Who's falling in 2016? Here are the best remaining SEC players after Round 1
Alabama should have a very busy Friday when it comes to the NFL draft.
There are six players left in the green room, and three of them were members of the Crimson Tide’s national championship defense. And that’s not even including Derrick Henry. All four players could be taken Friday during the second or third rounds.
Mississippi State’s Chris Jones was the only other SEC player remaining in the green room in Chicago at the end of Thursday’s first round.
Here are some of the best SEC prospects still on the board after the first 31 picks.
LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama: News went public just hours before the NFL draft that Ragland has a medical reality that caused several teams to lower him on their draft boards. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Ragland “was flagged for an enlarged aorta, which requires yearly monitoring.” So Ragland, once thought to be a first-round lock, remains available as a powerful inside linebacker.
DT A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama: While Ole Miss’ Robert Nkemdiche parlayed “huge upside” and “athletic rarity” into first-round status, Robinson did not. Both players produced enough in college to earn All-American and All-SEC accolades in at least one year. But both never achieved a level of play thought possible due to their athleticism. At any rate, Robinson remains on the board for any team that feels like it can teach him to keep his pad level down and develop his pass-rush technique.
DT Jarran Reed, Alabama: Thought by many (including this writer) to be the best run-stuffer in this entire draft class, Reed’s first-round potential seemed hampered by the fact that he’s not a pass rusher. It’s not shocking he remains on the board, as he may never be a marquee type of NFL player. But he’s a lunch pail guy who is already polished as can be against the run, and that will make some NFL team very, very happy — probably in the second round.
DT Chris Jones, Mississippi State: Half of the players left in the green room are SEC defensive tackles. Jones, who entered college as a five-star signee, put together a tremendous freshman season, slumped in 2014 as a sophomore and closed strong. He probably rated fourth among SEC defensive tackles among the consensus projections, behind Nkemdiche, Robinson and Reed. But Bulldogs fans hoped that he’d sneak into the first round. He’ll start offering excellent value if he’s still around late in the second or early in the third on Friday.
TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas: Arguably the top tight end prospect in this draft, Henry should have every opportunity to become the first Razorbacks player taken this year. He’s not the best pass-catcher — that may be South Carolina’s Jerrell Adams. And he’s probably not the best blocker. But add the two together and he’s got a strong case for best all-around. It would be a surprise if Henry lingers all the way to the back half of the third round.
RB Derrick Henry, Alabama: Analysts have questioned his vision, third-down ability and the fact that he doesn’t make many tacklers miss (unless he gets to top gear and outruns all of them). That’s not a slight against the Heisman Trophy winner. Fellow running back Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State, though, went fourth overall on Thursday, the only running back taken in the first round. It’s just very, very hard to be a first-round pick and also a running back. Still, Henry’s freakish size/speed combo, along the durability and work ethic he put on display last season, should be enough for a team to select him at some point Friday.
DL Jonathan Bullard, Florida: Some Gators were hoping to get three in the first round after Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal came off the board relatively early on Thursday. Todd McShay’s final mock draft projected three Florida players in the first 31 picks. But Bullard, though he’s a nice player, looks more like a second-day pick from our position. His motor and versatility have made him a popular pick among the media. After a strong 2015 season, we’ll find out Friday if NFL scouts and general managers agree with that assessment.