COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF: A guide to the SEC's NFL prospects
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a seven-part series designed to prepare you for the 2015 SEC regular season. First, we’ll provide you with a guide of the SEC players who could get selected in next year’s NFL draft.
We’ll also offer you an array of bold predictions (Friday), a printable schedule guide (Saturday), a food guide for every SEC campus (Sunday), identify every SEC team’s best fan (Monday), rank all 128 starting quarterbacks in FBS (Tuesday) and identify the most entertaining individual matchups of the season (Wednesday).
Fifty-four SEC players were selected in this year’s NFL draft, including seven first-round picks and 32 former conference standouts who were chosen on Day 3 alone.
The most SEC players selected in an NFL draft was 63, which happened in 2013.
CBS Sports has come out with its top 1,000 NFL Draft prospects for 2016 and is projecting 33 potential first-day picks from the SEC. It also lists 45 conference players expected to be taken between the third and seventh rounds along with 66 other SEC players who are looking to get drafted and could land jobs as NFL free agents.
According to CBS Sports.com, here are the 144 SEC players who could end up playing on Sundays.
*These players will finish the 2015 season with college eligibility remaining and would have to declare early for the NFL draft.
*OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss: One of the best left tackles in the country, Tunsil isn’t as flashy as teammates Robert Nkemdiche or Laquon Treadwell, but he might have the steadiest NFL skill set.
*CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida: He could prove to be the highest-drafted defensive back from Florida since the Cleveland Browns made Joe Haden the seventh pick in 2010.
*DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss: He started his career outside as a defensive end before moving inside to tackle after adding weight, and is probably best suited at defensive tackle in the NFL.
*DT A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama: Despite not registering a sack in 2014, Robinson spent a lot of time in the opponents’ backfields, using his first-step quickness and fluidity to give blockers trouble.
*OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia: Despite struggling with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery and kept him out of the Belk Bowl last season, Floyd still led the Bulldogs with six sacks.
*WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss: His leg injury vs. Auburn last November ended his season and devastated the Rebels, but he is expected to recover fully and should be near 100 percent by the fall.
OG Vadal Alexander, LSU: After starting 25 games the last two seasons at left guard, Alexander is projected to move back to right tackle, where he started nine times as a freshman.
*OT Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M: Ifedi, who redshirted in 2012, became a starter in 2013 at right guard before moving to right tackle as a sophomore last year.
*DE Carl Lawson, Auburn: Lawson, a freshman All-American in 2013, tore an ACL during spring practice and missed all of 2014. But he is back on the field for the Tigers and looks to be better than he was two years ago.
*CB Tre’Davious White, LSU: He has made 24 starts in his first two seasons with the Tigers, including all 13 games in 2014, when he finished tied for the LSU lead with two picks.
*WR Demarcus Robinson, Florida: As a true sophomore in 2014, Robinson had the best season by a Gator receiver since 2009 with 53 catches for 810 yards and seven TDs.
LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama: He finished second on the Crimson Tide in tackles (95) and third in tackles for loss (10.5) last season, and added four passes defended and an interception.
*SS Tony Conner, Ole Miss: He led Mississippi and topped all SEC defensive backs with nine tackles for loss in 2014. He was also the Rebels’ second-leading tackler with 69.
*TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas: The Hogs’ second-leading pass-catcher in 2014 with 37 receptions, 513 yards and two TDs, he has started 17 games in the last two years.
*RB Derrick Henry, Alabama: As T.J. Yeldon’s backup, Henry made only two starts in 2014, but he led the Tide in rushing six times and scored 13 total TDs. He also averaged 5.8 yards per carry.
*DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama: The Tide’s top returning pass rusher, Allen became a sophomore starter last season and finished second on the team in tackles for loss (11.5) and sacks (5.5).
*OT Denver Kirkland, Arkansas: Starting in every game for the Hogs at right guard in 2014, Kirkland surrendered only one sack all season and was flagged just three times.
*TE O.J. Howard, Alabama: Despite making only 31 catches over his first two seasons with the Tide, Howard should be targeted more often in 2015 especially since coordinator Lane Kiffin has lost his top three receivers from last year, including current Oakland Raiders receiver Amari Cooper.
*DT Chris Jones, Mississippi State: After losing some weight to get under 300 pounds, the junior is expected to provide leadership while playing both inside and outside on the Bulldogs’ D-line.
*LB Kendell Beckwith, LSU: In his 25-game career with the Tigers that includes seven starts, Beckwith has made tackles — including 8.5 for a loss — and three sacks.
*OG Greg Pyke, Georgia: In 13 starts last season, he helped Georgia rush for 257.8 yards per game, which ranked first in the SEC. He’s on multiple preseason All-SEC teams.
OT John Theus, Georgia: At 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, the senior is the prototypical NFL tackle. He and Pyke should create huge holes for Heisman candidate Nick Chubb.
*CB Cameron Sutton, Tennessee: He started all 13 games in 2014, and finished with 37 tackles — including four for a loss — and added a team-best 16 passes defended. He also was tied for second on the Vols with three INTs.
DT Jarran Reed, Alabama: After finishing last season with 55 stops, including 6.5 for loss and five pass break-ups at in 2014, he is the third-leading tackler returning to the Crimson Tide defense.
DE Jonathan Bullard, Florida: He could be the Gators’ top defensive lineman this season after finishing with 52 tackles — including 8.5 for a loss — and 2.5 sacks while starting all 12 games in 2014.
*TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss: He enters 2015 ranked in the top four in school history in career receptions (59), receiving yards (930) and receiving TDs (5) by a tight end.
