Here is my early look at the top junior and senior prospects in the SEC for the 2015 NFL Draft.
1. Cedric Ogbuehi — Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Cedric has played in the shadow of Jake Matthews and Luke Joeckel at A&M, but with a strong senior season he has a shot to be a top-5 pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
The 6-4 ¾, 305 pounder has started at both guard and tackle for the Aggies during his career.
What I really like about Ogbeuhi is his foot quickness, his ability to adjust quickly to a move and countermove of a defensive lineman and he is a very physical run blocker at the point of attack.
Cedric has star qualities to his overall game.
2. Todd Gurley — Halfback, Georgia
It is rare that I would rate a halfback a 1st round choice in today’s world of college football, but Gurley is a cut-above and the most dominant rushing force in college football when healthy.
Gurley has a rare combination of size, foot speed, make-you-miss skills and 1st rate field vision. While he has been nicked up some by injuries the 6-1, 230 pounder has rushed for 2,374 yards, averaged 6.1 yards per carry and scored 27 TD’s in his first two seasons of college football.
Gurley is also a very good pass receiver and he has caught 53 passes coming out of the backfield at Georgia.
If he can stay healthy Gurley has a chance to be a top-15 selection in 2015.
3. Landon Collins — Strong Safety, Alabama
The 6-0, 215 pound Collins was regarded as the top safety prospect in the nation when he came out of Dutchtown High School in Louisiana and last season he became quite an impact performer for the Tide.
Collins was in on 70 tackles-2nd best on the team, 4 tackles for losses, 6 pass break-ups and 2 pass interceptions as a sophomore.
He is a very physical player in run support, Landon has excellent football instincts, a sure openfield tackler and he really excels in the coverage part of the game.
5. Amari Cooper — Wide Receiver, Alabama
The running game is always mentioned when you talk about Alabama football, but Amari Cooper is one of the top WR. prospects in the nation.
The 6-1,205 pound speedster was ranked one of the top wide receiver prospects in the Deep South when he came out of Northwestern High School in Florida and he has lived up to his lofty prep clippings.
As a freshman he caught 59 passes for 1,000 yards and 11 TD’s.
Last season the fleet-footed end caught 45 passes for 736 yards and 4 scores.
Cooper has really upgraded his route running skills and his ability to get into and out of cuts and breaks quickly.
He is a big-play threat and very effective catching the short pass and breaking out into open field.
6. Dante Fowler, Jr. — Defensive End, Florida
Fowler was rated amongst the top defensive end prospects in the nation when he came out of Lakewood Senior High School in Florida and he is starting to live up to those lofty press clippings. The super quick edge rusher has racked up 18 ½ tackles for losses and 6 QB. sacks in his first two seasons in college football.
Watch for a breakout year in 2014. Fowler has 1st rate initial quickness and speed off the snap and he has developed a very physical nature to go along with his athleticism/speed traits. The 6-3, 278 pounder has developed good leverage skills and the ability to come off of a block in a quick fashion.
7. Benardrick McKinney — Outside Linebacker, Mississippi State
The 6-4 ½, 238 pounder has developed into one of the stellar defensive players in the SEC. McKinney, a former prep QB. and standout basketball player racked up 102 tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2012. Last season the speedy OLB. totaled a team-high 71 tackles, 7 tackles for losses and 3 ½ QB. sacks.
Benardrick has developed a nice set of moves and countermoves to defeat his opponent at the point of attack and he has 1st rate instincts to track down the ballcarrier in run defense.
8. La’el Collins — Offensive Tackle, LSU
Collins was regarded as one of the top prep offensive tackles in the nation when he came out of Redemptorist High School in Louisiana.
In 2013 everyone saw his dominant play as a run blocker and most of the big yardage totaled by Jeremy Hill was run toward Collins’ side of the field.
The 6-4 ¾, 315 pounder, who has started at both left guard and left tackle at LSU, is a very physical player at the point of attack and he gets a strong initial surge with his run blocks.
La’el needs some work on refining his pass blocking skills and techniques, but NFL scouts will love his bulk strength, his long arms and his ability to steer defenders away from his QB.. Collins has a strong shot to be the first LSU offensive lineman selected in Round One since Alan Faneca back in 1998.
9. Jordan Jenkins — Outside Linebacker, Georgia
If you are looking for a breakout star in the SEC defensively in 2014 look no farther than Jordan Jenkins.
