective positions nationwide. This task became harder when two of the most recognizable players on the team left via the transfer portal. WR Keon Coleman seems like he could have been a mid-round pick, similar to Reed in this last draft. And QB Payton Thorne may have been a low-round option if he could have resembled the ‘21 version of himself in his senior season. But with those two off to play down south, we look elsewhere.
Running down the ‘23 roster, I am predicting three Spartans get selected in the ‘24 NFL Draft, just like in ‘23. By the way, just a reminder that the great city of Detroit will be hosting next year’s draft.
Amongst the offensive skill positions, the most likely candidate in my opinion is TE Maliq Carr. This would mean him leaving college after 3 seasons, but I feel like he has a chance to really be a featured weapon for MSU next year. With the departures of Reed and Coleman, and with TE Daniel Barker being out of eligibility, Carr is one of MSU’s better receiving options coming back. In fact, only Tre Mosley had more yards last season. At 6’5” and 255 pounds, Carr is built like an NFL tight end, and he showed a few times last year that he can go up and get those contested balls.
Moving away from the skill positions momentarily, I think there is one guy on the OL who could be draft-worthy, and that is J.D. Duplain. The fifth-year senior has plenty of starting experience and already was one of the best players on our O-line last year. He is currently listed at 300 pounds, so I think he could help his cause by stacking on some more weight, but he is fundamentally sound at the guard position.
Looking at the defensive side of the ball, I don’t see any non-seniors leaving early. Unfortunately, in regards to getting players drafted, I think the best players in this unit are underclassmen. Barrow and Harmon on the line, Haladay and Snow as backers, and Brantley and Mangham are the names that will eventually have the best shot at the next level. But for the ‘24 draft, if there is one spot where a Spartan could get selected, I think it would be from the secondary.
I am predicting that either Angelo Grose or Chester Kimbrough takes a big step forward in their senior season and earns themself a late-round pick. Angelo has shown some versatility, playing both safety and nickel. He has shown speed in recording a handful of TFLs in his career, ball-tracking skills with his 13 PBUs and 1 INT, and also strength in forcing a pair of fumbles. Look for him to show a few more drive-altering plays in his final season.
Kimbrough plays more exclusively as a slot corner but he has also put up some decent numbers in his career so far. He too has 5 TFLs, along with 3 sacks, to go along with 2 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 INT. I can’t predict which one will end up being the better draft prospect, but I do think one of them will end up hearing their name.
So that is my prediction. Our all-world punter is gone so no special teams picks. That leaves three Spartans going in the 2024 NFL Draft (live from Detroit!) What do you guys think? Would you add anyone? Take anyone off my list? Is my whole list garbage? Let’s read your predictions.