What Would Happen If the SEC Held a Football Draft?

Greg Wallace@gc_wallaceFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2014

What Would Happen If the SEC Held a Football Draft?

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    There were numerous surprises surrounding the 2014 NFL draft, which unfolded over three days in New York City last weekend, but one thing was completely unsurprising: The SEC’s draft dominance.

    From South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney as the No. 1 overall selection to Missouri defensive end Michael Sam at No. 249, 49 SEC players heard their names called by NFL teams, seven more than the ACC.

    Although the league’s seven-year BCS national title streak was snapped by Florida State in January, the SEC remains the nation’s most dominant football conference. It got us thinking: What would happen if the SEC’s best talent was redistributed via a draft?

    How would such a process work? Like the NFL, we’d go worst-to-first, with Kentucky getting the first selection and SEC champion Auburn taking the No. 14 pick.

    Let’s assume that the player would be an upgrade for the team, and to make it even more interesting, let’s say that a head coach can not select one of his own current players.

    Here’s what would happen, in one observer’s eyes, if the SEC held a football draft.

No. 14 DE Trey Flowers

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    Auburn has a talented defensive line, but the Tigers have a hole at defensive end after Dee Ford declared for the draft.

    And what better way to fill it with an experienced player than to steal a player from an SEC West rival?

    Trey Flowers, a Huntsville native, comes home to the Plains.

    Flowers was not heavily recruited out of high school, but he has developed into a star at Arkansas. A year ago, Flowers, who stands 6’4”, 267 pounds, had production all over the field.

    He had 44 tackles, 13.5 for loss, five sacks, two pass breakups and an interception. He has improved despite playing for four defensive coordinators in four seasons and is an athletic force with speed.

    Arkansas went winless in SEC play last season, something that definitely won’t happen at Auburn this fall. Flowers would fit in just fine.

No. 13 WR Amari Cooper

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    With Dorial Green-Beckham’s dismissal and the graduations of Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington, new Missouri starting quarterback Maty Mauk needs targets in the pass game. Enter Amari Cooper, perhaps the SEC’s top returning receiver.

    As a freshman, Cooper had 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. His production slipped last fall due to foot injuries that forced him to sit out two games, but he still managed 736 yards and four touchdowns. And when he was on? He was ON.

    Take the Iron Bowl, for example. Who could forget his 99-yard catch-and-run touchdown down the right sideline, which showcased his impressive hands and speed that has been timed at sub-4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

    If he is healthy this fall, Cooper (who stands 6’1”, 185 pounds), should emerge as one of the nation’s best receivers. And he’d be a huge help for Missouri.

No. 12 C Reese Dismukes

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    Alabama finished 2013 in disappointing fashion following the Iron Bowl’s “Kick Six” ending and a Sugar Bowl defeat to Oklahoma. One area the Crimson Tide targeted for improvement this spring was the offensive line. And what better way to become better and more physical than to steal your chief rival’s top returning offensive lineman?

    Reese Dismukes, welcome to Tuscaloosa.

    Dismukes is one of the SEC’s best offensive linemen and has played in multiple offensive systems in his time on the Plains. But one thing is for certain: Dismukes knows how to run-block. He is a three-year starter at center and had 124 knockdowns last fall as a 6’3”, 295-pound physical force.

    In Tuscaloosa, Dismukes would shore up an offensive line with a proud tradition, even though the Tide has a returning starter in center Ryan Kelly. The Rimington Award finalist would fit in well in a pro-style offense as an instant team leader.

No. 11 S Landon Collins

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    The secondary is an area of concern for a South Carolina program that has become a national power. The Gamecocks left spring with a freshman and two sophomores joining senior safety Brison Williams atop the depth chart.

    They could use an upgrade. They could use Landon Collins.

    Collins began last season as a reserve behind Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri in Alabama’s safety corps but ended it as a blossoming star. While starting only nine games, Collins piled up 70 tackles with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

    He can play either safety role and would fit in well in Columbia ahead of free safety Chaz Elder.

    Collins is a fast, physical player who adjusted well to the faster college game. He’d be a great addition for Steve Spurrier and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward.

No. 10 QB Nick Marshall

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    With electric, do-everything Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel off to Cleveland following two collegiate seasons, Texas A&M spent spring with a quarterback competition between sophomore Kenny Hill and highly touted early enrollee Kyle Allen. Hill was suspended for a public intoxication arrest but is expected to return to compete with Allen this fall.

    But what better way to give the young quarterbacks time to mature than to bring in a veteran?

    Nick Marshall’s tour of the SEC continues, from Georgia defensive back to Auburn quarterback to College Station.

    The 6’1”, 210-pound quarterback was a revelation last fall, rushing for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns and passing for 1,976 yards and 14 touchdowns against six interceptions while leading the Tigers to an unlikely trip to the BCS national title game.

    He is not a polished passer, but is working on that this spring and will only improve. He’s also a great fit for the wide-open system that Kevin Sumlin prefers and would give the Aggies’ younger passers a chance to learn behind him.

No.9 DE Dante Fowler Jr.

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    LSU and defensive coordinator John Chavis can always use more talented defensive linemen. Defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson both left early for the NFL, and the Tigers will be breaking in new starters at both tackle spots this fall.

    Junior Danielle Hunter and senior Jermauria Rasco are the top ends coming out of spring and both are returning starters. But the Tigers could benefit from an upgrade.

    Enter Dante Fowler Jr. The junior was an impressive force last fall for Florida, making 50 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and forcing three fumbles.

    He would be a great addition to the Tigers’ defensive line, chasing down opposing quarterbacks in Death Valley.

No. 8 CB Vernon Hargreaves III

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    Vanderbilt lost starting corners Andre Hal and Steve Clarke to graduation, and its young group of corners could certainly use some help entering 2014.

