Previewing Michigan State Football's 2021 NFL Draft Prospects

Will Michigan State continue an 80-year streak of seeing a player selected in the NFL Draft?
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EAST LANSING – For the last 80 years, Michigan State football has had a player selected in the NFL Draft.

It's the third-longest streak in the nation and will likely continue this year, but ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. thinks it'll be later in the draft before a Spartan is chosen.

MSU's trio of prospects includes defensive tackle Naquan Jones, cornerback Shakur Brown, and linebacker Antjuan Simmons.

However, Kiper doesn't believe any of them are first, second, or third-round picks. 

Rounds four through seven take place on day three, which is apparently the sweet spot for Michigan State this year.

Due to COVID-19, the annual NFL Scouting Combine held in Indianapolis will not occur this year, but athletes are scheduled to go through drills and testing during pro days. Michigan State's is set for March 24. 

Jones took over a much larger role after Kenny Willekes, Mike Panasiuk, and Raequan Williams graduated. 

As a fifth-year senior, he accumulated 24 tackles, five for a loss, two QB hurries, and one fumble recovery.

"There were some games where he (Jones) would get into that backfield," Kiper said. "I think he's a day-three pick."

Brown started the first two contests of the 2020 season at nickelback after new defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton and Mel Tucker decided to run a 4-2-5 scheme. 

Eventually, he moved back to corner for the final five games.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound defensive back finished with five interceptions (second-most in the country), 25 tackles, four pass break-ups, and one quarterback hurry.

"Brown, to me, is in that third tier of corners ... I think he's got a chance to be a fourth- or fifth-round pick," said Kiper.

Simmons, arguably MSU's best player on either side of the ball, led Michigan State with a team-high 75 tackles, nine for a loss, one sack, two pass break-ups, two QB hurries, and two fumble recoveries.

"No. 34 was everywhere making plays," Kiper said. "You can say that was their best defensive player, their most impressive player on tape was Simmons; in coverage and around the line of scrimmage, always getting through the traffic, staying on his feet, read and reaction, diagnostic ability excellent for him ... In the late rounds, priority free agent, I think he's going to have a chance to force his way onto a football team."

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