The 6-3, 245 pounder was regarded as one of the elite defensive players in the Deep South when he came out of Harris County High School in Georgia and last season Jenkins emerged as quite a force for the Bulldogs.
Jenkins started 13 games and racked up 45 tackles, 12 tackles for losses and he forced one fumble. Jenkins also totaled 23 QB. hurries and 5 QB. sacks in 2013.
As a freshman in 2012 he totaled 5 QB. sacks.
Jenkins is aggressive, tough in run support and a sure openfield tackler. He is still learning the finer points of using his arms and hands to get around O-Linemen to rush the QB. better, but athletically he has all the tools to become a signature player in the SEC.
10. Ramik Wilson — Inside Linebacker, Georgia
While Jenkins is Mr. Outside Linebacker for the Bulldogs, Wilson is Mr. Inside.
The rugged 6-2, 235 pounder led the SEC in total tackles in 2013 with 133 and he also totaled 11 tackles for losses. Wilson is a very instinctive player, very physical at the point of attack, rarely out of position and a sure openfield tackler.
The former prep tight end also is good in the coverage part of the game and he had 3 pass break-ups in 2013.
In many ways he reminds me of a bigger and more athletic version of what the LSU Tigers had in Kevin Minter, who is now with the Arizona Cardinals.
11. Trey Flowers — Defensive End, Arkansas
The Arkansas defense was not a good unit in 2013, but one young man who stood out was defensive end Trey Flowers.
The 6-4, 268 pounder from Columbia High School in Alabama has emerged as one of the most consistent and feared edge rushers in the SEC.
Last season Flowers racked up 44 tackles, 13 ½ tackles for losses, 5 QB. sacks and he forced 3 fumbles.
In 2012 Flowers recorded 50 tackles, 13 tackles for losses and 6 QB. sacks.
Trey has a very quick initial surge off the snap and he turns the corner sharply when getting penetration from the edge. The former prep basketball standout has learned how to use his arms and hands effectively to get around opposing offensive tackles.
He is also a good run defender and with some added weight and strength Flowers has a strong shot to again be a defensive standout for the Hogs in 2014.
12. Denzel Devall — Outside Linebacker, Alabama
Just watching this young man play last season you can tell he has “special” qualities coming off the edge.
Devall was one of the top rated defensive ends in the state of Louisiana when he came out of Bastrop High School and he has quickly picked up the outside linebacker slot.
Last season the 6-2, 252 pounder racked up 30 tackles, 5 tackles for losses, 3 QB. sacks and he forced 2 fumbles as a sophomore.
He has just scratched the surface of his potential as a prospect and few can match his physicality, speed, quickness off the edge and instincts to track down plays.
Devall is a stud football player and will be something to watch in 2014.
13. Trey DePriest — Inside Linebacker, Alabama
C.J. Mosley was a tremendous football player for the Tide, but Trey DePriest is a really fine football player also.
Trey has started the past two seasons inside for the Tide after they pulled him away from Ohio State and the other schools in the heart of the country at Springfield High Schoolin Ohio.
In 2013 DePriest recorded 65 tackles, 7 ½ tackles for losses, 2 QB. sacks, 1 pass interception and he forced 2 fumbles.
The 6-2, 244 pounder is instinctive, rarely takes a false step to the football and he is a very aggressive and physical openfield tackler.
Trey has worked hard to develop better coverage skills and now he is the leader of the Tide defense for 2014.
His size, speed to the quarterback, quick instinct skills and production catch your eyes in a fast manner.
14. A.J. Cann — Offensive Guard, South Carolina
Left tackle Corey Robinson is the “potential” guy on the left side, but the most dominant player on the Gamecock offensive line and the best guard in the SEC is A.J. Cann.
The 6-3 ½, 320 pounder has been a dominant player upfront for the past three seasons for South Carolina.
Tough, physical, a roadgrader as a run blocker and a very good pass protector has made the former standout at Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School in South Carolina one of the most coveted senior guards for the pro ranks.
I love his ability to move people off the line of scrimmage and he does a fine job finishing off his blocks. Cann has made great improvements as a pass protector and has learned how to use his arms and hands so well in protecting the QB..
Keep an eye on #50, he is something special as an interior offensive lineman.
15. T.J. Yeldon — Halfback, Alabama
The former Mr. Football in the state of Alabama has become one of the top rushers in college football.
The 6-1 ¾, 220 pounder rushed for 1,108 yards and scored 12 rushing touchdowns as a true freshman.