    Welcome Vernon Hargreaves III. The Florida corner emerged as a true freshman to become one of the nation’s top cornerbacks last season. Hargreaves had 38 tackles with three interceptions and 14 passes defended last season, and showed he wasn't afraid of any opposing receivers.

    At 5’11”, 192 pounds, he has decent size for a corner and great speed. He would fit in well on any SEC defense, especially Vanderbilt’s. New coach Derek Mason was a defensive coordinator at Stanford, and he’d happily pluck Hargreaves from his SEC East rival to the south.

No.7 TB Mike Davis

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    While Georgia has one of the nation’s best backfields with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall (recovering from a torn ACL), let’s just assume that it would be targeted heavily in a draft of this nature.

    So Mark Richt strikes at SEC East rival Steve Spurrier by grabbing one of his best players in junior tailback Mike Davis.

    The 5’9”, 216-pound Davis, brother of former Clemson tailback James Davis, emerged as one of the SEC’s top tailbacks last fall, rushing for 1,183 yards (the fourth-highest total in USC history) and 11 touchdowns.

    He is a physical, violent runner and very difficult to bring down. He isn’t the biggest player but has good speed and is a very hard worker. He would fit in quite well between the hedges in Athens.

No. 6 LB A.J. Johnson

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    A.J. Johnson is one of the SEC’s most productive linebackers. Last fall, the 6’2”, 242-pounder piled up 106 tackles, 8.5 for loss, with a fumble recovery and three quarterback hurries.

    He was a 2013 first-team All-SEC selection and considered going to the NFL, but decided to return for his senior season.

    Now, he’ll do so in Oxford. Hugh Freeze plucks Johnson away from Rocky Top and brings him to the Grove, pairing him with senior Denzel Nkemdiche to make an already solid Ole Miss defense even better. The Rebels would be a handful for opposing offenses with Johnson in the middle.

No. 5 OT Laremy Tunsil

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    Last fall, Ole Miss had one of the its best offenses ever, producing the most total yards in school history, averaging 473.3 yards per game. A big reason why was the Rebels’ offensive line, anchored by true freshman left tackle Laremy Tunsil.

    The 6’5”, 315-pound road grader was a menace for opposing defensive ends, allowing only one sack all season long.

    Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen surely got a good look at him in the Egg Bowl, so he would pluck Tunsil from his in-state rival to shore up his own offensive line.

    The Bulldogs’ line is solid, but is replacing a pair of starters, including right tackle Charles Siddoway. Blaine Clausell is a returning starter at left tackle, but he could slide over to the right side to make room for a talent like Tunsil. The draft giveth, Hugh Freeze, and the draft taketh away.

No. 4 S Cody Prewitt

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    Tennessee’s secondary was much improved in 2013, ranking No. 27 nationally in pass defense. But the Vols finished 5-7, and a young group could certainly improve, even with returning starters Brian Randolph (75 tackles, four interceptions as a junior) and LaDarrell McNeil (54 tackles, one interception as a sophomore) returning as starting safeties.

    How? How about adding Cody Prewitt? The 6’2”, 212-pound senior had an outstanding junior season for Ole Miss, making 71 tackles with six interceptions and earning first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press, USA Today and Lindy’s.

    Prewitt plays all over the field and is an excellent tackler who hits like a Mack truck. He’d be a great addition for a defense trying to take the next step forward this fall and a leader for the Vols’ secondary.

No. 3 LB Ramik Wilson

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    Florida struggled to a 4-8 record in 2013, although it certainly wasn't the defense’s fault. Outside linebacker Ronald Powell was impressive, making 84 tackles, 19 for loss, with 11 sacks and proving he was healthy following a pair of ACL tears. He declared early for the NFL, leaving Florida to fill his role with a pair of players (Matt Rolin and Jeremi Powell) who are themselves coming off ACL tears.

    Antonio Morrison, Michael Taylor, Jarrad Davis and Daniel McMillian make a solid group of linebackers, but a replacement for Powell would make it complete.

    So Will Muschamp grabs one of his rival’s best players in linebacker Ramik Wilson with the No. 3 pick.

    Wilson emerged as an inside linebacker threat for Georgia last season, making 128 tackles, four sacks and 11 tackles for loss. He played inside for the Bulldogs but has pass-rush skills and would certainly make an already good Florida defense even better.

No. 2 TB T.J. Yeldon

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    Suggesting Bret Bielema’s first season in Arkansas was rough would be an understatement.

    The Razorbacks started 3-0, but didn’t win another game the rest of the way, losing nine consecutive games to finish with a 3-9 record. One bright spot was at tailback: Alex Collins rushed for 1,026 yards as a freshman and sophomore Jonathan Williams contributed 900.

    However, Bielema loves big, physical tailbacks, and one of the nation’s best is Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon, who stands 6’2”, 218 pounds, rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore and will be one of the nation’s best tailbacks this fall.

    Yeldon is a bruising, physical back who also has breakaway speed. Paired with Collins and Williams, he’d give Arkansas a three-headed monster that could surely improve its lot in the ultra-tough SEC West.

No. 1 TB Todd Gurley

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    Remember how Mark Richt plucked Mike Davis from South Carolina earlier in our draft? There was a good reason for that. He knew he’d be losing Todd Gurley. Gurley stands 6’1”, 232 pounds and is one of the nation’s best all-around tailbacks. As a freshman, he rushed for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns. Last fall, he missed three games with an ankle injury, but still rushed for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    He has excellent power and speed and is a highly dynamic force between the lines, capable of breaking any carry for a long touchdown.

    Last fall, freshman Jojo Kemp led Kentucky with 482 yards rushing and three touchdowns, leading a backfield by committee. Could the Wildcats use Gurley? Yes. Yes they could.