The 2016 NFL Draft is still months away, but early projections appear to be foreshadowing another strong year of representation for the SEC.
NFL.com’s draft guru Daniel Jeremiah listed 13 SEC players in his top 50 draft prospects, including eight players listed inside the top 20. Six different schools were represented on Jeremiah’s list and Alabama led the way with five players featured.
Alabama may have had the most players, but it didn’t have the top player on Jeremiah’s list. That honor went to Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. Jeremiah was infatuated with Tunsil’s physical traits and said he could quickly become the best offensive tackle in the league.
“Overall, Tunsil is a Day 1 starting left tackle and he should quickly emerge as one of the top players at his position,” Jeremiah wrote.
Alabama’s Reggie Ragland was ranked 10th. The linebacker racked up 102 tackles and emerged as one of the top inside linebackers in the country. Jeremiah thinks Ragland will make an instant impact for the team that drafts him.
“Overall, Ragland is a tone-setter with his physical style of play and should be a dependable starter immediately,” Jeremiah wrote.
Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves, UGA’s Leonard Floyd and Alabama’s Jarran Reed all followed Ragland, respectively. Hargreaves picked off four passes and broke up four others with 33 tackles. Jeremiah believes Hargreaves could have some trouble because of his 5-foot-11 stature, but said he could become an excellent nickel cornerback.
Floyd led the Bulldogs with 4.5 sacks and recorded 74 tackles this season. Jeremiah said Floyd possesses rare explosiveness that could be valuable as an edge rusher in the NFL. Jeremiah wrote that Reed was immovable along the defensive line and that the defensive tackle could develop into a good pass-rusher at the next level.
Rounding out the players in the top 20 of Jeremiah’s list were Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (17th), Ole Miss wideout Laquon Treadwell (18th) and Ole Miss defensive end Robert Nkemdiche (20th).
Jeremiah believes Robinson has all the talent to become a stud along the line of scrimmage and said his best football has yet to come. Treadwell shattered Ole Miss records during his 82-catch, 1,153-yard and 11 touchdown campaign. Jeremiah believes Treadwell lacks ideal speed, but could be a good player because of his astute route-running ability and his physicality. As for Nkemdiche, Jeremiah said his talent was evident, but it didn’t match up with the production. Nkemdiche has an extremely high upside, but also has a very low floor, according to Jeremiah.
Alabama center Ryan Kelly and Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry appear next on the list at 35th and 36th, respectively. Jeremiah opined that Kelly has Pro Bowl potential while Henry has the ability to be one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league.
Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry showed up next on Jeremiah’s rankings at No. 38. Jeremiah thinks Henry will be highly scrutinized during the draft process, but noted that he feels good about Henry’s potential.
“I believe he can be a very successful NFL runner based on his unique mix of size, power and build-up speed,” Jeremiah said.
Florida defensive tackle Jon Bullard came in at 40th on the list. Bullard recorded 66 tackles and 6.5 sacks during his senior year and was an absolute menace in the middle of the Gators defense. Jeremiah said he doesn’t think Bullard’s style will fit every NFL defense.
Rounding out the group of SEC players was LSU linebacker, Deion Jones. The senior led the Tigers with 100 tackles and also recorded five sacks this season. Jeremiah said Jones could excel in a 4-3 defense as a weakside linebacker.