A ranking of just the SEC early entrants as NFL Draft prospects
But let’s not mock in the traditional sense of pretending that we know exactly how an NFL franchise is thinking. Instead, let’s mock by breaking down what we here at SDS know best — the SEC guys we just saw. More specifically, the SEC underclassmen who declared for the NFL Draft.
By my count, there were 36 SEC underclassmen who declared early for the NFL Draft, which sort of feels like a lot. This list is based entirely on how I think a player’s skill set translates to the next level. It is not simply a ranking of who the best college player was, though what we’ve seen the past few years obviously shaped that.
So with that, here’s the order in which I’d draft the SEC’s 36 underclassmen:
1. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB
Injury or not, yeah, I’m rolling the dice on a potential Hall of Fame quarterback. And all signs point to Tagovailoa being physically able to suit up in 2020. Whether he does remains the question facing whichever team drafts him.
2. Andrew Thomas, Georgia OT
Start him on your offensive line tomorrow and never look back. Well, look back 10 years from now when he’s been to 8 Pro Bowls and he’s widely considered one of the NFL’s top offensive linemen.
3. Jerry Jeudy, Alabama WR
As devastating a route-runner as you’ll see in the college ranks, Jeudy was. That skill will make him an asset from the jump. If he’s not the first receiver off the board, it’ll be a surprise.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 1, 2020
4. Jedrick Wills, Alabama OT
Wills might not be taken quite as high because he’s not a proven left tackle, but someone who solidified the right side of the Alabama offensive line the past 2 years figures to be a clear-cut 1st-round pick.
5. CJ Henderson, Florida CB
Hmmmmm, who wouldn’t want a lockdown corner with ballhawking skills galore? He might be more of a mid 1st-round guy, but Henderson has all the tools you look for in a rookie corner in today’s NFL. (Yes, I realize I’m probably higher on him than you are.)
6. Grant Delpit, LSU S
The tackling issues will be discussed, and unfortunately, there’s now some bad tape on Delpit. But he’s still someone who can cover extremely well and blow up plays in the backfield at an elite level from the safety position. And after those midseason ankle issues, he played like an All-American to end the season.
7. Henry Ruggs, Alabama WR
Speed kills, and Ruggs killed many an SEC foe with those wheels. He’ll be fun to watch in the Combine, but it’s not just the speed. Ruggs can make cuts in space that might remind some of a Tyreek Hill-type.
8. Justin Jefferson, LSU WR
Versatile, productive, dynamic, etc. Go figure that those things weren’t exactly what described Jefferson as a recruit. Watching what he did not just this past year, but also in 2018, showed why he’s more skilled than he was given credit for. Jefferson doesn’t do one thing better than any receiver in this class, but he doesn’t have a perceived weakness, either.
9. Xavier McKinney, Alabama S
There might be some debate about Delpit or McKinney. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong. McKinney was asked to a bit more for Alabama’s defense with all the injuries in the front 7, but seeing McKinney’s ability to blow up ball-carriers will make him a likely 1st-round pick.
10. D’Andre Swift, Georgia RB
Will Swift be the first running back off the board? Possibly. Swift’s devastating cuts in space stand out, as does the fact that he racked up nearly 3,000 rushing yards in 3 years in the SEC. There might be questions about his abilities in pass protection, but Swift has the makeup of a 3-down back who could contribute right away.
77 yards. TO. THE. HOUSE. ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/3GNTrgeYPa
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 11, 2018
11. Terrell Lewis, Alabama Edge
Durability issues are there, but Lewis was a force when healthy. He’s someone who could rise in a hurry up draft boards after staying on the field for a season and putting it all together. It’d be surprising if he didn’t impress in the pre-draft process.
12. K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU Edge
Like Lewis, Chaisson responded well to being (mostly) healthy in 2019 . He put together some really nice tape against quality foes like Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma that could absolutely make him a Day 1 guy, despite the possible concerns about health and consistency.
