Last week we took a look at some of the SEC East’s top underclassmen who could be debating their final year(s) of college eligibility against making the jump to go pro early.
This week we’re highlighting the SEC West in that same category, which includes three of the nation’s top NFL prospects and a few other first-round hopefuls who may have a serious decision to make come December.
Ole Miss Rebels
Robert Nkemdiche, defensive tackle: Nkemdiche could be one of four Ole Miss players taken in the first round; he has a chance to not only be the top Rebel taken, but the top player taken, too. Nkemdiche’s athleticism and strength at 6-foot-5, 295 pounds is pretty astounding. He’s a player who has seen time all across the defensive line, but projects best as a 3-tech defensive tackle in the NFL. He missed last Saturday’s game against Texas A&M with concussion-like symptoms from the week before. That’s something he needs to be careful with going into the latter half of the season.
Laquon Treadwell, wide receiver: Treadwell is considered by most to be the top receiver in the 2016 draft class, and I find it difficult to argue with that. Even in a class deep with receiver talent, Treadwell has shown the next-level skills that scouts covet both with and without the ball. He has strong hands at the catch point and is determined to get the most out of each target. Some compare him to Jarvis Landry or Dez Bryant, but I think a Justin Blackmon comparison is a better representation of his skill set.
Laremy Tunsil, offensive tackle: It took a while for us to get a look at Tunsil in action in 2015, but the wait seems to be worth it as he’s shown no signs of rust. This past week he took on one of the best pass rushers in the SEC in Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, and in doing so posted one of the best offensive lineman grade Pro Football Focus has given out this season. At his best, Tunsil is the top pass protector in this class. He, like Nkemdiche, has No.1 pick potential.
Alabama Crimson Tide
A’Shawn Robinson, defensive tackle: If a team picking in the top 15 is looking for the next best nose tackle to come into the NFL, they’ll select A’Shawn Robinson. Fluid and explosive for a man 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, I think he’ll light up some eyes at the NFL Combine when they see how well he can move. He’s my top nose tackle for a 3-4 defense.
Derrick Henry, running back: Running back value, even at the top, seems to come into the NFL at a dime a dozen. That mentality may hurt Henry’s draft stock, but his game tape certainly won’t. He’s already over 1,000 yards for the year and has averaged 5.8 yards per carry while doing so.
I have my concerns about Henry. He’s dominant against smaller players in college, but he has a tendency to go down on early contact. Why is that, with a man who also shows the ability to run through tackles multiple times per game? When watching his tape, my main takeaway is that Henry doesn’t have the consistent balance scouts expect from a running back who makes his mark with plays through contact. Keep an eye on that moving forward.
Carl Lawson, defensive end/linebacker: I’ve heard the saying many times before that the best ability is often availability. Lawson, a very raw rusher, is coming off ACL surgery from 2014 and hasn’t played since the season opener in 2015 because of a hip injury. As a redshirt sophomore, I seriously doubt he’ll decide to make the jump to the next level. But I had to put him on this list because his name has been thrown around as a potential Day 2 pick.
Tre’Davious White, cornerback: White hasn’t received the buzz we’ve seen in the past from a few of LSU’s top defensive backs, but his lockdown defensive style and fluid body motion in coverage make him a noteworthy prospect. He was recently named as a Jim Thorpe Award Finalist and has also been on the All SEC Academic Team. White does a lot of things well in coverage, including the use of his long arms as an asset in press coverage. He’s been called upon to cover some of the SEC’s best receivers week in and week out. I can tell you, he’s being noticed, whether you hear the hype or not.