Top NFL draft prospects by position from the SEC

Derrick Henry, Laremy Tunsil lead the way as John Breitenbach reviews the best SEC talent ahead of the 2016 NFL draft.

| 9 months ago
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Top NFL draft prospects by position from the SEC


The SEC may not be the elite conference it’s made out to be, yet the FBS national champion resides in the South East once again. The Crimson Tide have a number of excellent prospects for the 2016 NFL draft but they’re not alone in possessing NFL talent. Here’s a breakdown of the top prospects:

Quarterbacks

  1. Brandon Allen, Arkansas

Allen may lack the measureables of some of the top prospects but he’s amongst the best passers in this class. He ended the year as our eighth overall passer, well ahead of his nearest challengers in the SEC. Allen posted solid numbers across the board, passing for 30 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. In terms of developmental QBs, Allen is more intriguing than a number of other options at the position this year.

  1. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

Prescott is a legitimate threat as a running QB but he lacks the passing ability to suggest he’s likely to succeed at the next level. At times he looks outstanding, but he really struggled in games against good defenses. The fact his worst games came against Alabama and Ole Miss is a major red flag. Well worth a risk in the late rounds, we wouldn’t touch him on the second day.

  1. Jake Coker, Alabama

The success of AJ McCarron might convince some team to draft Jake Coker, but he’s some way behind the former starter for the Crimson Tide. Coker was solid as Alabama’s signal caller, but only finished 49th at the position, relying on a dominant run game for team success. He’s worth bringing to camp but probably not worth a draft pick.

Pass catchers

  1. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi

Treadwell lacks the totality of traits required of a pick at the top end of the first round, but still poses enough of a threat to be taken on the first day. He makes enough plays downfield, as well as after the catch, to suggest he can succeed at the next level.

  1. Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia

Mitchell doesn’t standout prior to watching the tape. He isn’t particularly fast and lacks ideal size. With that said, he does the little things well. Mitchell runs nice routes and catches the ball cleanly. He also offers a threat with the ball in his hands (13 broken tackles). Mitchell may never be an elite wideout but he can certainly contribute to an NFL receiving corps.

  1. Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas

Henry is rightly considered the consensus top tight end eligible for the 2016 NFL draft. He caught 51 passes last season without a drop, as well as showing legitimate ability to get open down the field. In an underwhelming TE class, Henry can expect his name to be called early on Day 2.

Running backs

  1. Derrick Henry, Alabama

Henry may not be the elite prospect his numbers would suggest, but he can be an excellent power back at the next level. Despite his limitations, he still broke 76 tackles in 2015, and averaged 3.4 yards after contact. Henry still needs to refine his game in the pass catching and blocking department, but chances are he’s a good NFL back.

  1. Alex Collins, Arkansas

Collins isn’t quite at Henry’s level but could still provide a pro franchise with a dominant power back. He amassed 1,580 yards, averaged 3.0 yards after contact per attempt and broke 58 tackles. He also proved a more than adequate blocker, finishing with a +3.8 grade in that department. There are a number of enticing mid-round running backs and Collins is firmly in that mix.

  1. Kenyan Drake, Alabama

Drake’s stock will suffer for acting as a backup for the duration of his time in college. In some ways he’s better suited to the pro-game, however. For a start he’s the most accomplished receiver amongst the draft-eligible SEC running backs. Overall he caught 29 passes for 261 yards, one touchdown and 15 broken tackles last season, culminating in a +2.8 grade. Coupled with underrated ability as a runner, Drake may end up proving great value.

Offensive tackles

  1. Laremy Tunsil, Mississipi

Tunsil is the consensus top tackle in the draft, and while he’s not flawless, he’s easily the top prospect at the position in the SEC. He allowed just five hurries despite facing a tough schedule which included Myles Garrett, Arden Key and Emmanuel Ogbah. Tunsil is also the best second-level blocker amongst the tackles in this class and can more than hold his own at the line of scrimmage.

  1. Shon Coleman, Auburn

Coleman’s pro-projection is just that — a complete projection. He was barely required to pass protect on traditional dropback plays, making it difficult to judge his ability protecting his QB. Coleman allowed only two sacks and eight hurries last year but those numbers are somewhat misleading. He undoubtedly possesses power in the run game, illustrated by a +19.7 run blocking grade, but needs to prove he can pass protect to succeed at the next level.

  1. Dominick Jackson, Alabama

Jackson is a level below some of Alabama’s recent offensive line prospects, including a teammate, but is worth a flier in the late rounds. His pass protection numbers are nothing to write home about, finishing with a negative grade on the back of allowing two sacks, two hits and 15 hurries, but he was impressive as a run blocker. Jackson’s +10.2 run blocking grade was good enough for the top 20 amongst offensive tackles.

Interior offensive line

  1. Mike Matthews, C, Texas A&M

Jake Matthews’ brother is an excellent interior offensive line prospect. He finished as our 12th overall center, recording solid grades in both pass protection and as a run blocker. Matthews allowed just a single knockdown in 2015, to go with a further seven hurries, culminating in a +7.5 grade. He was only a solid run blocker but was good enough to suggest he can forge a career in the pros.

