It’s no surprise that Alabama leads the SEC in elite draft prospects, but one analyst believes a different SEC school could have even higher top-end talent.
NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah issued his first top-50 prospects list for the 2018 draft Tuesday, and LSU is the only SEC school with two players ranked in the top 20.
Those two? It’s running back Derrius Guice, rated by Jeremiah as the 15th overall prospect and the third-best rusher, and cornerback Donte Jackson, listed as the 20th prospect and fourth cornerback.
Outside linebacker Arden Key was viewed before the season as the top draft-eligible edge rusher in the 2018 draft class. But Jeremiah dropped Key outside his top 30, citing his inconsistent effort.
Alabama has five of Jeremiah’s top 40 prospects, including four in the top 30: defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick (No. 5), wide receiver Calvin Ridley (No. 22), defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne (No. 24) and linebacker Rashaan Evans (No. 27).
Jeremiah expects NFL teams to take notice of the SEC’s outstanding running back class from last season. Four of his six highest-rated running backs are from the conference, including the Georgia pair of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb.
Another running back, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, is Jeremiah’s highest-ranked player overall. Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson and Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds are his next two prospects, although players at those positions (especially guard) are rarely drafted inside the top three.
The last running back drafted in the top three was Alabama’s Trent Richardson by the Browns in 2012, a notoriously unsuccessful pick. No linebacker has gone in the top three since Texas A&M’s Von Miller joined the Broncos in 2011, and the last guard selection in the first three picks came way back 1985, when the Falcons selected Bill Fralic from Pitt.
Though many analysts believe the Cleveland Browns will take a quarterback with the first pick, Jeremiah’s highest-ranked quarterback, USC’s Sam Darnold, is the sixth-best overall prospect.
In all, eight of the 14 SEC schools are represented in the list of top 50 prospects. The ones that aren’t are Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Here’s the full list of SEC players in Jeremiah’s top 50.
5. DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
15. RB Derrius Guice, LSU
19. LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
20. CB Donte Jackson, LSU
22. WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
24. DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
26. DT Taven Bryan, Florida
27. LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
28. RB Sony Michel, Georgia
29. WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
33. OLB Arden Key, LSU
34. TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
37. G Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
38. S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
48. OT Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State
49. RB Nick Chubb, Georgia
50. RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn
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