The SEC is about the closest thing football has to the NFL. Or at least competitively it is. The conference is full of talented, fast players that win and dominate the college landscape.
That would theoretically mean their players would then go on to dominate the SEC. And indeed, the SEC dominates the NFL Draft — eight first round picks in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Of course, that does not mean it is going to last. Players fade as talent gives way to age. And the NFL is a different animal than the SEC and college football. The league plays a different style and some players just do not fit. Plus a team may not be able to use a player the same as system fit matters as much as anything else.
The SEC is polarizing plenty. But even as players head to the pros, they struggle to live up to their college accolades and names.
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports rated his all-name, little-game players in the NFL, naming one player from each team. And the list of 32 teams is full of SEC players. Seven of them.
There are several notable players that just have not gotten their bearings in the NFL and players that have gotten old and have failed to live up to their previous success. And then there are just players who just have never gotten off the ground.
A player like Joe Haden from Florida has struggled with injuries throughout his career with the Cleveland Browns. This year is a big season for him to stay healthy and make good on his early-career promise and his dominant play in Gainesville.
Randall Cobb from Kentucky has had a stellar career with the Green Bay Packers contributing to Super Bowl championships. But last season when he was asked to take a step up as a player with Jordy Nelson out, Cobb struggled to do so. Cobb has just one 1,000-yard season in his five-year career.
It is hard to say he has had a bad career. He just may be better as a slot receiver. The Packers are certainly not complaining too much about his production.
Similarly, Texas A&M’s Martellus Bennett has had a very successful eight-year career and has only lately been sliding off. The New England Patriots just acquired him as he turned 30 and has seen his production drop off. That is definitely a name signing that may not have much more game left.
Jason Peters from Arkansas has been in the league since 2004. Age is starting to slow him down from the height of his career. It is hard to criticize him for that.
Of course some of these players, it is probably unfair to put them on this list.
Alshon Jeffery of South Carolina has struggled to get going for the Chicago Bears. The four-year pro can still produce with 807 yards and 54 receptions in nine games. Prisco writes the fact he has started 16 games only once is a disappointment and why he did not get a long-term deal. Of course he played in all 16 and started 14 the year before so maybe that complaint holds no water. Jeffery had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons before injuries hampered his season last year.
It is hard to call Jeffery “all name, no game” in this way.
Janoris Jenkins falls into that category too. The Florida alum had three interceptions and 56 tackles last year for the St. Louis Rams. The reason he appears on this list is because the New York Giants paid him handsomely for that production — which has included some big pick-6 returns. Jenkins could be a flash player, but he showed throughout his Florida career he can make big plays. And has done so in the NFL.
There is certainly still a bit of a waiting period with Greg Robinson. But the Alabama offensive lineman who was the second pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
“The second pick of the 2014 NFL Draft has really struggled in his two seasons with the Rams,” Prisco writes. “He struggled with penalties and he hasn’t improved in pass protection. The Rams thought it would take some time coming out of run-heavy Auburn, but he hasn’t made the strides they expected. He did work some this offseason with LeCharles Bentley in Arizona on his technique, so maybe he can show improvement.”
Overall this list then seems like it is just Prisco’s preference for players and storylines he wants to follow. All these players seem like they can still contribute something to their teams, with questions.
Some may have traded more on their name than they should have or should be, but they are still good players. The players they were when they dominated the SEC are still there and can be improved.