  1. Sebastien Tretola, OG, Arkansas

Tretola possesses the power and attitude to crush defensive lineman in the run game, but is probably scheme-specific transitioning from college. Tretola is a power guard only, and will need to develop in pass protection to succeed. He graded only slightly above average on pass plays, allowing eight knockdowns (four sacks & four hits) and a further six hurries. Tretola did record the eighth-highest run blocking grade at his position, but still needs some development before he’s ready to start.

  1. Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama

Kelly was probably Alabama’s best offensive lineman in 2015. He is far from an outstanding player, but is the kind of dependable center than can make it in the pros. Kelly allowed ten combined pressures (four hits and six hurries) and recorded a top-20 run blocking grade. He should prove good value come April.

Edge defenders

  1. Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia

Floyd has been slowly creeping up rankings and draft boards. He’s an underrated edge rusher in this draft class because he recorded only four sacks in 2015. However, he played inside linebacker on run downs, meaning his opportunities to rush the passer were limited. Overall he added a further eight hits and 30 hurries from 179 snaps, finishing third in pass rush productivity. In an edge defender class lacking explosion, Floyd might be the second pass rusher off the board on draft day.

  1. Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia

Floyd’s teammate Jordan Jenkins put together two solid years of college production, but he doesn’t standout in any area. He ended 2015 as our 21st overall edge defender with a +27.9 grade. Jenkins has impressive measureables but his production failed to live up to them. He didn’t have the best combine either. Jenkins has plenty of upside, but at this stage, he’s behind a number of pass rushers in our pecking order.

Interior defenders

  1. Chris Jones, Mississippi State

The SEC possesses a number of talented interior defensive lineman, but none have the upside of Chris Jones. He’s an ideal penetrating interior lineman, who finished with the second-highest pass rushing grade behind only DeForest Buckner (+36.5). Jones wasn’t the most consistent against the run, finding himself washed out of plays too easily, but if he can develop that side of his game he could be a dominant defensive tackle.

  1. Jonathan Bullard, Florida

Bullard is an intriguing evaluation because he excels against the run but doesn’t generate much pressure. He finished fifth amongst interior defensive lineman with 42 stops and missed just a single tackle. Bullard’s +51.5 run defense grade was easily tops amongst interior defenders. However, he generated only 29 combined pressures, dropping outside the top 50 in terms of pass rush grade. Bullard’s skill set is valuable, but the question is how valuable?

  1. Jarran Reed, Alabama

Reed was the only defensive tackle to record a better run stop percentage than Bullard in the FBS. He’s a prototypical 3-4 nose tackle who can clog running lanes but offers little when asked to rush the passer. A player who has only three combined knockdowns probably isn’t worth a first day selection but an odd front team will find themselves with a fantastic run stopper on Day 2.

Linebackers

  1. Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Ragland continues the long line of highly regarded Alabama linebackers. He ended the year fourth in our rankings, recording grade of at least +7.7 in each facet of play. Ragland was excellent against the run, finishing with 52 stops, and allowed a QB rating of only 77.4 in coverage. Despite being targeted 46 times, he only allowed 30 receptions for 231 yards and a pass deflection. Ragland will likely be the first linebacker to come off the board in April.

  1. Kentrell Brothers, Missouri

Brothers finished only just behind Ragland in our grades at No. 5. He led all linebackers with 78 defensive stops, on course to our second-highest grade against the run. Brothers led all 4-3 OLBs in run stop percentage. He also bettered Ragland in QB rating allowed (68.4) after picking off two passes in 2015. Brothers is underrated in this linebacker class.

  1. Josh Forrest, Kentucky

Forrest might have the best coverage skills amongst SEC linebackers. On 28 targets, he got his hands on the ball six times. Overall he allowed just 19 catches for 167 yards, one touchdown, two picks and four pass deflections. Forrest lacks the ability to shed blocks of Ragland and Brothers but could fit as a nickel linebacker early in his career.

Secondary

  1. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

Hargreaves will have to answer questions about his final year regression, but still didn’t have a bad season. He’s a playmaker with seven picks in the past two years, and a reliable contributor on the perimeter. Hargreaves allowed a QB rating of only 45.3 in the couple of seasons we’ve been grading and has consistently flashed against the run. He’s a Day 1 lock at this point.

  1. De’Vante Harrris, CB, Texas A&M

Harris is yet to receive much attention during the draft process, but his production suggests that’s a mistake. He allowed only 22 receptions on 43 targets for 275 yards, one touchdown, two picks and seven pass deflections. Harris led all SEC corners in coverage grade, recording a +11.5 mark. Harris will need to clean up the missed tackles (5 from 36 attempted) but has the makings of an excellent cover corner.

  1. Taveze Calhoun, CB, Mississippi State

Calhoun impresses as a press-man corner. He has good size to go with impressive ball skills. 2015 saw him allow just 22 catches from 46 targets, 179 yards, two interceptions and four pass deflections. He led draft-eligible SEC corners in allowing a QB rating of 40.0. Calhoun represents excellent value in the mid-rounds and possesses immense upside.

| Analyst

John joined the PFF team in 2008, providing focused analysis on the NFL draft, team-building strategies, and positional value.

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