After having 15 players chosen in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft, the SEC took a step back in 2021, with only a dozen guys going in Round 1 on Thursday night.

Obviously, I’m being a bit facetious, as the SEC once again dominated the first night of the draft. Meanwhile, the Big 12 had 0 first-round picks. Sorry, had to get that jab in there.

Now that the 2021 draft is over, it’s time to turn our attention to next year’s draft. And, wouldn’t you know it, the SEC should have plenty of players in the mix to be first-round picks in 2022.

The SEC had 12 guys go in Round 1 this year. So, let’s take a look at 12 more who could go in Round 1 this time next year.

(Note: I’m not saying these are the only guys who can be first-round picks next year. There are plenty of worthy candidates. These are just my 12 favorites as things stand now.)

1. JT Daniels, QB, Georgia

The NFL is a QB-driven league, so there will be a handful of quarterbacks taken in Round 1 next year. That seems like a lock. North Carolina’s Sam Howell and USC’s Kedon Slovis are a couple of guys who look like they could be in the mix for the No. 1 pick.

But if Daniels has a big year in Georgia’s offense, there’s no reason he can’t work his way into the top-10 discussion. It took him a while to work his way into the starting role last year due to an injury, but when he did, he showed flashes of brilliance.

He can roll out. He has a cannon for a right arm. And he’ll get even better at reading defenses this fall. This highlight reel shows what he can do:

I wouldn’t be shocked if he worked his way into the mix for the No. 1 overall pick. I think he has that much potential.

2. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

Next, we’ll hit the other star SEC QB. Corral makes a few too many mistakes (like that 6-interception game against Arkansas), but when he’s on, he’s great.

He threw 5 picks against LSU, but he also had 3 touchdown passes, including these:

https://twitter.com/RespectDaBeard1/status/1340435489635983362

https://twitter.com/RespectDaBeard1/status/1340439886403227649

This year will be all about cutting down on those mistakes. Corral has the talent to be a first-round quarterback, but not if he throws 29 touchdowns and 14 picks in 2021.

3. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

This is the lock of this article. Stingley won’t be the No. 1 overall pick, because defensive backs never are. But if he bounces back from a bit of a sluggish 2020 season, he’ll be a top-10 selection next April.

When he’s at his best, it sometimes looks like Stingley is the one running the route and the receiver is the one trying (and failing) to play defense. Look at these 2 plays from 2019:

He’s so smooth with his hips and has elite top-end speed. He is also great at reading the QB’s eyes:

If he can get back to his 2019 form in 2021, he won’t have to wait too long to hear his name called in Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft.

4. Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M

Wydermyer is the closest thing the SEC will have to Kyle Pitts in 2021. I’m not comparing him to this year’s No. 4 overall pick, per se, but I do think Wydermyer is an athletic beast who has great hands.

Look at these 2 touchdown catches against Auburn:

He catches those passes away from his body and hangs on even though there are defenders around. He had 6 touchdowns in 2019 and 6 more in 2020. I’m predicting 10 or more this fall.

He’s 6-5 and 265 pounds. He’s going to be a handful for opposing defenses and should be TE1 in the 2022 draft class.

5. Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

A casual football fan might look at Jordan Davis’s stats and wonder what the hype is about. He played in 7 games last year, making only 16 tackles with a sack. Why should that guy be a Round 1 pick?

Well, folks, you and I are not casual football fans. We understand that Davis does his job really well. That job, of course, is taking up space and freeing up linebackers to make tackles. No one in the SEC did that better in 2020.

He could have entered this year’s draft, but he’s returning to Athens for the 2021 season. Now, we’ll see if he can drop a little bit of weight (not too much, though!) and become a guy who can stay on the field more.

If he does, he’s a surefire Round 1 pick next April.

6. Adam Anderson, Edge, Georgia

Anderson played sparingly in 2020, but he did his 1 job really well — get after the quarterback. He only made 13 tackles in 11 games, but 6.5 were sacks. He can be a little bit single-minded on the field sometimes, but it’s hard to argue with these results:

With Azeez Ojulari off to the NFL as a Round 2 pick, Anderson should be set loose in 2021. Ojulari fell because he was a bit undersized for an edge rusher at 6-2 and 250 pounds. Anderson is 6-5, so height isn’t a problem. He’ll need to bulk up a bit from 225 pounds, but if he does, he could end up being one of the first edge rushers off the board in 2022.

7. Kaiir Elam, DB, Florida

Elam was a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist last year, and he should only be better in 2021. This guy just has a nose for the football. He broke up 11 passes last year and had 2 interceptions, including this one against Vanderbilt:

He also made this great play against Virginia in the Orange Bowl as a true freshman:

He should become a leader of the Florida defense this fall, and if he does, sneaking into the second half of the first round in 2022 is a real possibility.

8. George Pickens, WR, Georgia

I would be more confident in Pickens’ first-round ability if he didn’t tear his ACL during spring practices. It would have been great to see Pickens with Daniels for a full season, as they really played well together during their 4 games last year:

Those 2 catches at the start of the highlight reel against Mizzou were particularly painful for me to relive. Pickens needs to work on his consistency, but the talent is absolutely undeniable.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart hasn’t ruled out Pickens for the entire 2021 season, so hopefully we get to see him again before he and Daniels head for the NFL.

9. Evan Neal, OL, Alabama

Neal probably could have been a first-round pick if he were eligible to come out this year. Instead, he’ll return to Tuscaloosa in 2021.

He started primarily at left guard in 2019 and settled in at right tackle this past year. Now, we’ll see if he moves over to left tackle with Alex Leatherwood gone. Wherever he plays, he makes an impact.

At 6-7, 360 pounds, Neal is a guy most defenders won’t want to see coming his way:

That’s a big fella. Now, if he can shore up a few things technique-wise, he’s a first-round lock in 2022.

10. DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

Now, we get to one of the only guys to make Neal look silly last year. That would be Texas A&M’s DeMarvin Leal, who did this during the Aggies’ loss to the Crimson Tide:

He had 37 tackles, 7 for a loss, 2.5 sacks and an interception (which he returned for 43 yards) in 2020. He’ll be an anchor for the Aggies’ defense this year. It’s his turn to become a star.

11. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Watch out for the KJ Jefferson-Treylon Burks connection this season. Those 2 are going to be insane together:

The Razorbacks’ offense was hurt by WR Mike Woods transferring to Oklahoma, but Burks is still a star. He could end the 2021 season with the best numbers of any SEC receiver.

Receivers are quite popular in the NFL these days, so Burks will have a great chance to slide into the Round 1 conversation.

12. Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama

Jobe is not the fastest guy on the field, but he is one of the smartest. He knows what opposing teams are trying to do and gets to the spot before the receiver can. And, as you can see in the highlight video below, he also is a great blitzer off the edge:

With his speed being an issue, Jobe could end up moving to safety at the pro level. He had 11 pass breakups in 2020 and had 55 tackles. He only has 1 interception in 3 years at Alabama. If he can bump that number up a bit this fall, he could be a late-Round 1 selection.