Derek Carr is now a Saint. The franchise tag window has passed for all 32 NFL teams. This is usually a dead period in the NFL landscape, before free agency opens but after the season ends. While we wait, the XFL is playing games and the USFL will start next month.
The NFL Draft will be at the end of April, with the Carolina Panthers holding the first overall pick for the first time since 2011. They are expected to take a quarterback, be it Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, or the dark-horse pick of UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
Recently, the NFL Combine wrapped up. It’s a chance for star prospects to show off the skills they possess while also allowing guys who have normally flown under the radar to gain traction in their draft stock. For example, Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson had an amazing combine performance, and according to the NFL, had the highest athleticism score of any quarterback in this class.
For the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, two players were invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this past week: wide receiver Michael Jefferson and linebacker Andre Jones Jr. For these two gentlemen, the goal is to make an NFL roster. However, coming from a school that is in the Group of Five, they have a daunting road ahead of them if they want to hear their name called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or whomever else may be invited to the Kansas City stage.
For starters, I will go in the order of higher NFL grades as given by NFL analyst Lance Zeirline. As such, we start with Jones Jr. The NFL only has two combine stats listed for Jones Jr.: his vertical jump at 29 inches, and his broad jump at 9’ 8”. Other sources have Jones Jr.’s 40-yard dash time at 4.71 seconds.
Zeirline states that while Jones Jr.’s production may not jump off the page, “he’s athletic and uses his length to put himself in position to make tackles.” However, since Jones Jr. only participated officially in two combine events, it will be hard for NFL teams to notice him.
His prospect grade is 5.86, which is good enough to be an average backup or special-teamer. Sadly, it is safe to say that Andre Jones Jr. will not hear his name called until the seventh round, if at all.
On the offensive side of the ball, Jefferson participated in all combine activities. His 40 time was officially clocked at 4.56 seconds, which is the same as his 20-yard shuttle time. At the combine, he had a production score of 64, which is 30th among wideouts that expect to hear their names called at the NFL Draft.
Zeirline praised Jefferson, stating, “Jefferson is a tall target with build-up speed and a receiving style that gets better the further he gets from the line”. However, this is where the praises end. Zeirline goes further, stating that Jefferson “will have a challenging time making an NFL roster”. He had a couple of deep passes thrown his way that should have been caught for touchdowns last season, instead being dropped.
Jefferson grades out at a 5.66, slightly lower than Jones Jr. 5.66 is good enough to be a candidate for the bottom of an NFL roster or to be on a practice squad. Once again, it is not likely that Jefferson will not hear his name called in Kansas City.
It is a shame that these two are not likely to have their names called in the NFL Draft. However, there are plenty of other options that these two can take to play professionally.
The CFL is always willing to take Americans, and the USFL has the unique opportunity to pick up undrafted free agents for their season.
Therefore, even if the two Louisiana players don’t hear their name called, their dreams can still be realized through other methods.
The most recent draftees, offensive lineman Max Mitchell and Percy Butler, were drafted in the fourth round by the New York Jets and the Washington Commanders, respectively.
The highest drafted Ragin’ Cajun of all time was defensive back Charles Tillman, who was drafted in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.
Since 1989, there have been 25 Ragin’ Cajuns drafted into the NFL. Of those 25, four have won the Super Bowl: Brian Mitchell won Super Bowl XXVI, Brandon Stokley won Super Bowls XXXV and XLI, Ike Taylor won Super Bowls XL and XLIII, and Raymond Calais won Super Bowl LVI.