The SEC is accustomed to dominating the first round of the NFL draft, and 2018 may be no different with a variety of talented options for the top end of the annual selection process.
On Thursday, ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. released his first mock draft for the new draft season. He surprised some by featuring Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen as the No. 1 overall selection, ahead of consensus top quarterback prospects Josh Rosen (UCLA) and Sam Darnold (USC).
The top SEC projection was Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who Kiper has going at No. 6 to the New York Jets.
Fitzpatrick was one of four Alabama players projected by Kiper to go in the first round. In total, he projected seven SEC players to be selected on the first day of the draft, which will take place on April 26 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Here’s a look at where he projected top SEC players to land:
6. New York Jets: Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive back, Alabama
8. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, wide receiver, Alabama
10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, linebacker, Georgia
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Da’Ron Payne, defensive tackle, Alabama
23. Los Angeles Rams: Carlton Davis, defensive back, Auburn
26. Atlanta Falcons: Christian Kirk, wide receiver, Texas A&M
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, linebacker, Alabama
While each of selections has merit, Kirk’s projection to the Falcons seems of particular interest to offensive-minded fans. Can you imagine the former Aggies star lining up in the slot aside all-world wideout Julio Jones to catch passes from Matt Ryan? That’s quite a vision.
Given that we’re still more than three months away from the NFL draft, expect Kiper and other draft experts to change their minds a couple dozens times as things such as the Senior Bowl, NFL combine and pro days impact their opinions on prospects.