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2017 NFL Draft Conference Preview: SEC

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Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the offseason is lulling us all to sleep, I wanted to shake everyone a bit and remind y'all that the NFL draft cycle is, somehow, always around the corner. After a two year hiatus, the SEC got back to winning the national championship behind the force of a stacked Alabama roster (shocking). Despite the SEC losing a ton of quality talent to the 2016 NFL draft including first round picks Laquon Treadwell, Vernon Hargreaves, Ryan Kelly and Leonard Floyd, the conference looks to still have a bevy of guys who will contend to hear their names called on day one of the draft in less than a year.

Quarterback

Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee: To be frank, while the SEC is loaded across the board for talent, the quarterback position has always been a spot where the conference leaves a lot to be desired. This year looks to be no different, with no quarterback who blows me away playing in the conference. However, there is a lot to like in Tennessee's senior quarterback, Joshua Dobbs. Dobbs, albeit a bit small (6-3, 205), is an incredibly cerebral passer who works the middle of the field with precision and accuracy. Dobbs move in the pocket well and has dynamic athletic ability to create plays with his feet. Right now, he has the skill set of high end game managing quarterback, a la Alex Smith. However, if he can improve his arm strength and increase efficiency on plays down the field, there is a lot to be excited about with Dobbs.

Second Team: Chad Kelly, Ole Miss

Running Back

Nick Chubb, UGA and Leonard Fournette, LSU

Unsurprisingly, the SEC is absolutely loaded at the running back position. However, it was not hard to choose the top two backs in the conference with Nick Chubb and Leonard Fournette. Chubb suffered a horrific knee injury last season, so a lot is riding on how he recovers, but at full stop, Chubb is outstanding. Chubb possesses ideal size at 5-10, 220 pounds and runs with excellent strength and pad level. Chubb has great vision, can create yardage and is a very good athlete to top it off. Once again, a lot depends on his health, but Chubb has the makings of a complete running back prospect.

Fournette dominated the SEC last season, positing an incredible stretch of games that made the world question why he wasn't already in the NFL despite being only 19 years old. Of course, Fournette came down to earth a bit later in the season. However, that does not diminish Fournette's incredible skill set. He has tremendous natural power, incredible burst and long speed that will leave whole teams in the dust. Fournette is not a perfect prospect, as he has issues creating behind the line of scrimmage and has below average change of direction ability that may diminish his ceiling on a given play. It is nitpicking, a bit, with a freak athlete like Fournette and those who liked/loved Derrick Henry last season (Me) should have no qualms about Fournette being called a first round caliber player.

Second Team: Sony Michel, Georgia and Jalen Hurd, Tennessee

Wide Receivers

Fred Ross, Mississippi State and Malachi Dupre, LSU

Despite the presence of De'Runnya Wilson, Fred Ross was the most prolific receiver on the Bulldogs this passed season. The 6-2, 210 pound receiver may have the build of a possession receiver, but he moves more like a slot receiver. He has very good quickness, is a solid route runner with good hands and can create after the catch. Ross is not an elite athlete, but he can scoot for his size. With Wilson now off the team, Ross is likely to get many more targets next season and could be one of the more productive receivers in the country.

LSU is one of the most talented teams in the country, yet seems to be held back by underwhelming quarterback play. One of the many players whose production suffers is wideout Malachi Dupre. Dupre has a great frame with long arms that he uses very well at the catch point and possesses good quickness and speed for his size. He tracks the ball very well in the air, which makes him an asset in tight spaces. He could stand to add some size to his frame and hopefully see if he can maintain his athleticism at a heavier weight, but Dupre should be in for a nice year if quarterback Brandon Harris can improve just a little bit.

