Underclassman departing the SEC in record numbers

Underclassman departing the SEC in record numbers
January 21, 2014, 8:45 am
Share This Post

There were 28 underclassman from the Southeastern Conference that declared for the 2014 NFL draft. This should come as no surprise considering the amount of talent in the conference and the fact that the league puts the most players in the NFL annually.

I am OK with a kid leaving after three years in school and sometimes after just two seasons as a player. This is what coaches are selling recruits that they have the potential go to the next level if they play their cards right. There are so many five-star kids coming to the SEC now that you almost have to play them right away to get three years of mileage out of them. Redshirts seem to be for lineman and backup quarterbacks and even injured guys, but that’s it with the top programs.

The education is important and I am 100 percent behind that, but a kid can always come back and finish after his playing career in the NFL. For most kids that stay on track for three years, it’s very little schooling left to grab their degree.

Most experts say if you’re not a first- or second-round pick then you should stay in school. I think this is somewhat of an old-school thought process in today’s game.

First of all, the new CBA will not allow you to make your big contract until your second one. This is very similar to the NBA and one reason why so many guys go after one year or so in college to get their clock started for the second contract. Secondly, there are two positions where mileage can add up quickly for players.

Running backs and linebackers take the most pounding in the game of football and the life span for these two positions is much shorter than others. Very few running backs and linebackers are even going in the first round giving guys more reason just to go ahead and come out early. With the game evolving to a spread passing attack in the NFL it limits your roster to how many guys you would want to take at linebacker. With so many great finds in the late rounds and undrafted (Arian Foster) running back is less of a commodity than it was 20 years ago.

What do teams want today in the NFL?

Quarterbacks, receivers, rush ends and tackles.  Heck, you could have a seven-on-seven game with what teams really want and need in today’s NFL. Looking at the SEC it should have quite a few guys selected at these positions.

The quarterback who should go first is Johnny Manziel, but someone is going to get a good pro in Zach Mettenberger, who really developed under Cam Cameron. Mike Evans leads the way at receiver, but this is a deep and talented group.  Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jordan Matthews could go very early. Bruce Ellington and Donte Moncrief will be steals when they are drafted.

Jadeveon Clowney will be the first end taken and Jake Matthews or Greg Robinson will be the first tackle taken. So if Manziel is the first quarterback taken then you will have SEC players taken first at the four key positions in the NFL.

This and That

  • A couple of smaller defensive ends—Chris Smith of Arkansas and Dee Ford of Auburn—are having good starts to their Senior Bowl weeks. I think both are athletic enough to flourish in NFL 4-3 or 3-4 defensive schemes. Practice this week will be more valuable to these guys than the actual game, because of the amount of coaches and scouts on hand.
  • Johnny Manziel is a guy who will not be in the Senior Bowl but is creating a lot of buzz with regards to the NFL draft. I think the Texans will try to trade out of that spot because of the pressure locally to take Manziel. Teams that have a strong interest already are Oakland and Cleveland, who has two first-round picks.
  • The SEC has 31 players on the Super Bowl rosters, but none bigger than Peyton Manning.  For all the accomplishments in his career he only has one Lombardi Trophy. He is just the third quarterback to take two different teams to the Super Bowl. 

More Team Talk