Think back to some of the top cornerbacks who’ve come out of the SEC recently.
Just in the last three years, Morris Claiborne, Stephon Gilmore, Dre Kirkpatrick, Patrick Peterson, Joe Haden and Kareem Jackson have all gone in the first round of the NFL draft.
There could be a few more first-rounders on the way.
Here’s the way we would rank the SEC’s top 10 cornerbacks heading into the 2012 season:
1. Tyrann Mathieu, Jr., LSU: OK, he’s not a true cover cornerback and doesn’t have ideal size. But as a playmaker, few are any better. Mathieu tied for the team lead in tackles last season (76) while forcing six fumbles and recovering five.
2. Johnthan Banks, Sr., Mississippi State: A starter since his freshman season, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Banks has terrific size, speed and ball skills. He intercepted five passes last season and has 12 for his career.
3. Dee Milliner, Jr., Alabama: The Tide’s third cornerback in all nickel and dime situations last season, Milliner is poised to make the kind of jump in 2012 that Dre Kirkpatrick did a year ago. Milliner led the team with three interceptions last season.
4. Tharold Simon, Jr., LSU: At 6-foot-3 and 187 pounds, Simon is one of those corners who drapes all over a receiver. He steps in as the full-time starter for Morris Claiborne after intercepting two passes last season.
5. E.J. Gaines, Jr., Missouri: A first-team All-Big 12 selection a year ago in his first season as a starter, Gaines finished fourth nationally with 18 passes defended. He’s fearless and plenty explosive when he gets his hands on the ball.
6. Trey Wilson, Sr., Vanderbilt: One of the more underrated defensive backs in the SEC, Wilson had three interceptions and 11 passes defended last season. He has everything it takes to be an All-SEC player in 2012.
7. Prentiss Waggner, Sr., Tennessee: After bouncing around between safety and cornerback, Waggner is back home at corner. He’s been productive wherever he’s lined up and has seven interceptions in his last two seasons.
8. Sanders Commings, Sr., Georgia: The only downer for Commings is that he will be suspended for the first two games. He led the SEC with 12 pass breakups last season, and at 217 pounds, is one of the more physical corners in the league.
9. Marcus Roberson, Soph., Florida: A sprained neck caused Roberson to miss the final three games of his freshman season, but he was a starter in the first 10. He’s a special talent who could easily zoom up this list.
10. Tevin Mitchel, Soph., Arkansas: After a debut season that saw him finish third among SEC freshmen with 56 total tackles, Mitchel should be even better his second time through the league. The Hogs will look to him to make even more plays in 2012.