While his higher-rated teammate Montez Sweat continued to wait, Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons was the first Mississippian off the board in the NFL Draft here Thursday night.
Nashville’s hometown team, the Tennessee Titans, took a chance on Simmons with the No. 19 pick.
Simmons was rated higher in some earlier mock drafts, but an ACL tear in mid-February gave some teams cause for concern.
Simmons becomes a first-round pick after a video in which he was shown punching a young woman made some call for MSU to not allow him in school.
Years later that altercation kept him from being invited to the NFL Combine.
Simmons amassed 157 tackles, seven sacks and four forced fumbles in three seasons at MSU.
Some mock drafts had Sweat going inside the first 10 picks. Finally, Washington took Sweat at No. 26.
Minutes later MSU safety Johnathan Abram was drafted by the Raiders with the 27th pick.
It’s the first time in school history that three Bulldogs have been taken in the first round.
The MSU trio were among nine SEC players taken on the first day. Alabama also had three players selected.
Sweat’s slide could have been due in part to confusion over a preexisting heart condition that was detected at the Combine.
“We’re excited,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “To get this type of player and this type of person where we got him, we’re very fortunate.”
The Titans believe Simmons’ potential makes him worth the wait.
Simmons tore his ACL while working out in Florida in February. The Titans didn’t want to speculate Thursday how soon he might be available to play and whether he’d be ready at all this season.
“We’ll see how it goes when he gets in here, not to put a timetable on any types of injuries,” general manager Jon Robinson said. “He’ll get in here and start working with our training staff. Whatever timetable that is for him to get back out there, when he’s out there, we feel he’ll really make an impact.”
Vrabel said they were reassured after talking to Simmons and various Mississippi State officials.
“I’ll say this,” Vrabel said, “there are bad people, and there are good people who make mistakes — bad, horrific mistakes. You can fix mistakes. You can’t fix bad people. … This is a good guy, this is a great guy who made a horrific mistake. He lives with it every day of his life. I’m very confident, as is Jon, that he will make everyone here proud.”
Sweat fills a void for Washington after pass-rusher Preston Smith — another former Bulldog — left for Green Bay in free agency. He slipped amid medical concerns about a heart condition that he said was misdiagnosed and then called normal by Houston Texans doctor James Muntz.
Gruden said the Redskins believe Sweat is healthy, and they have a motivated player in their second first-round pick.
“They definitely got a winner in me,” Sweat said. “I’m more motivated than ever.”