The SEC is known for producing plenty of talent for the NFL, and the 2018 NFL Draft should be no different.
While there surely will be plenty of attention paid to the first-round stars from the conference, such as Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, there also is the potential for a large contingency of sleepers from the SEC in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Here’s a look at four SEC prospects who are rated as mid-to-late round NFL draft prospects and could turn out as bargains for the teams that take a chance on them:
2018 NFL Draft sleeper: Kahlil McKenzie, Tennessee
The NFL lineage and 5-star pedigree are a hard combination to ignore here. And the need for productive interior defensive linemen never really goes away no matter what level of football you’re playing. So can Kahlil McKenzie, who is the son of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, find a way to become consistently productive in a way that he never was able to achieve during his three seasons on Rocky Top? At the cost of a sixth- or seventh-round pick, some NFL team likely will see enough upside to roll the dice and may be rewarded handsomely.
2018 NFL Draft sleeper: J’Mon Moore, Missouri
Don’t let a disappointing 40-yard dash sour you on one of the league’s top wide receivers in recent seasons. After a 4.6 second 40-time soured some experts on the playmaker, some NFL team may be looking at a potential value out of the program that produced NFL receivers such as Jeremy Maclin and Dorial Green-Beckham.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein summed up Moore’s situation best when he wrote: “While Missouri’s offensive scheme made things easy on him and allowed him to rely on his athletic ability to succeed, he has the size, speed and talent to be able to succeed beyond what was asked of him in college.”
Expect Moore, who finished his college career with 2,477 career receiving yards on 158 receptions, to be a mid-round wide receiver option in the draft.
2018 NFL Draft sleeper: Trent Thompson, Georgia
Look back at the history of the No. 1 prospect from each recruiting class and you’ll see a track record of NFL success. No one has ever questioned the physical ability of the former Georgia defensive lineman, but his off-the-field issues and inconsistent on-field production left some NFL evaluators with questions about his ability to be a professional.
If Thompson is drafted into the right defensive system and the coaching staff who inherits him is able to keep his focus on football, the talent is there for this projected mid-to-late round pick to be a major bargain.
2018 NFL Draft sleeper: Antonio Callaway, Florida
Talent is not the question here. The former Gators wide receiver showed he had ability to spare during his tumultuous career in Gainesville. Callaway missed the 2017 season and was ultimately removed from the Florida football program after allegations of credit card fraud surfaced for the star wide receiver and several of his Gators teammates.
Most recently, his name surfaced in the news due to a reportedly diluted drug test at the NFL combine. But the NFL is the land of second chances for those who have enough talent, and Callaway definitely falls into that category. He hauled in 89 passes for 1,399 receiving yards during his first two years of college football.