13. Cam Dantzler, MSU CB
Mississippi State by no means had a banner defense in 2019 like it did in 2018, but he was absolutely a shutdown corner on the outside. Pro Football Focus had the lengthy defensive back for just 36 catches and 459 yards allowed on 568 coverage snaps the past 2 years.
14. Jordan Elliott, Mizzou DL
Pro Football Focus had Elliott graded as the top interior defender of 2019. That’s impressive considering Derrick Brown was in this class. Elliott has the size and athleticism to disrupt backfields from the interior defensive line position.
15. Jake Fromm, Georgia QB
Perhaps as intriguing of an SEC draft prospect as there is, I’m not of the belief that Fromm is an NFL backup. I do believe if the right team drafts him, he’ll be a future Pro Bowl quarterback. I’d have him in my top 5 if not for the struggles he had pulling the trigger with his inexperienced receivers this past year.
16. Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M DL
The A&M defensive tackle won’t get the love of Brown or Elliott, but the run-stopping junior should still have a Day 2 market. Madubuike does it all. The motor is there, he gets to the quarterback and more often than not, he finds a way to get off his block.
17. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU RB
My favorite player to watch in college football this past season was a revelation for this LSU offense. Don’t tell me it was just the system that made Edwards-Helaire a 1st-team All-SEC back. He finishes runs, he pass protects and he catches passes out of the backfield. His size will hurt his draft stock — what else is new — but Edwards-Helaire would be a fantastic Day 2 addition for whoever drafts him.
18. Patrick Queen, LSU LB
Talk about striking while the iron is hot. How much money did Queen make himself in the Playoff? A lot. Probably.
Patrick Queen vs. Oklahoma
1.5 for loss
2 QB hurries
1 QB hit
0 catches allowed pic.twitter.com/T8TmzKQkcy
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) December 30, 2019
He was a massive part of that LSU defense finishing so strong. The middle linebacker could wildly out-perform this ranking depending on how he tests at the combine.
19. Lynn Bowden, Kentucky WR
Here’s the thing: I love Bowden and think he was one of the best stories in college football in recent memory. But because what he did by switching to quarterback in selfless fashion, we only saw essentially 1.5 seasons of him as a full-time contributor as a receiver. He’ll have questions to answer for the relatively small sample size as a route-runner.
20. Thaddeus Moss, LSU TE
Besides his obvious genetic upside, Moss benefitted from the 3 touchdowns he scored in the Playoff. That was more than he had in his entire career combined. While the route-running certainly looked smooth, there will be questions about someone who essentially had 1 really good year after redshirting the past 2 (he transferred from NC State after the 2016 season).
21. Isaiah Wilson, Georgia OL
The former 5-star recruit played 2 seasons on a loaded UGA offensive line. He’s got a 340-pound frame that could make him an intriguing prospect at the tackle position. Playing second fiddle to Andrew Thomas might not help Wilson during the evaluation process, but the right tackle should still generate plenty of mid-round interest.
22. Jacob Phillips, LSU LB
He’s a tackling machine, no doubt. Pro Football Focus had him as the best tackler in college football. Could there be questions about his upside at the next level? Sure. He might be considered more of a glue guy than a game-changing, early-round prospect, though Phillips can certainly out-perform that.
23. Quartney Davis, Texas A&M WR
The talent is absolutely there. Make no mistake about that:
This ball belonged to Quartney Davis. pic.twitter.com/UL4l7CTUWO
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 12, 2019
Davis’ catch radius will make him some money. Production (0 TD catches in last 7 games) and his frame on the outside might prevent him from being considered a top-3 round pick, though.
24. Albert Okwuegbunam, Mizzou TE
On one hand, you’ve got an absolute red-zone machine. You don’t score 23 touchdowns by accident in the SEC. But he never played a full season and his production took a hit when Drew Lock graduated. That’ll make Albert O more of a late-Day 2 prospect.
25. Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn CB
The former receiver is hoping to establish himself as an NFL cornerback after 2 years of doing that on The Plains. He’ll be considered more of a project, but the good news is he’s an elite return man. That should make him have a higher floor than most mid-round picks.
26. Willie Gay Jr., MSU LB
If this were just related to his on-field play, Gay would be an obvious Day 2 guy. Maybe he still will be. He’s got speed and great cover skills to play the modern linebacker position. But the disciplinary issues of being involved in the academic fraud suspensions and the pre-Music City Bowl punch that knocked Garrett Shrader out of action will be tough for him to move past.
27. Lloyd Cushenberry, LSU OC
He was a dependable veteran who anchored the best offensive line in America, according to the Joe Moore Award. He might not be regarded in the same way athletically as fellow offensive linemen in this class, but the guy wore No. 18 at LSU (a pretty big deal) and started 28 consecutive games, most recently the national championship. You can do much worse.
28. Solomon Kindley, Georgia OG
The Georgia guard isn’t Thomas or Wilson as a prospect, but the redshirt junior showed a lot the past 2 years. An ankle injury slowed down the middle of his 2019 season, but if what we saw from Kindley in the Sugar Bowl was any indication, he shouldn’t have durability concerns at the combine.
29. Nick Coe, Auburn DL
Playing alongside Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson, one would think that Coe would thrive without having double teams. That didn’t happen, though. Coe’s draft stock definitely took a hit in a down year. But he moves well and could be an asset for a team looking for a 3-4 defensive end.
30. Kendrick Rogers, Texas A&M WR
The 6-5 frame bodes well for Rogers. He’s going to look the part of an NFL receiver, and it helps that he played well last year against Clemson and LSU.
🔥🔥🔥🏈 How did Kendrick Rogers catch this? pic.twitter.com/2jW5nQxaQa
— Fanatics View (@fanaticsview) November 25, 2018
But we’re talking about someone who never had more than 351 receiving yards or 30 catches in a season playing in a pro-style offense. That’s late-round flier stuff.
31. Saahdiq Charles, LSU OT
It certainly helps when you play really well in the national championship. Charles did just that by not allowing any pressures, and he showed why he can be an NFL offensive lineman. But there will be questions about how well he can play left tackle at the next level because of his technique, and he gets by more on his motor.
32. Kamren Curl, Arkansas DB
Curl is a versatile defensive back (he started at both cornerback and safety) who recorded multiple tackles for loss, interceptions and forced fumbles this year. But he didn’t exactly play on quality units, and he was considered a bit of a surprise to leave early. He’ll be someone who has to test well at the combine to guarantee he gets drafted.
33. Trystan Colon-Castillo, Mizzou C
A very solid college center, Colon-Castillo was. He started 38 games and was a key reason that Drew Lock stayed upright during his time at Mizzou. His announcement could have been a byproduct of Mizzou bringing in a new coaching staff, but whatever the case, his perceived lack of position versatility could hurt his draft stock.
34. Debione Renfro, Texas A&M DB
He was suspended in the beginning of the season for “a violation of team rules” and started roughly half the season. He never really proved he could be a shutdown corner. The good news? He can play close to the line of scrimmage and at 6-2, he’s got the frame needed to play on the outside.
35. Kyle Markway, South Carolina TE
Following his first season as a fixture in South Carolina’s offense, Markway could have returned for a 6th season in Columbia after injuries took out 2 years of his career. Instead, he elected to leave early for the NFL, where he’ll have questions about his durability. But in a thin tight end draft, Markway could make a lasting impression in Indianapolis.
36. Arryn Siposs, Auburn P
To be fair, the guy is 27. That’s not exactly “underclassman” material. In his 2nd season as Auburn’s punter, the Australian was 6th in the SEC in yards per punt. There will be more valuable draft picks than a middle-of-the-pack SEC punter.