Busy second day for Mississippi State in NFL Draft

Busy second day for Mississippi State in NFL Draft
SOURCE: MSU Athletics (Source: MSU Athletics)

A trio of Mississippi State Bulldogs were selected Friday on the second night of the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs chose Starkville native and linebacker Willie Gay Jr. with the 63rd overall selection. Cornerback Cameron Dantzler later heard his named called when the Minnesota Vikings selected him in the third round with the 89th overall pick. With the final pick of the third round, the Baltimore Ravens drafted offensive lineman Tyre Phillips (106th overall).

Gay Jr. totaled 99 tackles, including 11 for loss and six sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered three fumbles. He also intercepted three passes, including one he returned 52 yards for a touchdown last season against Kentucky. Gay Jr. recorded either an interception, forced fumble or fumble recovery in seven of his last nine games.

Over Gay Jr.'s 239 career coverage snaps, he was targeted 35 times and allowed only 21 catches for 183 yards with six combined interceptions and pass breakups. He earned a 93.9 PFF coverage grade for the last three seasons, which ranks first among 2020 draft-eligible linebackers. Gay Jr. stole the show at the 2020 NFL Combine with a 4.46 40-yard dash, 39.5 vertical leap and 136.0 broad jump.

Two of the top 10 40-yard dash times among EDGE defenders and linebackers at the NFL Combine since 2007 are owned by MSU products – Montez Sweat (4.41 in 2019) and Gay Jr. (4.46 in 2020). In the last two seasons, Dantzler allowed only 36 receptions on 80 targets over that span for 459 yards, one score, and four interceptions – per Pro Football Focus.

For his career, Dantzler has yielded a passer rating against of 43.8. Dantzler appeared in 35 career games with 22 starts. He totaled 108 career tackles, including six for loss and 1.5 sacks. Dantzler was credited with five interceptions and 20 pass breakups. He forced one fumble and recovered one fumble.

Phillips emerged as one of the top offensive tackles in the SEC in 2019. He started all 13 games at left tackle, played a team-high 821 snaps (819 at left tackle and two at left guard) and earned the highest offensive grade among MSU offensive linemen from PFF (80.1). The Grenada, Mississippi, product allowed just 2.0 sacks and one QB hit across 398 snaps in pass protection. Last week he was named to the National Football Foundation’s Hampshire Honor Society for holding a 3.2 or better GPA during his college career.

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