The SEC appears poised to continue a tradition – dominating the first round of the NFL draft. Six times in the past seven drafts, the SEC has had the most players picked in the first round. And five times in the past six drafts, the SEC has had double-digit selections in the first round.
Here’s a look at the top 10 SEC offensive players in the 2018 NFL draft. The top 10 defensive players are spotlighted here.
10. OT Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State
Why: He was extremely touted out of junior college in 2015, but was nowhere near ready and redshirted. Then, it took a while for him to settled in in 2016. But he played well in the second half of the 2016 season and that carried over into 2017. At his best, Rankin is a mobile left tackle who can stave off edge rushers and also get to opposing linebackers when blocking for the run.
9. RB Nick Chubb, Georgia
Why: Chubb is a special talent and he has been productive since a serious knee injury two years ago. Still, his medical check at the NFL Scouting Combine in February will be critical. If doctors believe Chubb’s knee will shorten his effectiveness, he’ll slip to the third or fourth round. His relatively high number of career touches (789) won’t be a positive in the minds of NFL general managers. Still, if Chubb’s knee is medically cleared, he should be off the board by the end of the second round.
8. TE Hayden Hurst*, South Carolina
Why: Hurst (6 feet 5, 250 pounds) looked ready for the NFL at SEC Media Days in July. He’s a finished product, capable of stepping into a contributing role right away. Hurst is 24, having spent two years playing baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system. He has a chance to be selected in the second round.
7. RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn
Why: Johnson has an attractive blend of size, speed, power and mental toughness. He also has shown the ability to help in the passing game with 55 carrer catches. Johnson should be in the second-round mix.
6. G Braden Smith, Auburn
Why: As more dominant defensive tackles capable of generating an interior pass rush rise up, the need for quality guards increases. Smith is experienced and durable (41 consecutive starts). He should be an impact player at right guard as a rookie in the NFL. Smith will be one of the most-watched talents at January’s Senior Bowl. Expect Smith to be in the top-40 range come draft time.
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