In the past at NFL Draft Geek we’ve done various College Football Previews leading up to the start of the season. Instead of doing team previews and doing more college football analysis, we’ve gone back to what we do best which is highlighting prospects for the upcoming draft. Listed below are our thoughts on the SEC Prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft and the 20 best prospects within the conference.
When you think about top prospects for an NFL Draft, your thoughts may automatically go to the SEC which has dominated the college football discussion for the past decade producing numerous first round prospects. That doesn’t change this year as 11 SEC players (as of this writing) find their way into our current top 32 prospects.
Leading the way is LSU pass rusher Arden Key who is our top 2018 prospect and a player that has produced since his freshman year. Key utilizes speed and agility to change direction and bend the edge attacking opposing quarterbacks. Add that with a 6’6 leanish frame and he’s going to get plenty of comparisons to Leonard Floyd and even some Randy Gregory. However at 255lbs he’s much bigger than both of those prospects which helps him hold the point of attack and be a quality run defender.
While most programs will take a step back when they lose a talent like Leonard Fournette, the Tigers stand to keep rolling and that is because of Derrius Guice. A combination of size, speed and quickness to make explosive cuts there isn’t much that Guice cannot do. Guice always thrived in Fournette’s shadow, but when he got the chance to be the lead back in their bowl game last season Guice was unstoppable making some believe he could end up being a better prospect than Fournette.
A trio of receivers stand out in the conference and the group is lead by Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. Ridley continues the Crimson Tide’s success at recevier and he does it with effortless speed and acceleration. While Ridley isn’t a big receiver his ability to adjust to the ball in the air is elite. A&M’s Christian Kirk is another big time receiver that has really helped the Aggies powerful attack. Kirk thrives running short to intermediate routes using his quickness in and out of breaks to create separation. Along with good hands Kirk is a supersized slot receiver who has the speed to also make plays downfield. Rounding out the group is South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel who at 6’0 plays much bigger than his size displaying the ability to make contested catches and use his body along with his speed to create separation.
As always the defensive line is a strong suit of the SEC. At defensive end you have two explosive edge rushers in Mississippi’s Marquise Haynes and Florida’s CeCe Jefferson. Hayes is small in stature but his burst off the line and acceleration makes it tough to stay in front of allowing him to get into the backfield and disrupt. Jefferson has the speed to push the edge and the lateral agility to change directions and react to offensive lineman.
One player who could take a huge step forward is Alabama’s inside linebacker Rashaan Evans. With Rueben Foster now in the NFL the Crimson Tide are now looking at their next War Daddy inside linebacker. Evans plays with a different level of aggressiveness and physicality for the linebacker position. While that can lead him to over pursue at times he makes up for it flying to the ball and making plays. Add in a pass rushing element and there is a lot to like. Evans ability to match up with tight ends makes him one of the top linebackers in a loaded class.
Here are the top 20 prospects in for the 2018 NFL Draft in the SEC Conference.
1. Arden Key OLB LSU
2. Calvin Ridley WR Alabama
3. Derrius Guice RB LSU
4. Minkah Fitzpatrick SS Alabama
5. Tony Brown CB Alabama
6. Nick Chubb RB Georgia
7. Marquis Haynes DE Mississippi
8. Da’Ron Payne DT Alabama
9. CeCe Jefferson DE Florida
10. Rashaan Evans ILB Alabama
11. Hayden Hurst TE South Carolina
12. Christian Kirk WR Texas A&M
13. Deebo Samuel WR South Carolina
14. Braden Smith RT Auburn
15. Duke Dawson CB Florida
16. Frank Ragnow C Arkansas
17. Martinas Rankin LT Mississippi State
18. Dontavius Russell DT Auburn
19. Skai Moore LB South Carolina
20. Da’Shawn Hand DE Alabama