Johnson upgrading talent level at Vanderbilt

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

If you want the strongest proof yet that Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson has significantly upgraded the talent level in the program and that his staff does a terrific job of developing that talent, turn your attention to the NFL draft.

Cornerback D.J. Moore is projected to be a first-round pick in April, which would give the Commodores three first-round picks over the last four years. Quarterback Jay Cutler went in the first round of the 2006 draft and offensive tackle Chris Williams in the first round of the 2008 draft.

How does that compare to the rest of the SEC during that same time frame?

Try the top third of the league.

In fact, only LSU and Tennessee are assured of having more. The Tigers lead the way since the 2006 draft with six first-rounders, and defensive end Tyson Jackson could be the seventh this year.

The Vols have had four first-rounders since 2006, and it looks like defensive end Robert Ayers could be No. 5.

Florida, too, would be ahead of Vanderbilt if Percy Harvin goes in the first round like everyone is projecting. Harvin would be the fourth Gator to be drafted in the first round in the last four years.

After that, Vanderbilt's right there and ahead of most.

Ole Miss' Peria Jerry and Michael Oher would make it three Rebels during that span if they both go in the first round.

Arkansas has had three, including Darren McFadden and Felix Jones last year, but nobody is projected to be a first-rounder this year.

And you're wondering about Georgia?

Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno would be the first Bulldogs taken in the first round since Thomas Davis and David Pollack in 2005.

Amazingly, Alabama has gone eight straight years without a first-round draft choice, although that drought will almost certainly end in April with offensive tackle Andre Smith.

Rounding out the SEC, Auburn and South Carolina have each had one first-rounder since the 2006 draft and nobody projected to be a first-rounder this year. Kentucky and Mississippi State have been shut out during that span, and that isn't expected to change this year.