The SEC, despite it’s 7-year run on National Championships having ended by, ironically, another team from the southeast, is still the best conference in the country. Two easy ways of rationalizing this are by looking at recruiting rankings and number of draft picks, and the SEC dominates on both ends of that.
As of now, 9 of the 14 schools in the SEC are in the top 15 of recruiting rankings (according to rivals.com), and they tied a record by having 12 players selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Could the SEC beat the record with 13 or more players selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft?
At the very least, it’s going to be close. Let’s look at the sure-fire guarantees first.
DE Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina), OT Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), OT Greg Robinson (Auburn) and QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) are all near locks for the top-ten, if not the top-five. Clowney and Matthews have been on top of most big boards for many moons now, and Manziel and Robinson (especially) have been absolutely soaring up boards lately.
WR Mike Evans (Texas A&M), ILB C.J. Mosley (Alabama), DE Kony Ealy (Missouri), S Hasean Clinton-Dix (Alabama), OT Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama) and OT Antonio Richardson (Tennessee) are all pegged in that 10 to 20 range of the first round, and one or two could potentially sneak into the top-ten.
And then we have the fringe guys, who could go anywhere from 20 to 40, meaning that late first, early second round zone. Guys currently fitting this range are CB Loucheiz Purifoy (Florida), CB Marcus Roberson (Florida), DE/OLB Dee Ford (Auburn), WR Odell Beckham (LSU), C Travis Swanson (Arkansas), WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt), WR Jarvis Landry (LSU), OT Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee), OG Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State), DT Ego Ferguson (LSU) and DT Dominique Easley (Florida).
Obviously, not all of those names are going to be selected in the first round. If 21 players from the SEC do in fact get selected in the first round, I’ll be astonished. But the fact remains that there’s still an unbelievable amount of professional talent pouring through the SEC, much more so than any other conference in the country. And just imagine how many first rounders there would be if all the underclassmen from last years class stuck around for their senior seasons.
Will the SEC set a new record for number of players selected in the first round? We have to keep in mind, that until draft day, a big board fluctuates as often and as regularly as the tides of the ocean, but yes, I think last years record of 12 will likely be crushed. And by judging the class rankings in recruiting, the SEC’s stranglehold on the NFL Draft is not likely to change any time soon.