While realizing that so much can (and will) change between now and next April, I’ve come up with our list of the SEC’s top NFL draft prospects for 2013.
This isn’t a mock draft. Likewise, it’s not a ranking of who I think will be the best players in the SEC next season.
Rather, it’s a projection of who will be the most coveted NFL prospects from the SEC when the 2013 draft rolls around next April. In coming up with this list, I’ve talked to several draft analysts as well as NFL scouts, SEC coaches and others who are clued in to the whole draft process.
Some players will obviously play their way onto this list next season, while others will play their way off it. Injuries will certainly be a factor, and then occasionally, guys come from nowhere to be first-round picks.
Better yet, who had Cam Newton as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft prior to the 2010 season?
On Mel Kiper’s first Big Board last year, his top SEC player was South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery at No. 4 overall. Jeffery wound up going in the second round after seeing his numbers drop off dramatically during his junior season and playing at 230 pounds. He trimmed nearly 15 pounds for his testing sessions after the season.
We’ve picked out our top 16 prospects from the SEC. We settled on 16 because that’s how many SEC players were drafted this year in the top three rounds -- nine in the first round, five in the second, and two in the third.
Again, we’re not suggesting that all 16 will go in the first round. It’s simply the order we think they will come off the board in next April’s draft.
So here goes:
1. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas: Would have been a first-rounder in the 2012 draft had he come out.
2. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: The most productive pass-rusher in the SEC last season, and just a dynamic football player.
3. Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU: One of those guys capable of wreaking havoc at a couple of different positions.
4. Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU: Don’t blink or you’ll miss Mingo streaking off the edge and sacking the quarterback.
5. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: If he’s healthy, he’s the most complete back in college football.
6. Bennie Logan, DT, LSU: Overshadowed by Michael Brockers last season, Logan has a chance to be just as good.
7. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State: The NFL scouts love Banks’ size and how physical he plays.
8. Eric Reid, S, LSU: Extremely athletic for a safety, Reid can do it all -- tackle, cover and make plays on the ball.
9. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama: When you look up the definition of road-grader, this guy’s picture is beside it.
10. Dominique Easley, DT, Florida: The ACL injury is a concern. But when he’s right, he can be unblockable.
11. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee: He’s coming off an ACL injury, but has great speed, size and leaping ability.
12. Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama: A physical specimen who’s moving from end to nosetackle. He’s only going to get better.
14. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama: The most versatile offensive lineman in the country. He could easily move up this list.
15. Tyrann Mathieu, CB/S, LSU: Not a great cover guy, and he might have to play safety in the NFL, but he's magnet for the football.
16. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee: The opinions on Bray are all over the map, but he has big arm and is fearless in the pocket.