Second Team: Travin Dural, LSU and Drew Morgan, Arkansas

Tight End

OJ Howard, Alabama

OJ Howard single handedly destroyed the Clemson defense in the National Championship and was a huge part of Alabama reclaiming the College Football title. The 6-6, 245 pound tight end has incredible speed for any player, let alone a tight end, and is also a very adept route runner. He utilization has been a bit underwhelming during his career, but the National Title was a look at what he can do as a primary target in an offense. Hopefully he sees that same kind of usage his senior season at Alabama because Howard has no limit to what kind of player he can be.

Second Team: Evan Engram, Ole Miss

Offensive Tackle

Cam Robinson, Alabama and David Sharpe, Florida

Cam Robinson has been the man on the Alabama offensive line since stepping onto the field as a freshman two years ago. The 6-6, 330 pound lineman has incredible size, length and strength with the movement skills of a player 30 pounds lighter. Robinson battled through some injuries this past season, but he still managed to be one of the best linemen in the country. He needs to work through slight inconsistencies in terms of pad level and hand placement, but his issues have been largely overblown due to the microscope he's under. Robinson has all the makings of the next great offensive line prospect.

Sharpe played a big part in the revitalization of the Florida offense last season. Sharpe is a hulking 6-6 and weighs nearly 350 pounds. He is not a great mover, but his size, strength and nasty style make him a load for defensive linemen to handle. His technique needs to be more consistent, especially since he doesn't have the great athletic ability to cover up for technical mistakes, but Sharpe has the sir to play in the NFL.

Second Team: Christian Morris, Ole Miss and Dan Skipper, Arkansas

Offensive Guard

Greg Pyke, UGA and Alex Kozan, Auburn

Greg Pyke is an old school, SEC guard. The 6-6, 325 pounder has great strength and is nasty as hell. He plays with a solid base, excellent technique and a constant drive. He is not a great athlete, but is perfect as a phone booth blocker. While he won't blow anyone away athletically, Pyke looks like a future longterm NFL starter.

Alex Kozan is a bit different, weighing nearly 30 pounds less and measuring a bit shorter, but Kozan is a different type of player. The long time Auburn starter is a very good athlete who plays with great awareness in space and uses very good angles to help pave the way as a blocker. Kozan isn't overwhelming as a blocker in terms of strength, usually relying on timing and positioning to win at the college level. I want to see him add strength to his game before I am totally comfortable with calling him a high level guard prospect.

Second Team: Braden Smith, Auburn and Josh Boutte, LSU

Center

Ethan Pocic, LSU

If Ethan Pocic had decided to declare early for the NFL draft, I am confident in saying he would have been the second best offensive lineman in the class behind Laremy Tunsil. Pocic played a massive part in Leonard Fournette's dominant sophomore season. Pocic is humongous for a center, towering over defenders at 6-7 and 330 pounds with massively long arms. Despite his height, Pocic maintains excellent pad level and has dominant strength. He moves very well and is an incredibly sound and aggressive player. Obviously the league doesn't heavily value centers the way they do with tackles, but Pocic could easily be a top 20 pick next season, even as a center.

Second Team: Jon Toth, Kentucky

Interior Defensive Line

Caleb Brantley, UF and Davon Godchaux, LSU

The Florida Gators fielded one of the best defenses in college football last year a nd a big reason for that was Caleb Brantley making a mess up front for the Gators. Brantley is a load at 6-2, 314 pounds and has a strong lower body. He plays with great explosion for a player his size and has a ton of violence to his game. He might not be the sexy, penetrating defensive tackle that folks are looking for, but he is a gritty player who can make defensive players around him better.

Davon Godchaux is a bit different as he is more apt to shoot gaps and create quick pressure. The 6-4, 295 pound player has good quickness, plays with great leverage and is an aware player. He is going to need to be able to play the run more constantly and work on his strength, but Godchaux at the least looks like an interior rusher for NFL sub packages.

Second Team: Montravius Adams, Auburn and Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama

Edge Defender

Myles Garrett, Texas A&M and Carl Lawson, Auburn

Myles Garrett has been a star at Texas A&M ever since stepping onto campus their as a highly touted recruit. The 6-5, 250 pound pass rushing specialist has insane speed and agility off the edge and can wreak havoc on an offense. Garrett is a truly special athlete who is a lot more developed as a pass rusher than a 20 year old should be. Garrett could stand to add some weight to his frame to help him against the run, but the Aggie has all the makings of an NFL star.

Like Garrett, Carl Lawson was a highly touted recruit and also like Garrett, Lawson is a freak athlete. Lawson was maybe the only pass rusher I saw at the college level actually mess with Laremy Tunsil, who was just a first round pick and Lawson did a lot more damage across the SEC besides just Tunsil. Lawson has the talent of a top five pick, but it will be imperative for him to stay healthy after being knicked up for much of his college career.

Second Team: Jonathan Allen and Tim Williams, Alabama

Linebacker

Reuben Foster, Alabama, Kendell Beckwith, LSU and Jarrad Davis, Florida

While Reggie Ragland got the headlines among the Alabama linebackers, Reuben Foster had plenty of moments where he looked the better player. The former top recruit has incredible athletic ability that makes him an asset on third downs and his range when attacking the line of scrimmage is dynamic. Foster plays a bit unhinged and lacks the nuance that mate Ragland such a good college player (and a second round pick), but he absolutely has a much higher ceiling.

Kendell Beckwith was moved around a bit during his career at LSU and his time he spent playing on the defensive line seems to have translated into him being an incredibly physical linebacker. Beckwith is great working through traffic and he is also very adept in coverage. While he doesn't seem to be an elite athlete, his physicality and smarts will make him a valuable player at the next level.

Another piece of Florida's great defense was their rangy and feisty linebacker, Jarrad Davis. Davis is undersized at 6-2 and 230 pounds, but he makes up for it with outstanding athletic ability. Davis flies around the second level of a defense, making plays against the run and the pass. He can take himself out of position sometimes with his aggressiveness, but he is a true playmaker on defense. It will be important for him to land on a defense where he can play from the weak side and use his athleticism to make plays, but I see him having a bright NFL future.

Second Team: Jalen Reeves Maybin, Tennessee, Davin Bellamy, UGA and Richie Brown Mississippi State.

Cornerback

Jalen Tabor, Florida and Marlon Humphrey, Alabama

Last draft, the Florida Gators put Vernon Hargreaves into the first round and in 2017 they very well could put another corner back on day one. Tabor is not as refined as Hargreaves was coming out, but Tabor possesses impressive athletic ability and a great mean streak. He has natural movement skills and is very physical at the line and with the ball in the air. If he can clean up his technique and play with a bit more awareness, he may end up being a better prospect than his former teammate.

With so many big names on the Alabama defense, Marlon Humphrey didn't get nearly as much recognition as he deserved. The 6-1 cornerback has impressive size and length that make him a prototype for outside corners in today's NFL. He plays with very good physicality and is good in man coverage. He will need to refine a lot of his technical ability, including his backpedal, coming into the NFL, but there is no doubt Humphrey has a skill set that screams first round pick.

Second Team: Tredavious White, LSU and Cam Sutton, Tennessee

Safety

Jamaal Adams, LSU and Eddie Jackson, Alabama

Jamaal Adams might be the best defensive back in the country. The 6-1, 215 pound athletic freak is a missile on the back end of the LSU defense. He has tremendous range for his size and he is a monster against the run. His athletic ability makes him versatile in terms of what he could do at the next level, but I would stick him at strong safety and let him intimidate underneath.

Eddie Jackson, Alabama

Eddie Jackson had a tumultuous career at Alabama as a cornerback before making the shift to safety before his junior season. That move likely saved his career as he posted an incredible season playing on the back end of the Alabama defense. The 6-0, 195 pound safety has very good range and sees the field incredibly well. Jackson has great ball skills and is a good athlete who can be playmaker at safety. If Jackson continues his success, he will have gone from a liability at cornerback to a possible top 50 pick at safety.

Second Team: Marcus Maye, Florida and Dominik Sanders, UGA