It’s no secret that the Southeastern Conference produces a significant portion of the highest rated draft prospects. For fourteen consecutive years, the SEC has had more players drafted than any other conference, posting a record high of 63 players in last year’s draft. It’s obvious that the SEC has a knack for producing top tier NFL talent. Today, we’re going to look at the best prospect at each position from the SEC.
Quarterback: Mac Jones (Alabama)
No surprises here, as Mac Jones will be the only SEC QB taken in the first round. In his only full season as a starter, Jones won a national championship. It’s worth noting that he finished third in Heisman voting, an award that was won by his own receiver in Devonta Smith. He also received the Davey O’Brien award, awarded to the best QB in the NCAA. On 311 attempts, he threw for 41 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. After impressing at his pro day, it’s obvious that Mac Jones is the most exciting SEC prospect at this position.
Running Back: Najee Harris (Alabama)
Expect to see a lot of Alabama on this list as Najee Harris nabs the title of top RB prospect not only in his conference, but in the entire draft. Standing 6’3” and weighing 230 lbs, Najee is surprisingly agile. His ability to run around and through defenders gives him tons of potential going into the NFL. After an electric performance in the SEC Championship against Florida, scoring two rushing TDs and receiving three more, it’s apparent he is just as good a pass-catcher as he is a rusher. All things considered, it’s easy to see why Najee is thought of so highly in this year’s draft class.
Wide Receiver: Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)
This one was a lot closer than the others, as Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle and LSU’s Ja’marr Chase are essentially WR 1A and 1B. Whoever gets picked first will be judged by how they fit in with the team’s needs rather than one being a better talent than the other. I pick Waddle here because the amount of tape might make him a safer option despite Chase’s incredible performance in 2019. LeRon Massey, a writer here at BSP, best describes what Waddle brings to the table in his scouting report here on the site. “Cornerbacks in college struggled to run with Waddle, other than his lightning speed he runs his routes full speed each play and is explosive in and out of his breaks. Which leads to him creating separation, and when he gets the ball, he is extremely deadly. Waddle displays tremendous yards-after-the-catch ability and is very elusive in the open field making him very difficult to tackle.” You can find the link to his entire report at the bottom of this page.
Tight End: Kyle Pitts (Florida)
The easiest decision on this entire list, Kyle Pitts stands head and shoulders above every other tight end in this class. He can be schemed anywhere on the field, and that versatility is only part of why he’s rated so highly. If you have any doubts at all about Pitts, it’s because you haven’t seen the film. Pitts is impossible to cover and has great hands to secure the ball in traffic. Drafting Kyle Pitts this year is the fastest way to shake up your offense and completely bewilder opposing defenses.
Offensive Line: Alex Leatherwood (Alabama)
Another Alabama pick, however, this one doesn’t stand out as much to the out-of-conference prospects. Having played at tackle and guard, Leatherwood can fill a need in any NFL teams offensive line by using his 315lb frame and unteachable aggressiveness. Although there are some flaws in his game, specifically when it comes to adapting to defensive adjustments mid-play, I would argue his play is a lot more polished than several other tackles in line to be drafted ahead of him.
Edge: Azeez Ojulari (Georgia)
The first and only Georgia Bulldog on this list, Ojulari is one of the most coveted edge rushers in this year’s draft class, coming in a close second only to Michigan’s Kwity Paye. His small build may raise some concerns, but his speed and agility make it clear why he’s rated so highly. Although not as dominant when it comes to getting through offensive lineman, he has no trouble going around. His athleticism and constant adjustment to the ball carrier led him to 68 tackles in his final season at Georgia, 18.5 of them for a loss.
Linebacker: Jamin Davis (Kentucky)
This one was a coin toss between the Kentucky product and LSU’s Jabril Cox, but Davis gets the pick here due to collecting over 100 tackles in just nine games. His best attribute is his incredible speed. Running a 4.47 40-yard dash made him an absolute stand-out amongst his position group. The strongest part of his game is his run-blitzing, as Davis doesn’t slow down at all when going through traffic. Additionally, Davis moves well in space, keeping his eyes on the quarterback while maintaining a smooth pedal in zone coverage. Although not the most aggressive, and at times you may find yourself wishing he would hustle a little harder when the play is “too far” beside or behind him, he’s a very reliable defender. Davis was only credited with four missed tackles in his entire 2020 season. Given the right scheme and coaching, Davis is somebody who can likely surpass a lot of people’s expectations in the coming years.
Cornerback: Patrick Surtain II (Alabama)
I’d love to put Jaycee Horn in this spot, I really would. I love his build, his play style, and I truly believe he will shine at the next level. That being said, I don’t think there’s many people out there going and ranking him above Surtain, he’s just too good. In his three years at Alabama, you have to think of him practicing against the likes of Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and John Metchie III. If you line up against guys like that every week, you better get good quick, and that’s exactly what he did. Not to mention spending three years learning from Nick Saban and his entire life learning from his father, an 11-year NFL veteran CB, probably helps a little too. His awareness and game-knowledge make him the best prospect at this position. He doesn’t make bad decisions, and he doesn’t get beat over the top. There is every reason to love his potential and then some. At the very least, his floor is one of the best you’ll ever see.
Safety: Jamien Sherwood (Auburn)
Auburn fans can take a breath of relief, after a list absolutely dominated by the Crimson Tide, this is the position where the Tigers shine above the rest of the SEC. Granted, shine might not be the right word, as the competition is so scarce. I’m forced to hand out this rank to a projected sixth-round pick. Although his best fit is at strong safety, Sherwood has the versatility to be used in a multitude of ways. His coverage isn’t great, isn’t terrible, but he really finds his footing in the run game. His awareness and game communication is surprisingly good, and his ability to take good angles and chase down ball carriers will serve him well in the NFL.
Kicker: Evan McPherson (Florida)
I know some of you thought I wasn’t gonna show special teams any love. Fortunately, I have a lot of good things to say about this special teamer. McPherson made 100% of his field goals under 40 yards. At greater distances, McPherson went 4-7 on attempts over 50 yards. What truly impresses about this stat is that the staff was so confident in his abilities, they put him on the field seven times when they were over fifty yards from the uprights. His biggest whiff was a 51-yard miss to hand a huge upset victory to LSU. You could go back and forth all day on whether the conditions played a factor, as even cameras on the sidelines couldn’t get a good look at the field, but there’s no need to defend McPherson when his statistics before that night so clearly speak for themselves.
You can find full-length scouting reports on several of the aforementioned prospects right here on BSP. Here are the links:
Mac Jones (by LeRon Massey): http://www.backsportspage.com/mac-jones-scouting-report/
Jaylen Waddle (by LeRon Massey): http://www.backsportspage.com/jaylen-waddle-scouting-report/
Kyle Pitts (by Matthew Sargent): Hey editor, the Kyle Pitts scouting report is still pending review. Just throw the link here whenever that gets posted.
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