The first round of the 2011 NFL draft on Thursday night had a definitive SEC flavor to it.
It opened with an SEC player being selected and then closed several hours later with an SEC player being selected.
All told, there were 10 players from the SEC taken in the first round, which was one shy of the league record set in 2007.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was the No. 1 pick overall and went to the Carolina Panthers. It’s the third time in the past five drafts that the SEC has produced the top overall pick. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford went No. 1 overall to the Detroit Lions in 2009, and LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell went No. 1 overall to the Oakland Raiders in 2007.
Here’s a quick rundown of the 10 SEC first-round selections:
No. 1, Carolina Panthers – Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
No. 13, Detroit Lions – Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
The SEC has had five picks in the top 20 of the first round five straight years now.
Newton became the eighth SEC quarterback to be drafted in the first round in the past 10 years.
One of the biggest surprises of the first round was Carpenter going 25th to the Seahawks. Carpenter played left tackle at Alabama the past two seasons and was thought to be more of a second-round selection. But he helped himself at the Senior Bowl by showing that he could also play guard.
Fairley, the No. 5 prospect on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s Big Board, dropped to 13th and was taken by the Lions. Fairley will be paired in Detroit with 2010 rookie of the year Ndamukong Suh.
Sherrod had to wait until the final pick of the first round to hear his name called. But in going 32nd overall to the Packers, he ended a long drought for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs had gone 14 straight years without a first-round pick.
Alabama became the first team in the SEC to produce four first-round NFL draft selections since Auburn did it in 2005.
Over the past three years, Alabama has produced seven first-rounders, the most in the SEC. That’s after going eight years in a row without any first-round selections.
Nick Saban has now recruited and signed 15 players during his nine seasons as an SEC head coach who’ve gone on to become first-round selections. He was responsible for signing all nine of LSU’s first-round choices from 2004-09 and signed six of Alabama’s seven first-rounders over the past three years.
Tennessee was shut out of the first round for the first time since 2005. The Vols were the only team in the SEC that had produced a first-rounder each of the past five years prior to Thursday night’s festivities.
The draft resumes on Friday night with the second and third rounds.
Among those SEC players expected to get a call Friday are Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb, Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston, Georgia inside linebacker Akeem Dent, Georgia offensive guard Clint Boling, LSU inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, Auburn offensive tackle Lee Ziemba, Florida offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert and Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker.