No conference has produced more first-round picks (31) than the Southeastern Conference during the past four years. A team from the conference has claimed the past four national championships, supporting the widely held theory that the SEC is the most talented league in college football.
|Terrance Toliver is another addition to a recent string of talented LSU receivers. (US Presswire)|
The SEC's reputation for talented big men will only be enhanced in 2010. Half of the conference's top 10 senior NFL prospects play along the line of scrimmage, led by Ole Miss nose tackle Jerrell Powe.
While it may not surprise you to see so many talented linemen on a preseason roll call of conference elite, the fact that defending national champion Alabama has no players rated among the top 10 senior prospects might raise a few eyebrows. Don't worry too much for Nick Saban, however.
Underclassmen Marcel Dareus (defensive end), Julio Jones (wide receiver) and 2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram (running back) make his roster the most gifted in the conference.
LSU, South Carolina and Mississippi State lead the pack in 2010. A closer look at the top 10 SEC seniors eligible for the 2010 draft:
10. TE Luke Stocker, Tennessee, 6-5, 252, 4.78
NFL scouts don't worry that Stocker has produced in a career (46 for 539 yards, 6 TDs) what some tight ends might in one season. His prototypical frame and soft hands are quite evident on tape. He might lack the straight-line speed to challenge an NFL defense down the seam, but Stocker certainly could help a pro team as a security blanket over the middle.
9. ILB Kelvin Sheppard, LSU, 6-2, 245, 4.64
The Tigers' aggressive scheme has helped produce several All-SEC linebackers over the years, but few have boasted Sheppard's rare combination of size and speed. A versatile defender who lines up at inside linebacker but is agile enough to pressure off the edge as well as drop back into coverage, Sheppard enters the 2010 season graded as a potential top 75 selection by NFLDraftScout.com.
8. TE Weslye Saunders, South Carolina, 6-5, 272, 4.82
Saunders has the size scouts are looking for at tight end and he flashes the athleticism to warrant a high-round selection if he plays with more consistent effort as a senior. Like Stocker, Saunders' production (60 catches for 718 yards and six touchdowns) trails others in the conference, including senior D.J. Williams of Arkansas, but the NFL is all about upside -- and Saunders has that.
7. WR Terrance Toliver, LSU, 6-4, 206, 4.49
LSU has had six wide receivers selected in the top 100 picks of the draft since 2004 -- a total few programs can match. In Toliver, the Tigers boast yet another exciting size/speed athlete. Toliver will have to prove he can be a No. 1 target with Brandon LaFell moving on to the NFL. Some also question his maturity after an offseason arrest for fighting. Overall, scouts like his upside.
6. CB Chris Culliver, South Carolina, 6-0, 197, 4.47
Culliver earned second-team All-SEC honors at free safety last season and has already proven his athleticism while racking up 2,215 kick-return yards, the most in Gamecock history. He'll attempt to prove that his size and speed are good enough to hold up at cornerback as a senior. If successful, he might be able to significantly upgrade his preseason mid-round grade.
5. DE Pernell McPhee, Mississippi State, 6-3, 278, 4.76
McPhee signed with Mississippi State last year as one of the country's most highly touted JUCO prospects, having posted an eye-popping 33 sacks in only two seasons at Itawamba Community College. McPhee made an immediate impact for the Bulldogs with 56 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and five sacks. McPhee lacks the elite burst of the game's top pass rushers, but his size, strength and surprising technique make him one of the country's most pro-ready defensive ends.
4. OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State, 6-5, 305, 5.22
The Bulldogs haven't produced a first-round pick since 1994 when Eric Moulds and Walt Harris were selected. But McPhee and left tackle Sherrod should end that drought. Sherrod, entering his third year at the position, has the prototypical size and athleticism to remain on the blind side in the NFL. The SEC is blessed with several NFL-caliber offensive linemen. None possess greater upside as a pass blocker than Sherrod.
3. C Mike Pouncey, Florida, 6-5, 312, 5.29
Pouncey played in the shadow of his twin brother, Maurkice, his first three years at Florida. With Maurkice Pouncey moving on to the Pittsburgh Steelers via the first round of the 2010 draft, Mike shifts from right guard to take over for his brother at center. Having already earned second-team all-conference honors at guard, Mike Pouncey should continue the Pouncey tradition of earning first-team accolades in the middle -- and a potential first round selection, as well.
2. OT DeMarcus Love, Arkansas, 6-5, 315, 5.18
Protecting the blind side to star quarterback Ryan Mallett, Love emerged last year as one of the SEC's most reliable blockers. His impact on the record-breaking Razorbacks offense was recognized by conference coaches and the media with preseason second-team all-conference honors entering the 2010 season. Love projects nicely as a left tackle in the NFL, though he also has experience inside, having suited up at right guard in 11 of his 24 career starts.
1. DT Jerrell Powe, Mississippi, 6-2, 328, 5.16
Built like a Coke machine and just as tough to move off the line of scrimmage, Powe emerged as arguably the SEC's most dominant run-stuffer in 2009 although Alabama's Terrence Cody received more press. Powe was more productive (34 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, three sacks) than the Baltimore Ravens' second-round pick (28 tackles, six tackles for loss, zero sacks). With three years spent on academic suspension, Powe will enter the NFL older (24) than most rookies, but also more physically capable of making an immediate impact. Powe ultimately could end up with a similar pro grade as former Boston College star nose tackle B.J. Raji, the No. 9 overall pick of the 2009 draft by the Green Bay Packers.