We’re a week from the NFL draft, which means we’re a week from the SEC again being the league that produces the most draft picks.
This will be the 10th draft in a row in which the SEC has the most players selected. In addition, the SEC has had a national-best 246 picks in the past five drafts. Second-most among conferences in that span is the ACC with 185. And over the past five drafts, the SEC has had 50 first-rounders, almost twice as many as the second-place conference, the ACC, which has had 26.
But what if the process were changed – a “reverse draft,” if you will? Instead of the SEC providing players to the NFL, what if each SEC school could take one alum currently playing for an NFL team? (Again, that is a current NFL-playing alum.)
And given that need plays a huge role in the NFL draft – after all, the first pick in the 2016 draft could be North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, and does anyone truly think he is the best player available? – need plays a huge role in our reverse draft, as well.
Read on for our picks.
ALABAMA: BENGALS QB A.J. McCARRON
The skinny: We can understand your skepticism. But hold on for a minute. Julio Jones likely was the first name that came to mind (it was for us). Alabama’s receiving corps is inarguably the best offensive unit already, so adding Jones would be overkill in a way. Plus, there is a concern as to how effective those receivers will be with the current quarterbacks. Add McCarron and that concern goes away. And, come on, you weren’t seriously considering adding an NFL defender, were you? This defense doesn’t need that kind of help. Plus, add McCarron and the dude would have a shot at three national title rings.
ARKANSAS: EAGLES OT JASON PETERS
The skinny: Peters was an unknown tight end when he was with the Hogs. He converted to tackle once he got to the NFL, and now is one of the best in the league (he is an eight-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro). Arkansas has a hole at left tackle; put Peters there and that hole is gone. Peters is a big-time run blocker, which means he would fit nicely in Bret Bielema’s offense.
AUBURN: PANTHERS QB CAM NEWTON
The skinny: This was the easiest one of all. Auburn doesn’t have a quarterback; Newton was the best quarterback in Auburn history – and he starred in Gus Malzahn’s offense. Trust us: If Malzahn could somehow sneak Newton onto the field in Jeremy Johnson’s uniform – the two are roughly the same size – he would do so in a heartbeat. Thing is, the ruse would be discovered quickly; heck, if Newton was able to make something happen on his first play, everyone would know it wasn’t Johnson.
FLORIDA: BENGALS DE CARLOS DUNLAP
The skinny: Who’s going to lead Florida in sacks? That’s a good question because there is no proven high-level pass rusher on the roster. Well, Dunlap would solve that problem. Dunlap, who was a Pro Bowler last season, can play either end spot, and also is solid against the run. Yes, Florida has some high-level defensive backs in the NFL. But the secondary is the Gators’ strongest position unit; there is no real need there.
GEORGIA: BENGALS DL GENO ATKINS
The skinny: WR A.J. Green and LB Thomas Davis also make sense, but Atkins – an All-Pro last season – is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. And given the Bulldogs’ concerns along the defensive front, he would be a saving grace. Plus, he can play any position in a three-man front and would provide a consistent pass rush even when he’s lined up in the interior.
KENTUCKY: BEARS LB DANNY TREVATHAN
The skinny: He’s really the only choice. One, he’s quite good. Two, UK’s linebackers are extremely unproven. Trevathan is a tackle machine, and having him out there would negate some of the deficiencies with the other ‘backers. Trevathan signed a free-agent deal with Chicago this offseason; he had been a big part of Denver’s defense.
LSU: BENGALS OT ANDREW WHITWORTH
The skinny: The best left tackle in the NFL? It might be this guy; at the least, he is one of the top three. LSU lost both starting tackles from last season, and putting one of the NFL’s absolute best linemen on the left side would make things easier for QB Brandon Harris and TB Leonard Fournette. Yes, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu are out there, as is Odell Beckham Jr. But you know what: LSU already has solid receivers and an excellent secondary. The offensive tackle spots, on the other hand, are a concern.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: EAGLES DL FLETCHER COX
The skinny: Cox doesn’t get the attention he deserves (sort of like when he played for the Bulldogs). But adding him up front would be big for the Bulldogs. He also provides a ton of flexibility; he can play end in a 4-3 or a 3-4 and he can play tackle in a 4-3. The Bulldogs have potential issues at corner, and strengthening the defensive line would alleviate some of the concerns simply because opposing quarterbacks would have less time to throw.
MISSOURI: CHIEFS WR JEREMY MACLIN
The skinny: New York Jets DL Sheldon Richardson is the best Mizzou alum in the NFL, but Missouri’s team strength already is its defensive line. So why not help the offense? The Tigers’ receiving corps is arguably the weakest position unit on the team, and adding Maclin would give QB Drew Lock the go-to receiver he doesn’t have now.
OLE MISS: PANTHERS OT MICHAEL OHER
The skinny: No, Oher is not the best Ole Miss alum in the NFL; that would be New York Giants QB Eli Manning. But Ole Miss’ best player might be QB Chad Kelly, and the Rebels’ offensive line is a concern with the loss of four starters. Oher would make the Rebels’ offense all the more potent.
SOUTH CAROLINA: TEXANS CB JOHNATHAN JOSEPH
The skinny: South Carolina’s weakest link might be its secondary. Voila – add Joseph, who still is blazingly fast and is coming off a solid season, and that secondary becomes better immediately.
TENNESSEE: CHIEFS S ERIC BERRY
The skinny: TE Jason Witten would fit, too, but given the Vols’ reliance on the run, he wouldn’t be utilized as much as he should. The Vols’ secondary looks good, anyway, but adding Berry – who was an All-Pro last season – would take it to new heights. And as for leadership qualities, it would be hard for any player – friend or foe – not to be impressed by Berry’s recovery from lymphoma. Plus, he could team with his brother, Evan, who also plays safety.
TEXAS A&M: BRONCOS OLB VON MILLER
The skinny: What, you thought we would pick Johnny Manziel? Miller’s presence would ramp up an already-dangerous pass rush, and he would help a mediocre linebacker unit. Think about this: Miller lined up opposite Myles Garrett. Or, better yet, lined up on the same side as Garrett. Oh, my, the havoc that would be wreaked. For opposing quarterbacks, it would be a case of duck and cover on every dropback.
VANDERBILT: BEARS QB JAY CUTLER
The skinny: There’s not much to choose from. Vandy actually has an intriguing quarterback in sophomore Kyle Shurmur, and Cutler’s personality likely would tick off some of his teammates. Still, his extraordinarily quick release would make life easier on the offensive linemen. And TB Ralph Webb would be loving life: Opposing defenses wouldn’t be able to key on him anymore.
(You can follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin)
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