For the 11th straight year, SEC fans from Columbia, South Carolina, to Columbia, Missouri, sat back as spring football slipped away and proudly watched their proud conference lead the nation in draft picks by any league.

This year’s Southeastern Conference shipment to Roger Goodell’s seemingly untouchable machine was 53 players strong. And that’s not even counting the rookie free agents who will fill NFL rosters with designs on making pro teams this summer.

Amid this newfound tradition of a “draft victory” that continued in Philadelphia and will never get old to SEC diehards came some wonderfully intriguing nuances that have the opportunity to tie the conference and the NFL together for a decade or more — or maybe not at all.

Time and fate and effort will tell that story, as they do every year. With so many SEC-themed subplots coming out of this year’s draft, as is the case every year, we’ve picked out 10 of these potential connections or nuances or links that should have conference fanatics keeping a close — and, yes, prideful — eye on what develops.

1) Derek Barnett follows Reggie to Philly

When the Eagles drafted Tennessee’s star defensive end with the 14th overall pick, the massive throng of Philly fans who gathered from the famous Art Museum steps to out on the Ben Franklin Parkway went crazy — OK, some of them did, and some were skeptical, as Eagles fans can be.

But with that one announcement by Goodell came the inescapable revelation that Barnett, who had broken Reggie White’s sack record in Knoxville, was coming to the place where White made his Hall of Fame name. Yes, White won his Super Bowl in Green Bay. But it was in Philadelphia, with those imposing Gang Green defenses of the 80s and early 90s, where the late Minister of Defense molded his bust for Canton.

Barnett didn’t have to pretend he knew about all this. He absolutely did. And he embraced it. Whether he ever comes close to being what White was in Philly, Barnett didn’t back down from the significance of the moment. The Knoxville-to-Philly generational pipeline was alive and breathing and, for now, thriving.

2) Giants give Eli a fellow Rebel with a cause

Nine selections after the Eagles took Barnett, their rivals from a few exits up the Jersey Turnpike created their own SEC connection when the Giants selected Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram at No. 23. And with that, the Rebels had their own unlikely niche in North Jersey, of all places, with Engram set up to catch passes from Ole Miss legend Eli Manning for at least the next few years.

Engram got a text from the two-time Super Bowl champion after becoming part of the Giants family, and Engram said the two have already worked out together when Manning would visit Oxford in the offseasons. And while Giants coach Ben McAdoo said Engram would contribute on special teams, we can imagine a certifiable Ole Miss match made in heaven to ease Eli into the later years of his career.

The Giants wouldn’t have used their first-round pick on Engram just to consummate some feel-good Ole Miss storyline in The Big City. First-round picks are viewed with prestige, and the Rebels rookie is ready to get started with the Rebels legend.

3) Lions go with Gators in first two rounds

Florida Gators blue blended with Detroit Lions blue on draft weekend, as the Lions pulled off the unlikely Gainesville double by drafting Jarrad Davis in the first round at No. 21 and Teez Tabor in the second round at No. 53.

From The Swamp on the picturesque UF campus to Ford Field on the mean streets of Detroit, Davis and Tabor have the chance to provide a lot more than just a unique link as the Lions continue their seemingly endless aim to shore up their defense.

While ex-Georgia star Matthew Stafford tries to outscore teams like he’s been forced to do for years, these two Florida products will try to provide some answers for Detroit on defense. Of course, the Lions didn’t get together and plan this little Gator two-step, it just sort of happened, and now it’s up to Davis and Tabor to make this coincidence into something great on the field.

4) From LSU teammates to AFC East adversaries

While Davis and Tabor stayed together, the LSU defensive back duo of Jamal Adams and Tre’Davious White not only were split apart — like almost all college teammates are on draft weekend — they were shipped to AFC East rivals.

The safety Adams went sixth overall to the Jets. The cornerback White went 27th overall to the Bills. This dynamic duo that starred on another great LSU secondary are now set up to be intense foes for the next decade or so — if they stay on their original teams, that is. You can picture Adams and White, helmets off, with big smiles, drenched in sweat, greeting each other twice every fall, once in Orchard Park, New York, and once in The Meadowlands.

No matter how it plays out over the next several years up in the Northeast, Adams and White did their best down in Baton Rouge to build on LSU’s tradition of great defensive backs.

5) Mr. Irrelevant might become very relevant

The annual end-of-draft chuckle always comes with its final pick, when “Mr. Irrelevant” is chosen with pictures, a special jersey in his, ahem, honor, and the lasting legacy of being the last guy taken.