WR D’haquille Williams, Auburn: The JUCO transfer led the Tigers in receptions (45) and TD grabs (5) despite missing three games due to injury in 2014. He has been reinstated to the team after a seven-day absence during fall camp for a “discipline issue.”
LB Jordan Jenkins, Georgia: One of 15 semifinalists for the Butkus Award last season, Jenkins had 70 tackles — including 9.5 for loss and five sacks for the Bulldogs in 2014.
CB Will Redmond, Mississippi State: He led the Bulldogs with three interceptions last season while becoming one of the best defensive backs in the SEC.
*WR Ricky Seals-Jones, Texas A&M: He had 49 catches for 465 yards and four TDs last season for the Aggies, who are expecting more from the emerging wideout, who would be an early entry if he declared for the draft.
*QB Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee: In Dobbs’ six starts against Power 5 teams in 2014, the Vols averaged 34.2 points per game. He needs to work on his ball control as he threw six picks and fumbled six times last season.
FS Jalen Mills, LSU: In 2016, he should be the ninth Tigers defensive back drafted in the last 10 years. He’s not an explosive hitter, but he makes up for that by being a solid tackler.
*WR Travin Dural, LSU: One of the Tigers’ fastest players, he led them in receptions (37), receiving yards (758) and touchdown catches (7) in 2014.
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
*DT Montravius Adams, Auburn
*WR De’Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State
*WR Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
LB Curt Maggitt, Tennessee
LB Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn
CB Cyrus Jones, Alabama
OT Brandon Shell, South Carolina
CB Jonathan Jones, Auburn
CB Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State
C Evan Boehm, Missouri
RB Kenyan Drake, Alabama
TE Jerell Adams, South Carolina
LB Kentrell Brothers, Missouri
TE Steven Scheu, Vanderbilt
C Ryan Kelly, Alabama
OG Aaron Morris, Ole Miss
CB Brian Poole Florida
P Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
TE Jake McGee, Florida
LB Kris Frost, Auburn
OT Jordan Swindle, Kentucky
RB Jonathan Allen, Arkansas (out for 2015 season with foot injury)
OG Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas
TE Dillon Gordon, LSU
LB Josh Forrest, Kentucky
C Mike Mathews, Texas A&M
RB Brandon Wilds, South Carolina
OG Connor McGovern, Missouri
FB Quayvon Hicks, Georgia
OG Joseph Cheek, Texas A&M
WR Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
RB Tra Carson, Texas A&M
CB Joshua Holsey, Auburn
RB Keith Marshall, Georgia
DE Josh Dawson, Georgia
P Jamie Keehn, LSU
LB Antonio Morrison, Florida (injured)
OT Fahn Cooper, Ole Miss
LB Denzel Devall, Alabama
LB Lamar Louis, LSU
WR Ricardo Louis, Auburn
LS Nathan Theus, Georgia
FS LaDarrell McNeil, Tennessee (injured)
DE DaVonte Lambert, Auburn
OTHERS LOOKING TO GET DRAFTED
QB Jake Coker, Alabama
LB C.J. Johnson, Ole Miss
RB Russell Hansbrough, Missouri
FS Chief Brown, Ole Miss
OT Kolton Houston, Georgia
K Marshall Morgan, Georgia
OT Dominick Jackson, Alabama
DT Chris Mayes, Georgia
QB Brandon Allen, Arkansas
SS Brian Randolph, Tennessee
WR Cody Core, Ole Miss
FS A.J. Stamps, Kentucky
DT Quentin Thomas, LSU
TE Darrion Hutcherson, Mississippi State
OG Justin Malone, Mississippi State
WR Shamier Jeffery, South Carolina
LB Dillon Lee, Alabama
SS Isaiah Johnson, South Carolina
WR Justin Scott-Wesley, Georgia (injured)
P Landon Foster, Kentucky
CB Devin Bowman, Georgia
OG Marcus Jackson, Tennessee (injured)
WR Latroy Pittman Jr., Florida
DE Sterling Bailey, Georgia
WR Pig Howard, Tennessee
RB Jaylen Walton, Ole Miss
TE Jay Rome, Georgia
OG Trip Thurman, Florida
DT Gerald Dixon Jr., South Carolina
DE Caleb Azubike, Vanderbilt
LB Deion Jones, LSU
FB Kody Walker, Arkansas
DT Cory Johnson, Kentucky
CB Kenya Dennis, Missouri
DT Phillip Dukes, South Carolina
C Spencer Pulley, Vanderbilt
FS Ian Simon, Missouri
CB De’Vante Harris, Texas A&M
WR Von Pearson, Tennessee
C Hunter Long, Georgia
DE Julien Obioha, Texas A&M
LB Denzel Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
OG Kyler Kerbyson, Tennessee
LS Reid Ferguson, LSU
C Mitch Smothers, Arkansas
SS T.J. Gurley, South Carolina
WR Keon Hatcher, Arkansas
C Mack Crowder, Tennessee
SS Rohan Gaines, Arkansas
OG Jake Bernstein, Vanderbilt
CB Fred Tiller, Kentucky
DE D.J. Pettway, Alabama
LB Jake Ganus, Georgia
WR Melvin Ray, Auburn
FB Garrison Gist, South Carolina
DE Ryan Brown, Mississippi State
SS Trae Elston, Ole Miss
LB Ryan Flannigan, Kentucky
DT Alonzo Williams, Texas A&M
SS Geno Smith, Alabama
TE Ty Flournoy-Smith, Alabama
WR Jaylon Denson, Auburn
K Taylor Bertolet, Texas A&M
WR Joe Morrow, Mississippi State
OT Jonah Austin, LSU
CB Cody Quinn, Kentucky