The SEC has long-been considered to be college football’s power conference. It currently houses the defending champion LSU, the perennial powerhouse Alabama, plus other title-contending schools like Auburn, Georgia and Florida.
When it comes to the NFL draft, the SEC also dominates. They have had the most picks of any conference in the last 13 drafts, and have had more first round picks than anyone else in eight of the last nine years. They also tied the record in 2017 for the most first round picks in a single year with 12.
However, this year could be bigger than ever before. Currently, the over/under on SEC players drafted in the first round is a whopping 15.5 according to BetOnline. Oddsmakers are expecting the previous record of 12 to be shattered this year, with many of them forecasting half of the first round to be comprised of SEC players.
While setting the record seems to be a near-guarantee, today we’re going to look at who from the SEC could go in the first round, and whether the over or under on 15.5 is the smart play.
There are a number of guys who don’t need to be discussed too much, as they are seen as locks to be first round picks.
QB Joe Burrow, LSU – This year’s Heisman winner, he is the consensus choice for the number one overall pick.
QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama – While injuries may cause him to slide a little bit, he’s still expected to be a top-10 pick.
DT Derrick Brown, Auburn – He is considered by many to be the top defensive lineman after Ohio State’s Chase Young, and will be a high pick.
OT Jedrick Wills, Alabama – The junior is part of the o-line quartet expected to be drafted within the first half of the first round.
OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia – Like Wills, he is also expected to be picked before the late-teens.
WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama – He is looked at as the top wide receiver in a loaded class and could be a top-10 selection.
WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama – Jeudy’s teammate on the Crimson Tide, the speedster won’t fall past the early 20’s.
CB C.J. Henderson, Florida – The second-rated cornerback behind Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah, he is getting some top-10 buzz as of late.
LB Patrick Queen, LSU – After just one full season as a starter, he trails only Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons as the draft’s top linebacker.
DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina – The bruising defensive lineman is pegged just after Brown on many draft boards.
EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU – The redshirt sophomore ranks right behind Young on the list of draft-eligible edge rushers according to experts.
WR Justin Jefferson, LSU – Burrow’s top target is behind the Alabama wideouts, but is still projecting as a late first round pick.
That’s 12 players who are all widely-expected to hear their names called on day one. But who are some other SEC players who could join them in the first round to get closer to the 15.5 total?
RB D’Andre Swift, Georgia
In a running back class that lacks any high-first round players, Swift is the favorite to be the first running back off of the board. The junior was first team All-SEC last season, rushing for 1,218 yards and seven touchdowns. Looking at the draft order, a team that stands out for Swift is the Dolphins. Miami owns three first round picks, that last of which is 26th overall. They could draft a QB at No. 5, a tackle or edge rusher at No. 18, and then complete their haul with Swift at No. 26.
S Xavier McKinney, Alabama
Starting two years for the Crimson Tide, McKinney has experience at both safety and cornerback. In 2019, he led the team in tackles and was named first team All-SEC and second team All-American. McKinney is another player who like Swift is considered the best of a weak position group. But that should help his first round chances, as a team like the Cowboys at No. 17 make sense for him. The Dolphins are also another team reportedly interested.
CB Kristian Fulton, LSU
The senior cornerback was a two-year starter for the Tigers, recording an interception in each of the last two seasons. There are a number of cornerback-needy teams in the second half of the first round, including the Cowboys and Dolphins. I also wouldn’t rule out the Raiders using their second first round pick at No. 19 on a guy like Fulton.
CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
A member of Alabama’s secondary along with McKinney, Diggs started 12 games last season for the Tide and had three interceptions, getting named second team All-SEC. All of the teams mentioned for McKinney and Fulton also apply to Diggs, with the Jaguars also reportedly looking at Diggs quite a bit. Jacksonville owns picks No. 9 and 20, and are expected to address cornerback with one of them.
OT Isaiah Wilson, Georgia
The redshirt sophomore started the last two years at right tackle opposite Andrew Thomas. He is someone who could benefit from an early run on tackles come Thursday. If the next tier of offensive lineman, including Houston’s Josh James and USC’s Austin Jackson, hear their name called during the first round, perhaps a team like the Titans make Wilson the pick at No. 29. There’s also the possibility of the Giants or Dolphins trading back into the first round if they haven’t addressed o-line already.
There are other players who could be surprise first round picks, including LSU safety Grant Delpit and Auburn defensive tackle Marlon Davidson. But regardless, it’s fair to say that NFL teams love SEC players, and there will be no shortage of them that hear their name called come next Thursday.
But how many players? We feel comfortable with the 12 locks, and McKinney, Diggs and Fulton seem to be getting the most first round buzz. That leaves Swift and Wilson as the ones who may decide it. I think it will be close, but I think we see teams grab those players in the second round. So by a hair, I’m picking the under 15.5 on SEC players drafted in the first round.