Even when SEC players leave school, they still have a major impact in the football world.
Last season, it was former Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller who became an overnight superstar with his performance in the playoffs. This season, there are several players who could do the same with the right platform.
Here are five former SEC players who will have an impact on the NFL playoffs in 2016:
WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
Team: New York Giants
Stats: 85 catches for 1,173 yards, 10 TDs
Beckham is one of the most polarizing players in the NFL, and for good reason. Despite his antics, Beckham is one of the most electric playmakers in the NFL.
The Giants’ offense has been underwhelming, but Beckham’s performance has kept the offense afloat in the loaded NFC East. He has been targeted 142 times this season, or more than a quarter of all of Eli Manning’s passes. For the Giants to advance, Beckham will have to be big.
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Team: Dallas Cowboys
Stats: 292 of 431 for 3,418 yards, 20 TDs, 4 INTs; 6 rushing TDs
The rookie Prescott has easily been the story of the season in the NFL. The Cowboys shockingly are out to a NFC East lead with a 12-2 record and have almost locked up the division with two weeks to go. Even though running back Ezekiel Elliott should factor ahead of Prescott in MVP voting, Prescott’s absurd 20-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio stands out.
Prescott has showed more poise than many experienced quarterbacks at this point in the season as a rookie. Even after an underwhelming performance against the New York Giants, he rebounded with a great game against Tampa Bay. As long as Jason Garrett leaves Dak the keys in the ignition, the Cowboys will be a force in the playoffs.
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
Team: Oakland Raiders
Stats: 74 catches for 1,038 yards, 4 TDs
Just a few years ago, Cooper was the offensive catalyst for the best team in college football. Now, Cooper is the primary offensive catalyst on what could be one of the best teams in the NFL at this point.
Derek Carr and Cooper have built a special connection the last two years and have combined for 74 completions this season. Some of his best performances have come in big games, including 100-yard performances in three games decided by one score.
LB/DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Team: Houston Texans
Stats: 49 tackles, 11 TFLs, 5 sacks, 2 passes defended (13 games)
Clowney had a rough start to his NFL career, but he finally broke out after J.J. Watt went out for the season. Houston used Clowney to fill many of the spots at linebacker and defensive end in the meantime, significantly contributing to the league’s best per-game yardage defense.
Houston continued to win games despite its putrid offense, largely thanks to Clowney’s versatility. It needs to win games against Cincinnati and Tennessee to clinch a playoff spot, but the talent is there. If the Texans go far in the playoffs, Clowney will be a major factor.
WR Julio Jones, Alabama
Team: Atlanta Falcons
Stats: 72 catches for 1,253 yards, 5 TDs
Few expected Atlanta to be right on the edge of the NFL playoffs, but the Falcons have been tremendously impressive. Despite missing games, Julio Jones has been one of the key catalysts for one of the best offenses in the NFL this season.
Jones leads the NFL in receiving yards and averages 104.4 yards per game. His crown jewel was a 12-catch, 300-yard performance against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 2. Quarterback Matt Ryan is in MVP conversations, and Jones is the overwhelming reason why. No other receiver on the team has even half as many yards.