SEC underclassman draft tracker: Eastern Division

Tennessee pass-rusher Derek Barnett will be among the SEC underclassmen who impact the NFL draft in the spring. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The NFL claims boatloads of SEC underclassmen each year, and this year will be no different.

In fact, eight of ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay’s top 20 prospectsInsider are SEC players who have eligibility remaining, and five of them -- LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Texas A&M's Myles Garrett, Missouri's Charles Harris, Florida's Jalen Tabor and Auburn's Carl Lawson -- have already declared for the draft.

With the Jan. 16 deadline to declare rapidly approaching, here is how the draft could impact each SEC East team.

Of note: In the "Players to watch" sections, any rankings in parentheses is where that player ranks in ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s positional rankings of draft-eligible prospectsInsider.


Early exits: LB Alex Anzalone, OT David Sharpe, CB Quincy Wilson, CB Jalen Tabor

Planning to stay: DB Duke Dawson

Players to watch: Caleb Brantley (No. 2 DT), Johnny Townsend (No. 4 K/P)

Top departing seniors: LB Jarrad Davis, S Marcus Maye, DE Bryan Cox Jr., DT Joey Ivie, QB Austin Appleby

Draft hit: This season's Gators were loaded with top-end talent. Four of McShay’s top 32 (Brantley, Tabor, Davis and Maye) are from Florida and Brantley is the only one left who hasn't made it clear that he is NFL-bound. Tabor finally delivered the news most had been expecting for more than a year when he declared for the draft on Thursday. If Brantley makes the leap, that will bring the total of Florida early entries to five, the same number of early entries that Florida had last year. The Gators always seem to have defensive talent waiting in the wings, but this draft will unquestionably hit that group hard, both in the front seven and in the back end.


Early exits: WR Isaiah McKenzie

Planning to stay: OLB Lorenzo Carter, RB Nick Chubb, RB Sony Michel, S Dominick Sanders

Players to watch: No top draft prospects

Top departing seniors: OT Tyler Catalina, OG Greg Pyke, DB Maurice Smith, C Brandon Kublanow, S Quincy Mauger

Draft hit: Georgia coach Kirby Smart's retooling effort got a lot easier last month when Chubb, Carter, Michel and outside linebacker Davin Bellamy all announced they would return. The 5-foot-8 McKenzie’s post-bowl announcement that he would make the leap was a bit of a head-scratcher, but the Bulldogs received more good news that day when safety Sanders also announced he will be back in 2017. Without McKenzie, the Bulldogs must continue their search for dependable pass-catchers, and their efforts to cobble together an effective offensive line won’t get any easier after losing starters Catalina, Pyke and Kublanow.


Early exits: RB Stanley Williams

Planning to stay: No top draft prospects

Players to watch: No top draft prospects

Top departing seniors: C Jon Toth, S Marcus McWilson, DE Courtney Miggins, RB Jojo Kemp, DB Blake McClain

Draft hit: Williams' exit robs the Wildcats of one of their most explosive playmakers. Add that to the departure of senior Kemp, and that leaves only rising sophomore Benny Snell from what had been an impressive backfield trio this season. At least Snell will have most of his blockers back. Although Toth's absence will be noticeable, the Wildcats should otherwise return everyone on an offensive line that developed into a formidable unit in 2016. On defense, the Wildcats will lose a couple of key players in the secondary, but should otherwise return their most important performers.


Early exits: DE Charles Harris

Planning to stay: No top draft prospects

Players to watch: WR J'Mon Moore

Top departing seniors: CB Aarion Penton, LB Donavin Newsom, TE Sean Culkin, LB Michael Scherer, WR Chris Black

Draft hit: The defense loses some key players -- aside from those mentioned above, add defensive linemen Rickey Hatley and Josh Augusta, and cornerback John Gibson to the list -- particularly in the front seven. On offense, the running game that began to emerge in 2016 should continue to flourish with Damarea Crockett running behind an offensive line that should return intact. Assuming Moore sticks around -- and he should -- the Tigers would return their top four receivers from a prolific aerial attack, plus sophomore quarterback Drew Lock.


Early exits: None yet

Planning to stay: LB Skai Moore, TE Hayden Hurst

Players to watch: No top draft prospects

Top departing seniors: DE Darius English, OT Mason Zandi, DE Marquavius Lewis, LB T.J. Holloman, LB Jonathan Walton

Draft hit: Moore apparently plans to return in 2017 after sitting out in 2016 because of surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. Hurst's return will also be big after emerging as one of the most prolific tight ends in school history. There are a couple of key losses here -- English was a star as a senior with 9.0 sacks and 13 tackles for loss, but overall this was a young team and most of the roster will return.


Early exits: DE Derek Barnett, RB Alvin Kamara, WR Josh Malone

Planning to stay: No top draft prospects

Players to watch: Trevor Daniel (No. 5 K/P)

Top departing seniors: QB Joshua Dobbs, CB Cameron Sutton, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, DT Danny O'Brien, DE Corey Vereen

Draft hit: Led by safety Todd Kelly Jr., the Volunteers figure to have eight of their top nine tacklers back in 2017. Everyone but Barnett, whose presence will be missed, as will that of fellow edge rusher Vereen. That's 30.5 TFLs and 20 sacks we’re talking about here. The offense will also lose some serious firepower with quarterback Dobbs, running back Kamara and wideout Malone jumping to the pros, and running back Jalen Hurd either transferring or turning pro.


Early exits: None yet

Planning to stay: RB Ralph Webb

Players to watch: Zach Cunningham (No. 3 ILB)

Top departing seniors: OT Will Holden, DT Adam Butler, DE Torey Agee, CB Torren McGaster, WR Darrius Sims

Draft hit: We don’t often see Vanderbilt hit hard by underclassmen leaving early, but it would have been difficult to criticize Webb or Cunningham should they have gone that route. Cunningham still might, but Webb announced after the Commodores' bowl loss to N.C. State that he will be back to add to his Vandy career record of 3,231 rushing yards. Cunningham would likely become an early-round selection after earning consensus All-America honors in 2016. But if he chooses to return, coach Derek Mason will have plenty to work with next season. The Commodores started just three seniors on defense in their final game of the season.