The SEC had 2 defensive backs chosen in the top 10 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft — Patrick Surtain II of Alabama and Jaycee Horn of South Carolina. Another SEC corner — Georgia’s Eric Stokes — came off the board later in Round 1.

That’s not uncommon. In fact, you have to go back to 2015 to find a draft where the SEC didn’t have a defensive back picked in the first round. (And, that year, Landon Collins out of Alabama was the first pick of Round 2.)

Of those drafts since 2015, only once has the SEC had fewer than 2 defensive backs taken in Round 1.

Basically, what I’m saying is that the SEC produces the best secondary talent in the nation. There’s 1 lock to be a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft — LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. Others are sure to work their way into that mix, too.

Which guys have the best skills? Here’s how I’d build the perfect SEC defensive back for 2021:

Speed: Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

Stingley is an elite player, even as he was hampered by injuries in 2020. But, based on his 2019 season and his flashes of brilliance last year, he’s still an absolute superstar when he’s at 100%.

Stingley’s speed allows him to make the occasional mistake and get away with it. He was running a 4.3-second 40-yard dash before he got to LSU:

His straight-line speed is impressive, yes, but he’s also impressive when he gets turned around. He’s so fluid with his hips that he can get himself back into the right position while the ball is in the air:

Yes, scouts will want to see more of the 2019 Stingley this fall, but if he stays healthy, he’ll be a top-10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Offenses would be wise not to take him for granted this fall. If he’s healthy, he’s going to be a major problem.

Size: Kaiir Elam, Florida

At 6-2 and just a shade under 200 pounds, Elam has the perfect size/weight balance for a defensive back in today’s version of football. He can go toe-to-toe with bigger wide receivers, but he can also stick his nose into things in the run game.

In this clip, he shows off both skills. On the first play, he gets caught looking into the backfield on a double-move by the receiver. But he quickly recovers, overtakes the receiver and makes a diving interception. Then, on the next play, he reads the quarterback’s eyes, comes off the guy he was guarding and makes a tackle in space:

He’s very fluid with his movements, has the strength to make big hits and has the speed to cover the best receivers in the league. Put all that together, and you have a guy who has the ideal body frame for a defensive back.

Tackling: Yusuf Corker, Kentucky

Corker was an overlooked part of Kentucky’s defense in 2020. Even alongside guys like Jamin Davis, Boogie Watson, Jordan Wright and DeAndre Square, Corker finished second on the team in tackles with 77.

He’s a hard hitter who is just as comfortable in space as he is coming up and making plays around the goal line. With Wright and Square back this fall, Corker will have plenty of talent alongside him.

However, without a tackling machine like Davis in the linebacking corps, Corker will have to come up and make even more big plays. Fortunately for Mark Stoops and the Wildcats, he’s probably up for the challenge.

Coverage skills: Eli Ricks, LSU

When Derek Stingley Jr. is locking down the other side of the field, you’d better be able to hold your own in pass coverage, because quarterbacks are going to look your way often.

Ricks proved he’s more than capable on the other side of LSU’s defense in 2020. He had 4 interceptions as a true freshman, returning 2 for touchdowns. He also had 5 pass breakups.

With only 20 total tackles, Ricks is purely a coverage specialist, but that’s more than OK when you’re as good in coverage as he is.

He held his own against Stingley’s impressive 2019 season, according to Pro Football Focus:

Here he is beating a South Carolina receiver to the spot the ball was thrown, returning it for an easy pick-6:

And here he is taunting Florida QB Kyle Trask at the end of a 70-yard pick-6:

Again, he was only a true freshman last year. As he continues to develop, he should become an even better player. That’s a scary thought for SEC offenses.

Versatility: Jalen Catalon, Arkansas

With 99 tackles in 2020, Catalon deserves a mention as a great tackler, too. But he also had 3 interceptions (1 returned for a touchdown), 4 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

He’s a truly elite player who can do whatever is asked. Here he is snagging an interception at a full sprint and returning it for a touchdown:

Here he is lining up as an edge rusher and making a nice tackle in the backfield:

And receivers who go across the middle on him will feel it the next day:

He’s a superstar in the making. Along with linebackers Grant Morgan and Bumper Pool, the Razorbacks have some nice pieces on defense. Catalon reminds me a bit of Isaiah Simmons, the former Clemson DB/LB who went No. 8 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. He has that kind of potential.

Ballhawking: Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State

Forbes, as a true freshman, led the SEC with 5 interceptions in 2020. He returned 3 for touchdowns. His best pick-6 came in the Bulldogs’ bowl game vs. Tulsa, when he brought this interceptions back 90 yards for a score:

He also played the tip drill perfectly against Texas A&M, as you can see here:

To do that sort of stuff as a true freshman was simply incredible. He shows a knack for being around the ball, which is something all the elite defensive backs are good at.

Interception totals can fluctuate wildly from year to year, but I have a feeling Forbes will be around the ball plenty for Mississippi State’s defense this fall.