49ers Pick Blair in 5th Round of NFL Draft, Five Mountaineers Agree to Free-Agent Deals

Published Monday, May 2, 2016 at 10:28 am
Ronald Blair is the 26th NFL Draft pick in Appalachian State history and the second former Mountaineer on the San Francisco 49ers' current roster. Courtesy: Allyson Lamb / App State Athletics

Ronald Blair is the 26th NFL Draft pick in Appalachian State history and the second former Mountaineer on the San Francisco 49ers’ current roster. Courtesy: Allyson Lamb / App State Athletics

The San Francisco 49ers selected Appalachian State University defensive lineman Ronald Blair (Greensboro, Ga./Greene County) with the third pick of the fifth round (142nd overall) in the 2016 National Football League Draft on Saturday.

Blair is 26th NFL Draft pick in Appalachian State history and the first since Demetrius McCray was selected in the seventh round of the 2013 Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Blair is the Mountaineers’ highest draft pick since Brian Quick was chosen with the first pick of the second round by the St. Louis Rams in 2012. The 6-2, 284-pounder was also the first Sun Belt Conference player to come off the board in this year’s draft.

The 2015 Sun Belt Defensive Athlete of the Year, Blair led the conference with 19 tackles for loss (tied for 12th nationally) and ranked second in the league with 7.5 sacks as a senior in 2015. He also tallied 71 total tackles (third on team, t-26th in Sun Belt), two quarterback hurries, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception that he returned 30 yards for a touchdown in a 44-41 triple-overtime win over Troy on Oct. 31.

Blair started all 51 games that he suited up for during his Appalachian State career and finished with 53.5 tackles for loss (fifth in school history) and 20.5 sacks (10th in school history). In addition to being named the Sun Belt’s top defensive performer in 2015, he was also a three-time all-conference honoree (Sun Belt – 2014 and 2015, Southern Conference – 2012) and an NCAA Division I FCS freshman all-American in 2011.

Aside from the Mountaineers below that inked free-agent deals, Blair becomes the eighth former Mountaineer currently in the NFL ranks and joins fellow Appalachian State alum Daniel Kilgore with the 49ers.

Five Mountaineers Agree to Free-Agent Deals

Bobo Beathard (Arizona Cardinals), Davante Harris (Indianapolis Colts), Malachi Jones (Atlanta Falcons), Simms McElfresh (Detroit Lions) and Doug Middleton (New York Jets) have joined NFL rosters as undrafted free agents. Courtesy: Appalachian State Athletics

Bobo Beathard (Arizona Cardinals), Davante Harris (Indianapolis Colts), Malachi Jones (Atlanta Falcons), Simms McElfresh (Detroit Lions) and Doug Middleton (New York Jets) have joined NFL rosters as undrafted free agents. Courtesy: Appalachian State Athletics

Five former Appalachian State University football student-athletes have agreed to terms as undrafted free agents with National Football League teams. The deals include wide receiver Bobo Beathard (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) joining the Arizona Cardinals, offensive lineman Davante Harris (Blythewood, S.C./Blythewood) joining the Indianapolis Colts, wide receiver Malachi Jones (Roswell, Ga./Central Gwinnett) joining the Atlanta Falcons, wide receiver Simms McElfresh (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian) joining the Detroit Lions and defensive back Doug Middleton (Winston-Salem, N.C./Parkland) joining the New York Jets.

Beathard appeared in 51 games at Appalachian State from 2011-15, which was tied for the most among all student-athletes on the Mountaineers’ history-making 2015 squad. The 5-10, 190-pound wideout caught 34 passes for 495 yards and five touchdowns in his collegiate career, including 14 receptions for 265 yards and three touchdowns as a senior in 2015. His 18.9-yards-per-reception average in ‘15 was good for second on the team and would’ve ranked 22nd nationally if he had enough catches to qualify for the official NCAA statistical rankings. Beathard also handled return duties for much of his collegiate career and finished with a 21.4-yard average on 34 career kickoff returns and returned a punt for a touchdown in 2014 at UL Lafayette.

Harris excelled on both sides of the ball during his Appalachian State career. The 6-6, 300-pounder started 18 games at offensive tackle over his final three seasons, including 12 starts as the Mountaineers’ all-important left tackle as a senior. He was a key cog for an App State offensive line that ranked fourth nationally in fewest sacks allowed (.85 per game) and paved the way for a rushing attack that ranked sixth nationally (271.5 ypg) in 2015. Individually, he surrendered only one sack, was credited with 55 knockdowns and owned an 81-percent job grade in 12 games last season, en route to second-team all-Sun Belt Conference honors. Before moving to offense, he earned NCAA Division I FCS freshman all-America recognition as a defensive lineman in 2012 (34 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, one sack).

Jones caught 124 passes for 1,711 yards and eight touchdowns in four seasons at Appalachian State, including 25 receptions for 463 yards and three touchdowns as a senior in 2015 and 36 catches for 585 yards (both career highs) and three touchdowns as a junior in 2014. The 6-2, 215-pounder appeared in all 49 games during his Mountaineer career with 35 starts, including 13 starts as a senior. His 18.5 yards-per-catch average as a senior was the highest of his career and would’ve ranked 28th nationally had he not fallen one catch shy of qualifying for the national statistical rankings. He was an NCAA Division I FCS freshman All-American after recording 32 catches for 370 yards and two touchdowns in 2012. Jones comes from an NFL pedigree, as his late father, Andre Jones, played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions, his brother, T.J. Jones, is a wideout for the Lions,  his uncle, Phillip Daniels, played 14 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins and his godfather, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail recorded over 5,000 receiving yards in nine NFL seasons.

McElfresh came to Appalachian State as an unheralded walk-on in 2011 and went on to lead the Mountaineers with 38 receptions for 466 yards in just 12 games as a senior in 2015. The 5-10, 180-pounder caught at least one pass in 11-of-12 games as a senior and led all App State wideouts with six touchdown receptions. He finished his collegiate career with 106 catches for 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns and also rushed 13 times for 97 yards (7.5-yard avg.) and three touchdowns. The former walk-on served as a team captain as a senior and made 29 starts over his final three seasons.

Middleton earned first-team all-Sun Belt recognition as a junior in 2014 and was an honorable-mention all-conference selection as a senior in 2015. He finished his Appalachian State career with 201 tackles (126 solo, 75 assists), 10 tackles for loss and eight interceptions. The 6-0, 210-pounder had his finest statistical season as a junior, when he recorded 74 tackles, six tackles for loss, four interceptions and six pass breakups in 12 games at free safety. He moved to strong safety as a senior and tallied 53 tackles with three pass breakups in 13 games. He made 33 starts in 50 games as a Mountaineer, including 30-straight to finish his career and 12 as a true freshman in 2011, when he was named an NCAA Division I FCS freshman all-American. He graduated from App State in 2015 and pursued a master’s degree in public administration during his final season with the Mountaineers. In the summer of 2015, he worked with campus leaders to lobby the North Carolina legislature for a new building to house Appalachian State’s Beaver College of Health Sciences.

Appalachian State has a long history of former student-athletes making regular-season NFL rosters as undrafted free agents, including current New Orleans Saints running back Travaris Cadet, Houston Texans offensive lineman Kendall Lamm and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Tony Washington.

With the addition of five undrafted free agents, plus defensive lineman Ronald Blair (Greensboro, Ga./Greene County), who was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, there are now 13 former Mountaineers currently in the NFL ranks. The list also includes Cadet, offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore (49ers), Lamm, punter Sam Martin (Lions), defensive back Demetrius McCray (Jaguars), wideout Brian Quick (Los Angeles Rams) and Washington.

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