What NFL Draft experts are saying about top SEC prospects
Seven SEC players were taken in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Consider it an off year. The ACC and Pac-12 produced more, and it was two fewer than the SEC’s average over the past nine drafts.
What will 2016 bring? Potentially four SEC players taken in the first 10 picks, as many as 10 in the first round, according to most mock drafts.
The mocks agree on one thing: Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil will be the first SEC player off the board, likely the first overall player taken.
The SEC’s first-round outlook, according to some of the mock drafts:
|Outlet||1st-round picks||Top pick|
|CBSSports||10||Laremy Tunsil (1)|
|Sports Illustrated||10||Laremy Tunsil (1)|
|Walter Football||10||Laremy Tunsil (1)|
|SB Nation||8||Laremy Tunsil (3)|
|Bleacher Report||7||Laremy Tunsil (1)|
Here’s a sample about what the experts are saying about the SEC’s top draft prospects:
Laremy Tunsil, LT, Ole Miss
CBSSports.com: Priority No. 1 for the Titans should be to protect Marcus Mariota, something they have struggled to do consistently in 2015. Tunsil is arguably the most talented player in this year’s draft class and able to contribute from Day 1, pushing Taylor Lewan over to right tackle.
WalterFootball.com: Marcus Mariota took an absolute beating in his rookie campaign, suffering injuries on multiple occasions. The Titans have to do something about this; they cannot afford to have Mariota transform into David Carr.
In the wake of San Diego’s senseless victory over the Dolphins, Tennessee has won the Laremy Tunsil sweepstakes. With Tunsil on the roster, the Titans will have outstanding bookend tackles, allowing Jeremiah Poutasi to slide inside to guard, where he would probably be more comfortable. Barring a lucrative trade, there’s no way the Titans will pass on Tunsil if they have a chance to obtain him.
SBNation.com: San Diego’s pick will only be interesting if both Tunsil and Bosa are gone. If that’s the case, Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner would be a good choice.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
CBSSports.com: The Cowboys will consider a quarterback (at No. 4) and need help on defense, but the window is closing with Tony Romo at quarterback and Dallas needs to surround him with more talent. Treadwell, who is similar to Dez Bryant with the way he attacks the football, would be an ideal fit opposite Dez.
WalterFootball.com: There are nothing but question marks in Baltimore’s receiving corps, so I could see the Ravens pulling the trigger on Laquon Treadwell (at No. 6), considering that he’s probably the top prospect available at this juncture.
SBNation: “… at worst Treadwell could be a high-end No. 2 receiver.”
Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
SBNation.com: Miami needs cornerbacks now, regardless of who is currently on the roster. He’s a legit shutdown outside corner and a player that would improve the entire secondary because he doesn’t need safety help often.
WalterFootball.com: Hargreaves’ stock has slipped a bit in the wake of a poor finish, but he’s one of the top prospects on the board.
CBSSports.com: Tampa Bay (at No. 9) will address the cornerback position next offseason, either in free agency or the draft, possibly both. Hargreaves is a tough-minded, instinctive cover man who is ready to start from Day 1 in the NFL.
Sports Illustrated: Don’t let his shaky bowl performance fool you: Hargreaves is a legit NFL shut-down corner ready to happen. He more than held his own in some difficult matchups this season, showing a willingness to be physical coupled with the awareness to find the football.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
WalterFootball.com: The Bears (at No. 11) need as much defensive help as possible as they continue to transition into their new 3-4 scheme. The defensive line is comprised of mediocre players, at best, so this is an area the front office will have to upgrade this offseason. A’Shawn Robinson would be a huge boost, as he could go as high as No. 6 to the Ravens.
SBNation.com: Robinson is just what the Saints need. They ranked 31st in the league last season in run defense, and veteran Kevin Williams is a free agent who will turn 36 in August. Robinson is a brute up front, but he’s more athletic than he got to show in Alabama’s system.
CBSSports.com: Robinson is a player who transcends scheme and would give (Bills coach Rex) Ryan a player who can play anywhere on the defensive line.
Sports Illustrated: Robinson looks like a 10-year NFL vet. The 320-pounder plays above his experience at times, too, thriving with purposeful power. What I mean by that is Robinson can use his frame and hands to get into gaps, but he isn’t a robot about it. He’ll sniff out where the O-line is moving and make sure to stay active.
Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
CBSSports.com: A player who hits anything that moves, Ragland is a tone-setting linebacker who can play all three downs and will give the Raiders another impact player in the front seven.
Sports Illustrated: Ragland, the AP Defensive Player of the Year, won’t linger very long either (SI projects No. 11 to Bears). He can cover but excels downhill vs. the run. A great fit for Vic Fangio’s linebacker-needy defense.
Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
CBSSports.com: Based on talent alone, Nkemdiche belongs in the top 10, maybe even the top three. But his off-field issues could cause him to tumble, which would be the Falcons’ gain.
Sports Illustrated: Hopefully, the Nkemdiche picture becomes a lot clearer as the draft process unfolds. Right now, it’s almost impossible to guess where he might land. Talent-wise, he’s a top-10 prospect with insane levels of athleticism for a 300-pounder. But there are significant red flags, highlighted by last month’s fall from a hotel window, out of a room where police discovered marijuana.