Every year, the SEC loses more than a handful of first-round NFL draft picks.

Teams like Alabama and LSU get rocked by early defections and graduates every season, necessitating award-winning recruiting classes each February.

As the 2015 season reaches a conclusion, we started to wonder: Which SEC team will have the most difficult time replacing one of its stars in the fall? Suffice it to say there wasn’t much variance in our answers.


Tom Brew (@tombrewsports): Dak Prescott

I don’t think there’s any question that the toughest player to replace in 2016 is going to be Dak Prescott at Mississippi State. He’s been their star for three years now and brought the program up to unprecedented heights with these nine-win seasons. Not only did he throw the ball all over the yard but he’s really been their best runner for several years as well. Those are some big shoes to fill.

Chris Wright (@FilmRoomEditor): Dak Prescott

He wasn’t quite Steve Carlton in 1972 because Mississippi State was better than those Phillies, but he certainly did more with less than anybody in recent SEC history. He guided them to 19 wins in two seasons — their most in a two-year span in program history. The lists of firsts and school records are well-documented.

I’ll give secondary nod to Will Grier because Florida still doesn’t have his replacement — and true freshman QB starters aren’t answers in this league.

John Brasier (@john_brasiersds): Dak Prescott

He accounted for more than 70 percent of Mississippi State’s offense. He was the Bulldogs’ leading rusher in addition to his passing prowess. He also supplied important leadership. Prescott was the major reason why the Bulldogs were able to stay competitive in the tough SEC West. Mississippi State doesn’t have a proven replacement. Without Prescott, the Bulldogs may not have the overall talent to compete with the best of the West.

Christopher Smith (@csmithSDS): Brandon Allen

I created this question without realizing it would be so much of a dud. Prescott is a terrific answer, but I’ll go a different direction just for the sake of argument. The Arkansas quarterback had a fantastic year for the Razorbacks, and I’ll admit I was surprised. With so many injuries at receiver early in the year — and with running backs not named Alex Collins falling like flies — Allen threw for 30 touchdown passes on a pristine 9.3 yards per attempt. So much for play-action dump passes to Hunter Henry and the running backs.

Credit new offensive coordinator Dan Enos for developing a passing game, which Arkansas would like to think is sustainable. But it won’t be easy to replicate what Allen did as a third-year starter in 2015, and needing to replace so many skill-position players makes it more difficult.

For those not worried about technicalities, Florida quarterback Will Grier or the two Texas A&M transfer quarterbacks also would be solid answers.

Talal Elmasry (@TalalElmasrySDS): Dak Prescott

I ran through every team in my head and tried to convince myself that there was a case to be made about guys like Alex Collins, Kentrell Brothers, Laquon Treadwell or Pharoh Cooper, but they simply can’t measure up to the importance Dak Prescott had on Mississippi State. Not only was he the ideal fit for the school, but he was also the ideal fit for Dan Mullen. There are some Bulldogs fans that have to hope that Prescott didn’t show Mississippi State’s ceiling because the team may have banged its head against it in 2014.