December 1, 2011 7:39:00 AM
Matthew Stevens - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen once again will encourage members of his juniors class to get tested by the NFL.
MSU junior defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and junior cornerback Johnthan Banks will submit paperwork to the NFL draft advisory board to see where their expert scouts estimate they'll get picked.
"I always encourage all of them to fill out the paperwork if they have the interest," Mullen said Tuesday. "We see where their status is. Sometimes we'll try even to go beyond that, I'll talk to some coaches in the NFL and then we'll sit down with the family and make educated decisions what is best for these guys' futures."
During his news conference Tuesday, Mullen said he has used the same process with other players he has coached, including former first-round pick Alex Smith (quarterback) and offensive tackle Derek Sherrod.
Smith's and Sherrod's path to the draft process was different in that Smith was advised he'd be a first-round pick after leading the University of Utah to a undefeated season and Fiesta Bowl victory in 2005, but two years
ago Sherrod wasn't sure he wanted to be evaluated.
"Seventeen teams had picked (Smith) to be a top-10 pick, so we kind of suggested he leave," Mullen said. "Derek Sherrod had that conversation, he said, 'Coach I'm only a junior, I still have another year left.' I said, 'No we need to investigate it.' He thought he'd be a mid- to late-round pick and it was in his best interest to come back. He became a first-round pick, so it was the right decision for him to make."
The deadline for college underclassmen to submit paperwork to the NFL draft advisory board is Dec. 17. If prospects wish to declare for the 2012 NFL draft, they must do so by Jan. 15. They will be unable to withdraw after Jan. 18.
NFLDraftScout.com has Cox, who had four sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss this season, as the fifth-best defensive tackle prospect in the country, and the top rated third-year junior.
Banks, a former East Webster High School standout, had five interceptions, three sacks and a 64-yard punt return this season. According to NFLDraftScout.com, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound cornerback is the ninth-best prospect at his position, and 64th overall player.
Banks was MSU's finalist for the Conerly Trophy, which is given to the
state's best college football player.
"It's always a good decision to stay in school," Mullen said. "Now, is it a good decision to leave as well? That's what we want to make sure. If anybody is going to be a high first-round draft pick, that's life-changing money for you, your family, and generations to come. You should jump on that."
Former West Point star Carr would be welcomed back
Mullen said Tuesday that sophomore wide receiver Michael Carr has left the MSU program to deal with unspecified personal issues, but that he would be welcomed back if he decides to return.
"We're going to see (because) he has some things to work out personally," Mullen said.
Last week, Mullen said Carr, The Dispatch High School Player of
the Year in 2009-10, had taken a "personal leave" and wouldn't be active for his fourth consecutive game.
"When those things get worked out he knows he's welcome back here," Mullen said. "He's part of the family, and we want what's best for him."
Carr, a former four-star prospect according to Rivals.com, caught seven passes for 90 yards this season. He has 11 catches in his MSU career.
Carr's best performance in his two-year tenure was a three-catch, 65-yard effort in a 52-14 victory against the University of Michigan in the 2011 Gator Bowl. He had a 31-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of the victory.