The SEC is, without question, the cream of the crop when it comes to both the BCS and the NFL Draft. And this season, thanks to the unbelievably talented LSU defense, the new additions of Texas A&M and Missouri, and some of the country’s best running backs and pass rushers, the SEC likely will be very much in the early part of the NFL Draft’s first round, as usual.
MDD Guest Writer: Alex Brown (of Optimum Scouting)
1. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, RB
The most well rounded back in the college ranks, with NFL ready 3rd down skills, Marcus Lattimore is still improving as a runner and could work into a top 10 selection. Displaying excellent vision and cutting ability in the hole, Lattimore consistently reads his blocks correctly, makes unblocked defenders miss, and picks up positive yardage. Excelling in scan protections throughout his career at South Carolina, Lattimore’s pass protection skills are already elite and NFL ready. As long as he returns to full health, expect continued progression for this, already talented and explosive ball carrier.
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia, OLB
A well-strung together, physical specimen of an outside backer, Jarvis Jones possesses the strength to set the edge versus the run and the explosiveness to rush the passer. Having the prototype build, edge rushing speed and explosion, ability to stop the run, and even drop into coverage, Jones appears to be this year’s top 3-4 outside linebacker prospect.
3. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M, LT The Aggies starting left tackle from game 1 as a true freshman, Luke Joeckel has been the staple of consistency for Texas A&M in his first two seasons, starting all 26 games and earning 2nd team All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore. A natural bender and gifted athlete, Joeckel dominates with ideal hand placement and balance to sustain blocks past the whistle. This first round worthy, franchise left tackle prospect has zero glaring holes in his game, polished technique, and elite physical tools.
4. Sam Montgomery, LSU, DE
Big, long and physical, Sam Montgomery has the body type and strength to play the strong side end in a 4-3 look or outside linebacker in a 3-4. Shooting his hands explosively into the blocker, Montgomery’s precise placement and ability to generate power off the snap make him a dangerous pass rusher off the edge. Converting his first step speed to power and flashing the ability to bend the edge with flexible hips, Montgomery is undoubtedly the conference’s top pass rusher.
5. Barkevious Mingo, LSU, DE
While Montgomery is the top pass rusher right now in the SEC, his teammate Barkevious Mingo certainly has the physical traits, quick-twitch explosiveness, and rare length to overtake that spot. Firing out of his coiled stance low and hard, Mingo’s first step speed and ability to dip, bend and turn the corner is truly rare. Having a non-stop, tireless motor and immense speed off the edge, Mingo still needs to put it all together and develop some semblance of a rushing repertoire. Inconsistent in utilizing his length and sudden hands at the point of attack, Mingo can only become the elite prospect he is capable of becoming, by learning the finer points and techniques of the position.
6. Knile Davis, Arkansas, RB Returning from a broken ankle, Knile Davis proved his health by running a 4.33 40-yard dash, in addition to posting a 415-pound bench press and 570 pound squat max. Davis’ instinctive and decisive running style, matched with patience to set up and cut off of blockers, allowed for success as both a perimeter and between-the-tackles runner. Possessing subtle elusiveness to not give tacklers a direct target to strike, Davis constantly shrugged off arm tacklers to and through the hole, accelerating out to the 2nd and 3rd levels of the defense for big plays. His size/speed combo and instincts as a runner, will make him a sought after commodity should he declare for the upcoming draft.
7. Eric Reid, LSU, S Having great size and build, at 6’2, 208 pounds, Eric Reid makes his presence felt in the back half by delivering crushing hits to receivers all over the field. Not just a heavy hitter though, Reid shows the pre snap and post snap progression you look for in a starting free safety prospect, as he consistently reads his keys and ends up in correct position. A complete safety prospect, Reid also shows the toughness and strength to drop down into the box and stop the run. Should be a year 1 starter in the league and a top 2 round draft selection at that.
8. D.J. Fluker, Alabama, RT
Starting each of the previous two seasons at offensive tackle for the Crimson Tide, Fluker has right tackle size to go along with left tackle feet. Overpowering in the running game and patient with his pass set, Fluker could be a powerful left tackle prospect at the next level.
9. Justin Hunter, Tennessee, WR
Easily the most fluid and effortless route runner you can find in the SEC, Justin Hunter’s skill set is reminiscent of former Georgia receiver and top 5 NFL Draft selection A.J. Green. Long and lean bodied, with outstanding length and reach at the point of the catch, Hunter separates with his long strider speed off the ball and precise one-cut route running. Having the vertical speed to burn opponents with the 9-pattern, Hunter is a dangerous Z receiver that will earn a living with his deep separation skills.
10. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M, RT
Son of NFL Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews and cousin to Green Bay Packer All-Pro Clay Matthews III, Jake Matthews has deep NFL bloodlines. Matthews is plus athlete with quick feet, suddenness off the ball, and movement skills to land 2nd level blocks, and has body type upside to pack on an additional 10-20 pounds. Jake Matthews needs to improve his technique as a whole, but ultimately has the physical tools to develop into a next level left tackle.