Team Position Rankings:

There’s a reason that the NFL chooses to pluck talent from SEC secondaries each spring in its annual draft.

The 2016 draft should be no exception, as the SEC is again loaded with talented defensive backs. Let’s take a look at how the units stack up this season:

The nation’s finest

1. LSU

Predicting the starters: Tre’Davious White, Jalen Mills, Jamal Adams, Ed Paris
Key contributors: Donte Jackson, Kevin Toliver, John Battle, Rickey Jefferson

The Tigers top our list with what could be considered the best pair of safeties in the country in Mills and Adams. Add one of the league’s premier cornerbacks in White and a healthy competition between some talented young cornerbacks to play alongside him, and you have the league’s best defensive backfield.

2. Florida

Predicting the starters: Vernon Hargreaves III, Jalen Tabor, Keanu Neal, Marcus Maye, Brian Poole
Key contributors: Quincy Wilson, Duke Dawson, Marcel Harris

Hargreaves is the best cornerback in the SEC and one of the top pass defenders in the nation, and that alone makes this group something to fear. Add in talented safeties in Neal and Maye, as well as the upside of Tabor and Wilson, and you have the makings of one of the best defensive backfields in the country. You could make the argument that LSU and Florida are the top two secondaries in the country.

Still elite

3. Georgia

Predicting the starters: Devin Bowman, Aaron Davis, Quincy Mauger, Dominick Sanders
Key contributors: Malkom Parrish, Tramel Terry, Rico McGraw, Jarvis Wilson

This unit performed as one of the nation’s best under Jeremy Pruitt’s direction in 2014. With several key contributors returning, and a healthy dose of talented youngsters providing depth, there is little reason to believe this group is heading for a significant decline in 2015.

4. Ole Miss

Predicting the starters: Tee Shepard, Tony Bridges, Mike Hilton, Trae Elston, Tony Conner
Key contributors: C.J. Moore, C.J. Hampton, Kendarius Webster, Kailo Moore

The Rebels must replace Senquez Golson (10 interceptions) and Cody Prewitt from last year’s talented secondary. They seem well-equipped to do so with Shepard returning from injury and Bridges transferring in from JUCO to occupy the corner spots, allowing Hilton to become a safety full-time.

The meaty center: talent is there for something special

5. Tennessee

Predicting the starters: Cameron Sutton, Brian Randolph, LaDarrell McNeil, Emmanuel Moseley
Key contributors: Rashaan Gaulden, Todd Kelly Jr., Evan Berry, Justin Martin

Sutton is one of the league’s premier cornerbacks, and he’ll work alongside a pair of very experienced safeties in Randolph and McNeil. Kelly is an immense talent at safety as well, giving Tennessee good depth there. The Volunteers have options at the second cornerback position, and Gaulden should be a solid nickelback.

6. Arkansas

Predicting the starters: Jared Collins, D.J. Dean, Rohan Gaines, Josh Liddell
Key contributors: Henre’ Toliver, Santos Ramirez, DeAndre Coley, Cornelius Floyd

This group is oozing with upside. Collins has really emerged as one of the league’s better cornerbacks, and he’s supplanted nicely by Dean and nickelback Toliver. Rohan Gaines is the lone senior in this group, providing some experience for a young group of safeties.

7. Missouri

Predicting the starters: Kenya Dennis, Aarion Penton, Anthony Sherrils, Ian Simon
Key contributors: Thomas Wilson, Cortland Browning, John Gibson

This is one of the league’s more experienced groups, with three starters returning from last year’s team. Dennis and Penton return as a pair of quality starting corners, along with a versatile senior safety in Simon. Wilson should play nickelback when needed. Sherrils and Browning are competing for snaps at strong safety, replacing Braylon Webb.

8. Alabama

Predicting the starters: Cyrus Jones, Tony Brown, Geno Smith, Eddie Jackson
Key contributors: Marlon Humphrey, Bradley Sylve, Hootie Jones, Ronnie Harrison

After years of being one of the best defensive backfields in college football, this group saw a significant decline production last season. The Crimson Tide will have to replace All-American safety Landon Collins. Coaches moved Eddie Jackson from corner to give the safeties group a veteran presence.

Works in progress

9. Auburn

Predicting the starters: Jonathan Jones, Joshua Holsey, Tray Matthews, Rudy Ford, Blake Countess
Key contributors: Nick Ruffin, Markell Boston, Stephen Roberts

Jones gives Will Muschamp a top-tier pass defender to work with after breaking up 18 passes and intercepting six last season. Ford likes to hit, and should be one of the league’s better safeties this year. Matthews, a transfer from Georgia, could have an immediate impact at safety.

10. Mississippi State

Predicting the starters: Taveze Calhoun, Kendrick Market, Will Redmond, Deontay Evans
Key contributors: Cedric Jiles, Jamal Peters, Kivon Coman, Brandon Bryant

There is depth and experience in this secondary, with at least eight guys that will make significant contributions this fall. Unfortunately, it is also a group that ranked worst in the league and 114th in FBS with 272.8 passing yards allowed per game in 2014.

11. Kentucky

Predicting the starters: Cody Quinn, Fred Tiller, A.J. Stamps, Marcus McWilson
Key contributors: Mike Edwards, Darius West, Kendall Randolph, J.D. Harmon

This is a group that could significantly outperform its ranking if things break the right way. Kentucky has more depth and talent in the secondary than it has in some time. Veterans like Quinn and Tiller will be pushed by talented youngsters brought in by Mark Stoops in recent recruiting classes.

Plenty of work still to be done

12. South Carolina

Predicting the starters: Chris Lammons, T.J. Gurley, Jordan Diggs, Isaiah Johnson, Rico McWilliams
Key contributors: Chris Moody, Chaz Elder, Al Harris Jr.

Gurley moves to a hybrid linebacker/safety position this year. Johnson is a transfer from Kansas that is expected to start immediately alongside Diggs at safety. Lammons emerged as a true freshman last season to give the Gamecocks a solid option at cornerback.

13. Vanderbilt

Predicting the starters: Torren McGaster, Taurean Ferguson, Andrew Williamson, Oren Burks
Key contributors: Tre Herndon, Tre Bell, Emmanuel Smith, Jahmel McIntosh

This was a young group last season, and it showed at times. With a year of experience under its belt, the hope is that Derek Mason’s secondary is one of the more improved units on the 2015 team. All four starters return.

14. Texas A&M

Predicting the starters: De’Vante Harris, Brandon Williams, Justin Evans, Armani Watts
Key contributors: Donovan Wilson, Nick Harvey, Victor Davis, Devonta Burns

New defensive coordinator John Chavis has his work cut out for him in molding this group into a solid unit. Williams moves over to defense from running back in an effort to give the secondary a shot in the arm. Watts showed promise as a true freshman last year.