Nov 26, 2016; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly (10) walks on the field before the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

When that last player is an SEC guy, though, there tends to be a double-take, and when it’s Jim Kelly’s nephew, who put up big numbers at Ole Miss when his head was on straight and he wasn’t injured, there can be a sense that the Denver Broncos thought Chad Kelly (above) could be a lot more than the final player picked before the credits rolled.

Mix in a still uncertain quarterback situation in Denver as the Broncos still try to replace SEC legend Peyton Manning, and Kelly and the word “irrelevant” might be linked in draft number only in a few years.

6) Dobbs-Sutton stronghold in Steeltown

While Barnett gives Philly a shade of Tennessee orange in eastern Pennsylvania, the western side of the state has its own Volunteer vibe with quarterback Joshua Dobbs and cornerback Cameron Sutton going to the Steelers in the fourth and third rounds, respectively.

While the Steelers are still very much invested in the Ben Roethlisberger Era, Big Ben is 35 now and he can’t play forever. So Dobbs could be the guy in a few years if he plays things right. Besides that though, when the Steelers take the field for mini camps and training camp this year, Dobbs will be working against his former Tennessee teammate, something to watch and enjoy. Dobbs and Sutton were already enjoying it all on draft weekend.

The Georgia natives have known each other since fourth grade, when they played peewee football against each other. They were part of the same 2013 signing class. They were freshman roommates at Tennessee. And now they’re part of the same Steelers draft class.

7) For Auburn, it’s defense and defense only

Four Auburn players were selected on draft weekend, none before the third round, and all of them were on defense. That speaks to the Tigers’ talent on that side of the ball — and can also be a whispering commentary on last year’s outgoing talent on offense.

It was only the third time in 20 years that Auburn had no draftees on offense. And while that might be construed as a bad thing, the fact is freshmen and sophomores dominated the production on the Tigers’ offense and top offensive prospects like lineman Braden Smith and running back Kamryn Pettway decided to stay in school. So the result was an all-defense draft class from The Plains, led by defensive tackle Montravius Adams going in the third round to the Packers.

This offense thing can be viewed as nothing more than an anomaly, a fluke. An inadvertent sign that Auburn’s offense in 2017 should be pretty good. And that its defense in 2016 had some headliners on it, after all.

8) Bama’s draft bounty: Crowded and top heavy

Ten Alabama players were taken in this year’s NFL Draft, which is both astounding and incredibly ordinary if you know the program in Tuscaloosa. The words “football factory” get thrown around for situations just like this. The Crimson Tide produces titles — and pros.

But a look deeper into Bama’s draft class makes it more curious, in that none of the 10 draftees was taken after the fourth round and pick No. 112. Put the magnifying glass closer and you see that nine of the 10 Tide picks went in the first 79 selections. That means that roughly the first one-eighth of the draft picks belonged to Alabama, an incredible show of front-loaded force.

Translation: There weren’t a lot of sixth- and seventh-rounders thrown into the big list of Bama draftees. There were many Tide players picked, and all but one of them came before Day 3. There’s nothing ordinary about that.

9) Fournette to follow Fred Taylor in Jacksonville

Taylor quietly tip-toed his way through many tacklers and right into the NFL record books. You might not know he’s 17th all-time with 11,695 yards, four spots ahead of a guy named O.J. Simpson. But he played in Jacksonville, so the fanfare didn’t match the excellence and consistency.

Now all these years later the Jaguars have gone to the SEC well again to find their franchise running back, taking Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick. Jacksonville is SEC country, of course, so they know their SEC football there. And while many Jaguars fans are also Gators fans, they can learn to love an LSU guy who just might find his way, quietly or not, onto the all-time list where Taylor resides.

When Jaguars vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin was asked to compare Fournette to Taylor, the ninth overall pick in a Coughlin draft in 1998, Coughlin said: “The one thing they both did is put it in the end zone. That’s what we need.”

10) Bama defensive pairs in the Beltway

Four of Bama’s 10 draft picks, in an interesting and fun geographical fluke, went to the NFL neighbor Ravens and Redskins.

And all four were defensive players, with the Redskins doing what the Lions did with Florida and taking Alabama guys in the first and second rounds with Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson. The Skins had previously drafted only two players from Bama since 2000.

The Ravens drafted their Bama defensive duo in the first and third rounds with Marlon Humphrey and Tim Williams. Baltimore’s general manager is Crimson Tide legend Ozzie Newsome.

That’s a lot of young Nick Saban defenders in and around the nation’s capital coming in all at once, which can’t be a bad thing for the two proud NFL franchises.