The SEC is by far the best conference in college football in terms of producing NFL talent. That’s neither hyperbole nor an opinion — it’s a fact. Going back a decade the conference has witnessed 512 players selected in the NFL Draft, 129 more than the ACC, which is second in that time span for most players drafted.

It’s not just quantity, either, it’s quality too. In terms of first-round picks, the SEC again dominates the pack with 101. The ACC again comes in a distant second with just 58. You can make the argument that, every once in a while, the SEC might not be the best conference top-to-bottom in a particular year, but you can’t dispute that the SEC is more talented than other conferences on the field.

A long time ago I played football at Ole Miss after playing high school ball in Pennsylvania and I saw up close and personal a level of speed and athleticism that I never thought was even possible.

In the mid-2000s I played defensive tackle at Ole Miss after playing high school ball in Pennsylvania. The very first play in my first practice I was combo blocked by Chris Spencer (1st round, 2005) and Marcus Johnson (2nd round, 2005), which didn’t exactly end in my favor. I had gone against some decent athletes in high school like Chad Henne (Michigan), James Bryant (Miami) and Joel Holler (Penn State), but this was a level of speed and athleticism that I never thought was even possible.

Practices were every bit as intense as a game in terms of frantic pace and physicality. Only when game day rolled around did I see that there’s a whole other level beyond what is displayed in practice, when the stakes are enormous and NFL scouts are watching closely.

Ultimately, I wound up transferring to Shippensburg University (Pa.) to finish my career, but what I learned from those days continue to prove invaluable, especially the level of respect I have for guys who have fought in the SEC. The talent, the speed, the athleticism, the passion, the intensity and the stakes are at an unparalleled level.

These days I’m a professional football scout and NFL Draft analyst, and as I plow through film religiously on various prospects from across the land, there’s still no question which conference is the best at churning out NFL talent.

You may be asking yourself why. Why is the SEC so much better at producing NFL talent than other conferences across the country? Here are three reasons at explaining this phenomenon, and they’re all correlated.

1. Football is a higher priority in the south than anywhere else in the country.

In some areas of the country, basketball is king. In other areas, it might be lacrosse or hockey. In countless areas of the country, sports in general are just a hobby. But in the south, football isn’t just a hobby — it’s a way of life. Go through some of the other Power-5 conferences and you’ll see a few “football schools” in each conference, but in no other conference is football king from top-to-bottom (well, except at Kentucky). And by “king,” I mean the most important thing to the school, the fans, the students, the alumni, etc. Next to God, there is nothing more important to southerners than football, and because of this …

2. There’s more prep talent in the region than anywhere else.

Pull up rankings of the top 100, 200 or 500 high school football recruits in the country and look where they’re from. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority come from the region between Texas and Florida. Kids are raised to play football.

Whether it’s one of the bigger cities in the region like New Orleans or Atlanta, or the countless hamlets and villages in between where the high school team is the pro team, football is the community bond that removes the division between classes of people. Everyone of every color, gender and class unite behind the common bond of a shared love and passion for football.

3. More resources are invested into football programs.

This has been slowly becoming true in other conferences too because TV money is rolling in and schools obviously don’t have to worry about compensating the players financially, but no one invests in their football programs like the SEC does. From the nutrition experts to the world class trainers, the championship-caliber coaches to the architectural marvels that are their facilities, the SEC takes the elite recruit and provides him with the kind of world class training environment needed to go from good to great. They provide the perfect incubator for developing NFL players.

There will be years that the SEC isn’t the king of college football on the field. It happens. And there are a few schools that stand on their own. But no other conference recruits as well as the SEC and no other conference invests as much from a resources perspective as the SEC. And this is because no other conference places as high of a value and priority on football as the SEC.

The direct result of this? They consistently have the most players drafted on a yearly basis. This week, when the NFL Draft takes over the football world, the SEC will once again prove its dominance.