The SEC continues to be the standard when it comes to sending talent to the NFL. In all, 51 SEC players were drafted in the 2016 NFL Draft. This doesn’t count additional players who latched onto rosters as undrafted free agents.
It’s never too early to look forward to the 2017 draft. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah has begun the process already, writing scouting reports for some of next year’s top prospects. Here’s a look at how NFL.com sees some of the top prospects from the SEC.
QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
2015 stats: 298-for-458 for 4,042 passing yards, 31 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
NFL.com’s take: “Kelly has an unquenchable thirst for the big play. He loves to attack down the field and that leads to big plays as well as turnovers. I’d love to see him dial it back just a little bit and show more concern for the football.”
SI 2017 mock draft: Second round
Kelly is easily one of the streakiest players in this draft. He has the vision to make game-changing plays downfield, but often lacks the patience to make the right play. Last year was Kelly’s first as a full-time starter, so he still has plenty of development left. If he can improve his decision making and stay out of trouble off the field, his stock should rise.
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
2015 stats: 300 carries for 1,953 yards, 22 touchdowns; 19 catches for 253 yards, touchdown
NFL.com’s take: “Fournette is a unique talent. In an era of backfield by committee, he’s the type of back that can carry a heavy workload. He can grind out tough yards, but he’s also capable of popping a long run at any moment.”
SI 2017 mock draft: No. 5
Since the moment he first stepped on campus, Fournette has been one of the biggest stars in college football. Touted as a game-changing running back and the No. 1 overall recruit out of high school, Fournette has delivered. Before LSU slipped the last couple games of 2015, Fournette was one of the leaders for the Heisman Trophy. If Fournette and the Tigers live up to expectations in 2016, the Heisman should be coming home to Baton Rouge, La.
CB Jalen Tabor, Florida
2015 stats: 40 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 14 pass breakups
NFL.com’s take: “Tabor has excellent size, versatility and ball skills…he can get a little sloppy at times in press coverage but he has the makeup speed to recover…My biggest issue with Tabor is his play against the run. He missed a lot of tackles in the games I studied.”
SI 2017 mock draft: No. 8
Vernon Hargreaves III was the big name in Florida’s secondary last season, but Tabor could be even more highly-regarded when he leaves. It’s rare to find a truly dominant corner, but Tabor has the size and strength to be an elite player at the next level. With Hargreaves gone, Tabor will be tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best receiver. It will be vital to see how he handles that task.
LB Tim Williams, Alabama
2015 stats: 19 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks
NFL.com’s take: “Williams has all of the tools to be a top-tier pass rusher. He is extremely explosive…He lacks polish and technique but he wins a lot of one-on-one battles because of his pure athleticism and raw power. … He needs to improve as a run defender in order to become an every-down player.”
SI mock draft: No. 18
As an outside linebacker, Williams excelled in Alabama’s 3-4 defensive alignment as an edge rusher. With so many players from the front seven gone to the NFL, Williams quickly becomes one of the featured pieces on defense. With numerous games against top competition, Williams will have plenty of opportunity to excel.
DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama
2015 stats: 36 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 6 QB hurries, 4 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles
NFL.com’s take: “NFL defensive line coaches could easily compile a teaching tape based on how he attacks and gets off blocks. He can survive at defensive end on run downs if needed, but I believe he’s ideally skilled to be a very disruptive defensive tackle at the next level.”
SI mock draft: No. 10
There are not many defensive linemen more disruptive than Allen in college football. As his stats bear out, Allen was asked to do a little bit of everything on Alabama’s national championship defensive line. Now, Allen is the unquestioned leader of the front seven. Scouts surely will watch how effectively he plays against double teams without A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed easing the pressure.
DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
2015 stats: 59 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 1 interception
NFL.com’s take: “He has ideal size, length and motor for the position. As a pass rusher, he can win with speed, wrap around the edge and flatten to the quarterback. He can convert speed to power and he also possesses a nifty inside spin move. When he slides down to rush against guards, he almost always wins the battle… Garrett is a complete player.”
SI mock draft: No. 4
If Leonard Fournette isn’t the best player in the country, Garrett might be. A physical behemoth, Garrett dominates almost any player he is matched up against. Had he been eligible this season, Garrett almost certainly would have been a top-10 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. There is very little left to prove, but Garrett should only continue to garner additional attention as the year goes on.