Jeffery top SEC player on 2012 Big Board

Mel Kiper, ESPN's NFL draft analyst extraordinaire, has released his first Big Board for the 2012 draft, and South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery is the top SEC player at No. 4 on the list.

Kiper's Big Board is a ranking of the top 25 draft-eligible players in college football based on value, and he updates it periodically all the way up to the draft.

Jeffery is coming off a monster sophomore season and will almost certainly come out early. He set single-season records last season for the Gamecocks with 88 catches for 1,517 yards and is also tied for the school record with Sidney Rice with 11 100-yard receiving games. As Kiper points out, the 6-foot-4, 233-pound Jeffery is a matchup nightmare for defenses and is a lot faster than you think.

The SEC had a total of five players on Kiper's Big Board, and the second player might surprise a few people. Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was No. 9. The NFL scouts love Kirkpatrick's size and range, even though he was a bit inconsistent at times last season.

Alabama running back Trent Richardson was No. 13, South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore No. 19 and Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw No. 25.

Before it's over, I wouldn't be surprised to see three more Alabama players on there -- cornerback DeQuan Menzie, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and safety Mark Barron. In fact, Menzie could wind up being one of the top cornerbacks in the SEC and was the most consistent defensive back on Alabama's team this spring.

LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne is another player who could easily show up on the Big Board at some point along with South Carolina defensive end Devin Taylor, Arkansas running back Knile Davis and Arkansas receiver Greg Childs.

The ACC led the way with eight players on the first Big Board for 2012. The Pac-12 had six players.

On Kiper's first Big Board a year ago, he had six SEC players. Five of them wound up being selected in the first round of the draft in April. Georgia receiver A.J. Green was No. 4 on that first Big Board last year. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett was No. 6 followed by Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus at No. 7, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson No. 10, Alabama running back Mark Ingram No. 11 and Alabama receiver Julio Jones No. 17.

Mallett was the only one of the group that didn't go in the first round. He slipped to the third round.