2021 NFL Draft: The 5 best SEC players at each offensive position
The 2021 NFL Draft will begin in a week in Cleveland, and when Round 1 takes place on Thursday, April 29, around a dozen SEC stars likely will hear their names called.
However, Round 1 picks aside, there’s plenty more SEC talent to consider.
So, which SEC players are the best of the best at their positions? Here are the top 5 players at each offensive position from the SEC in this year’s draft class:
- Mac Jones, Alabama
- Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
- Kyle Trask, Florida
- Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
- Jamie Newman, Georgia (kind of)
Mac Jones has skyrocketed up draft boards after leading the Tide to an undefeated 2020 season. Now, he’s likely to go No. 3 overall to the San Francisco 49ers, and that’s a great fit for any quarterback.
I’m a little higher on Mond’s NFL potential than I am on Trask’s, so I gave Mond the No. 2 spot here. I think he could sneak into the second round next Friday. Trask will also likely be a Round 2 pick. Both could become NFL starters after a year or 2 of serving as a backup. Whatever teams draft them will need to be patient.
Newman is the ultimate sleeper. He didn’t play a snap for Georgia in 2020 after opting out. But he showed flashes of brilliance in 2019 at Wake Forest. He’s another project pick, but if the right team takes him on Day 3, he could be an absolute steal.
- Najee Harris, Alabama
- Kylin Hill, Mississippi State
- Larry Rountree III, Mizzou
- Rakeem Boyd, Arkansas
- AJ Rose, Kentucky
Attention: If you’re an NFL team reading this (and I assume all 32 teams are absolutely reading every word I write), don’t overthink things. Najee Harris is the No. 1 running back in the class. Travis Etienne is a fine back, but Harris is the best. He can line up in the slot, hurdle over any living human being and doesn’t make bad plays.
Hill is going to be a perfect fit in today’s NFL, which prefers backs who can make plays catching the ball out of the backfield. Rountree doesn’t fit that mold, but he’s a tough runner. He can be part of a backfield tandem where he’s the power guy and someone else handles more of the pass-catching duties.
Behind those 3, the class thins out in a hurry from the SEC. Boyd is a good player, but he didn’t fare well in 2020, battling injuries and ineffectiveness before eventually opting out. Rose isn’t getting much draft buzz. He’ll probably end up as an undrafted free agent, but he absolutely has the potential to make a roster this summer.
- Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
- Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
- DeVonta Smith, Alabama
- Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU
- Kadarius Toney, Florida
This is, by far, the deepest position group in the SEC heading into this year’s draft. Heck, I don’t even have Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore on this list and I think he’s going to be a stud in the NFL. I also like Auburn’s Seth Williams, but there’s no room for him in the top 5.
Chase looks like a sure-fire star, even though he didn’t play in 2020. Smith, of course, won the Heisman this year, but teams are going to continue to question his size. It didn’t seem to bother him much in the SEC, as he dominated on a weekly basis, but NFL teams are weird. Waddle gets the edge in my rankings over his teammate because I think he’s a better fit in many of today’s NFL offenses. Plus, he has added value as a return man.
I’m higher on Terrace Marshall Jr. than many analysts. I think he should be a first-round pick. He has the size (6-3, 200 pounds) of a typical NFL receiver. And the dude just scores touchdowns. He found the end zone 23 times in the past 2 years for LSU.
Then, there’s Toney. Like Waddle, he’s going to be a problem if he finds the right landing spot. Give him an offensive mind like Kyle Shanahan (49ers), Matt LaFleur (Packers), Sean McVay (Rams) or a handful of other coaches, and he’ll make an impact for years to come.
- Kyle Pitts, Florida
- Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss
- Tre’ McKitty, Georgia
OK, so I can’t put together a top 5 list for the tight end position because the SEC has only 3 legitimate draft prospects. But Pitts is perhaps the best pass catcher in the entire draft class, and could end up being a top-5 pick. He has the size, speed and tools to be the next elite tight end at the NFL level.
I’m a big fan of Yeboah’s sleeper potential. He won’t hear his name called before Day 3 of the draft, but whoever gets him is getting a talented player with great red-zone potential. Yeboah had 27 catches for 524 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2020. If he goes to a team with a creative offense like the one Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby ran at Ole Miss, he could be successful.
McKitty couldn’t stay healthy in 2020, his 1 year at Georgia. When he was on the field, he wasn’t heavily utilized, making only 6 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in 4 games. I’m not sure what to make of him, as he didn’t put up eye-popping numbers at Florida State, either. He has the physical tools to succeed in the NFL, but I wouldn’t take a flyer on him before Round 7.
- Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
- Landon Young, Kentucky
- Dan Moore Jr., Texas A&M
- Carson Green, Texas A&M
- Stone Forsythe, Florida
Leatherwood is far and away the best player in this group. He could be a late Round 1 prospect or an early Round 2 pick. Young is being underrated by many draft analysts, in my opinion. I’m a big fan of what Kentucky has done along the offensive line the past 3 years.
Then, there are the Maroon Goons. Alabama’s offensive line won the Joe Moore Award in 2020, but Texas A&M’s group, led by Moore and Green at the tackle spots, was in the mix, too. Every guy on this list other than Leatherwood needs to prove he can more consistently handle elite speed rushers at the NFL level, though.
Interior offensive line
- Landon Dickerson, Alabama
- Drake Jackson, Kentucky
- Trey Smith, Tennessee
- Ben Cleveland, Georgia
- Deonte Brown, Alabama
Dickerson’s stock has fallen a bit after suffering a torn ACL during the SEC Championship Game. But, he’s looked good this offseason, even doing cartwheels behind Mac Jones during a Pro Day interview:
Smith could be the steal of the draft. His blood clot problem is concerning, but NFL teams will do their homework on that. If one team takes the risk and Smith ends up being healthy enough to practice and play, he could be a starting lineman for the next decade.
Jackson is one of the more underrated prospects out of the SEC in the entire draft class, in my opinion. Kentucky has produced a ton of talented running backs over the past few years, and the offensive line is a huge part of that.