Scouting the SEC: Mississipi State

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The Bulldogs presently have a second-year signal caller in the NFL starting for the Dallas Cowboys. They also have another big-time quarterback prospect waiting in the wings.

Just last week I had a conversation with a league insider about the potential quarterback class of 2018. This person has vast experience at the quarterback position, specifically with recent top-five quarterback picks.

We went through the names of quarterbacks often mentioned as first-round picks; Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson. He said he felt there was a quarterback not being mentioned that would come out of nowhere to be a first-round pick in 2018.

I responded by saying I felt that quarterback would be Nick Fitzgerald of Mississippi State.

The redshirt junior is a tall pocket passer with excellent size. He showed excellent poise and command of the offense as a first-year starter in 2016, not getting rattled under the rush or making poor decisions.

His arm strength is next-level worthy. Fitzgerald easily drives deep passes with speed or powers the ball through the tight windows. He’s accurate, displays a sense of timing on his throws and can even escape the rush.

As the conversation continued, the insider told me that while he likes what he sees on film, he wants to see Fitzgerald play more.

“Fair enough,” I replied, "But don’t forget, Mississippi State has no real vertical receiving threat, really doesn’t use a tight end and was built more for the run/pass quarterbacking of Dak Prescott."

Bottom line is Fitzgerald presently grades as a second-round prospect on our board and I expect him to climb further north.

Much was written about Martinas Rankins in the lead up to junior declaration day last January, oftentimes from myself. Entering the season a number of scouts have stamped him as a free-agent prospect but I disagree.

Rankins is fundamentally sound and relatively athletic. He’s strong, anchors at the point in pass protection and gets movement run blocking. He lines up at left tackle, but I believe Rankins could play right tackle, guard or maybe even center.

Rankins does not show great awareness and seems to get lost at times. Hopefully we can chalk that up to inexperience, but he must improve his football instincts or his draft grade will be sunk.

Mississippi State

Grade

Rod

Full Name

Pos

#

Yr

3.89

2nd

Nick Fitzgerald

QB

7

4Jr

3.53

4th

Martinas Rankin

T

55

5Sr

3.38

6th

Elgton Jenkins

G

74

4Jr

3.37

6th

Donald Gray

WR

6

4Sr

3.18

FA

Jordan Thomas

TE

83

4Sr

3.00

FA

Brandon Bryant

S

1

4Jr

2.71

FA

Tolando Cleveland

CB

7

4Sr