The SEC just broke an NFL draft record with 63 players selected in the 2013 draft, but the 2014 class has a chance to top those numbers. With more elite prospects than ever, including a few guys who decided to return to school, there are dozens of SEC draft hopefuls to keep an eye on this upcoming college football season.
Whether you are looking for an offensive lineman, defensive player or even a quarterback, this conference has got you covered once again. As if the results on the field weren't enough, the draft has quickly reminded folks that the SEC is no joke when it comes to the gridiron.
While you are probably still trying to digest the 2013 draft, here are some of the early top SEC draft prospects for the 2014 NFL draft.
We see quarterbacks climb up the draft board every year. Seriously, raise your hand if you had E.J. Manuel as the first quarterback selected in this year’s draft. Exactly my point.
With another great season from Aaron Murray, it isn't that big of a stretch to believe that he could be the first quarterback taken in 2014. He's a tough quarterback, does a good job of standing in the pocket and has improved his accuracy over the years. He is a proven winner at Georgia, and is a lot more athletic than most would give him credit for.
The biggest knock on Murray is the fact he stands at 6'0", but that likely isn't going to change. With the rise of the short quarterback in the NFL, it may be time for scouts to longer treat this as an issue.
Murray is an interesting prospect and is somebody who will continue to receive draft buzz as the season unfolds.
LSU defensive linemen have a solid history of performing well in the NFL, which is why you usually see a couple selected within the first two rounds. With the defensive front needing to be replaced, Anthony Johnson is that next monster defensive lineman who will make Baton Rouge proud.
At 6'3", 305 pounds, Johnson can be that guy to clog running lanes, but he brings so much more than that to the table. The reason his nickname is the "Freak", is because he was able to run a 4.8 40-yard dash at 315 pounds back in high school. His explosion off the ball and quickness to get in the backfield is something you don't see from guys with his size.
Johnson has a unique skill set that will help him carve out a nice career in the NFL.
You may not be familiar with the young man just yet, but he is now the leader of the Tigers defensive line and will become a household name sooner than later.
Alabama is a school that floods the draft pretty much every year, but it is at linebacker where former Tide players go quickly. Don't expect that to end anytime soon.
Adrian Hubbard is next in line, as he will provide a 3-4 defense at the next level with a terrific pass rusher. At 6'6", Hubbard has the unique size and speed off the edge to become a disruptive defender.
He also has good upper body strength that allows him to shed blocks, and he does a nice job of using his hands. Coming out of high school, Hubbard was compared to William Gholston due to his potential and all of the things he can do on the field.
Head coach Nick Saban hasn't let Hubbard run wild and play the position the way he is capable of, but when you turn on the tape, you can see why the Alabama linebacker is going to be drafted early. This kid has a bright future at the next level.
Dominique Easley could have left school early and would have been selected within the first three rounds. However, after a position change and more than a year removed from an ACL injury, Easley is a player who will have his stock skyrocket with a productive season.
Spending last season at defensive end, Easley will shift over to his more natural position at defensive tackle. With decent size at 280 pounds, Easley fires off the ball like he was shot out of a cannon and displays great lateral movement. He is also physical at the point of attack, due to extreme lower body strength, and he has a motor that never stops running.
You get the feeling that Easley is only scratching the surface with his potential. As long as he can remain healthy and have a better season than he did last year, the Florida defensive lineman could sneak into the first round.
NFL teams can never have enough good cornerbacks and Deion Belue has the potential to be that next great corner. Flashing positive signs all of last year, Belue will now be the top secondary player in Alabama's defensive backfield.
At 6'0", the size is there, but Belue has the instincts and the closing speed to go along with it. He does a good job of locating the football and displays above-average ball skills for a defensive player. Belue has tremendous athleticism and quickness to develop into a solid man-coverage corner, and he also shows the willingness to help out in run support.
Belue is just an athletic player, who could also eventually move to a safety spot once he continues to fill out his lengthy frame. With another year under coach Nick Saban, Belue is a prospect who should turn some heads.
Jordan Matthews is a player to pay close attention to this season. After putting the NFL on hold for a year, Matthews is looking to have another productive season for Vanderbilt and improve his draft stock along the way.
At 6'3", he has the size that NFL scouts love, but he isn't as fast as you would like to see from a receiver with his build. While he isn't freakishly athletic, he does do a nice job of catching the ball away from his body and his leaping ability allows him to win jump balls. Matthews also has experience lining up inside and outside, and he has shown he isn't afraid to go across the middle and make those tough grabs.
Athleticism or not, Matthews is a football player who has a place in the NFL. Expect him to thrive his senior season because he has the potential to be a top-five receiver.
Another Alabama linebacker?
Hey, there is a reason this program is winning national championships on a consistent basis.
If your team is looking for an outside linebacker in 2014, there may not be a better prospect than C.J. Mosley. With his size at 230-plus pounds, athleticism and high football intelligence, Mosley is the complete package at the position. Almost never out of place on the field, Mosley is a disciplined player who can fill his gap, but is also athletic enough to drop back and cover tight ends in the open field.
Mosley could have left a year early but decided to return for one last season at Alabama. He made a wise decision, as he will most likely be one of the first players selected in 2014.
The hype behind Cyrus Kouandjio is quite real. Although he is young and still has a little bit of developing to do, the reason Barrett Jones was able to play center was because Kouandjio was holding it down at left tackle.
With an absolute massive frame at 6'6", 310 pounds, Kouandjio is physical at the point of attack and simply bullies guys on the defensive front. His overwhelming strength allows him to blast open gaping running lanes, and he has shown a bit of a mean streak as well. He isn't the most athletic player in the world and doesn't possess quick feet, but his size and strength makes him a future starting offensive lineman in the NFL.
Kouandjio is somebody to keep an eye on this year and another Alabama player who will be selected rather early in the 2014 draft.
The NFL draft world was shocked when Jake Matthews announced that he was returning to school. Widely considered one of the top offensive tackles in college football, Matthews should once again be treated as a first round pick next season.
Matthews played on the right side of the line for the Aggies and showed that he is surprisingly light on his feet. Terrific in the run blocking department, Matthews has amazing technique and upper body strength to move the defender out of the way.
A guy who finishes blocks and could eventually make the switch to the left side in the NFL, Matthews is a physically imposing player who has the prototypical look of a great offensive lineman.
With all of the attention now on Matthews with Luke Joeckel no longer around, Texas A&M appears to have another great player for the NFL to snag.
There is nothing anybody can say about Jadeveon Clowney that hasn't already been said. His combination of size, athleticism and versatility not only makes him the biggest SEC draft prospect, but he should be considered the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
This is somebody who could play in the NFL right this second and would have been the top player on 2013 draft boards if he was eligible to leave school early. From his massive wingspan, to his strength and pure pass-rushing skills, Clowney has everything you look for from the position and is the most polished prospect college has seen in quite some time.
You could say that Clowney is the LeBron James of college football based off of his physical presence and the way nobody can slow him down.
As long as nothing happens injury wise to the defensive lineman, Clowney is a lock to be the first player selected next year.