In 2013 Yeldon rushed for 1,235 yards, averaged 6.0 yards per carry and scored 14 rushing TD’s.
He also caught 20 passes coming out of the backfield as a sophomore and he is a sure-handed target out in the flat.
Yeldon runs with a straight-up style and he takes some nasty hits, but he is shifty in space, has another gear to kick into when out in the open and he has excellent field vision.
Yeldon also has a nose for the goalline and he has really improved his pass blocking skills.
T.J. will lay the ball on the turf too much for a player with his skills and he will have to share the ball more in 2014 with Derrick Henry, but his all-purpose skills and hard-charging style will get him picked early in 2015.
16. Corey Robinson — Offensive Tackle, South Carolina
Left tackles and good ones are hard to find at the college and professional level. South Carolina’s Corey Robinson has the skills to be one of those top-flight left tackles for the pros.
At 6-7 ½, 340 pounds Robinson is a $28.50 cab ride to get around and he has developed very good pass blocking techniques. Corey is also a real roadgrader as a run blocker due to his massive frame, but you would love to see him develop a real mean streak as a run blocker to finish off his blocks better.
While he did see some work along the defensive line for the Gamecocks earlier in his college career it is obvious that Robinson will be one of the most closely watched SEC offensive linemen by scouts in 2014.
While A.J. Cann is the more established performer and the more productive player at the college level Robinson is the “potential” guy upfront for the pros.
The duo of Robinson and Cann form the best left side in the SEC for 2014.
17. Sammie Coates — Wide Receiver, Auburn
The 6-1 ½, 205 pound end is one of the most physical and one of the top big-play athletes at wide receiver in the SEC and the country.
Last season Coates caught a team-high 38 passes for 841 yards, averaged an eye-popping 22.1 yards per catch and 7 of those catches went for TD’s.
NFL teams will love his good size, foot speed, run after catch skills and he is aggressive going after the football in a crowd.
The former prep standout from LeRoy High School in Alabama had 14 catches last season of 30-plus yards.
He is a big play athlete and one that can blow the top of deep coverage.
18. Shane Ray — Defensive End, Missouri
Last season Michael Sam and Kony Ealy got most of the ink as “pressure” people forMissouri, but this season watch for the 6-3, 250 pounder to blossom into one of the top edge rushers in the SEC.
Shane’s dad, Wendell, was a standout DL. for Missouri-who also went on to play for the Minnesota Vikings.
Shane was regarded as one of the elite defensive end prospects in the nation when he came out of Bishop Miege High School in Missouri.
Last season Ray was in on 39 tackles, 9 tackles for losses, 11 QB. hurries and 4 ½ QB. sacks.
While he lacks great bulk, Shane’s speed, edge quickness and closing pass rush skills are eye-catching. Ray and Markus Golden give Missouri quite a pass rush coming from the corners.
19. Danielle Hunter — Defensive End, LSU
If there was a defensive football player that really stood out for the Tigers in the spring of 2014 it was defensive end Danielle Hunter.
The 6-5, 250 pounder was almost impossible to block at times and he flashed the pass rush skill set that could make him one of the most dominant edge rushers in the SEC in 2014.
Last season the Morton Ranch High School in Texas standout recorded 57 tackles, 8 tackles for losses, 3 QB. sacks and 5 QB. hurries.
NFL teams will love his length, quickness off the snap, the ability to use his arms and hands effectively to defeat his opponent and closing speed to the quarterback.
He also is very effective against the run and he has 1st rate chasedown skills from the backside.
20. Cody Prewitt — Free Safety, Ole Miss
Cody became the first Ole Miss Rebel safety since 1973 to win 1st team All-American honors in 2013.
Prewitt is a terrific athlete with excellent centerfielder skills, he is tough in run support, a sure openfield tackler and he has sure hands for the interception.
Prewitt also has excellent foot speed and recovery ability on the deeper throws.
The former running back at Sylva Bay Academy in Mississippi registered 71 tackles, 4 ½ tackles for losses, 6 pass interceptions and 7 pass break-ups in 2013.
The 6-1 ½, 210 pounder is one of the elite free safeties in college football today.
21. Jalen Mills — Free Safety, LSU
The 6-1, 190 pounder from DeSoto High School in Texas started 13 games at cornerback as a true freshman for the Tigers in 2013.
With Rashard Robinson and Tre’Davious White coming to LSU in 2013 Mills was moved to the safety spot and he struggled a bit in transition.
But his size, speed, cover skills, range and the ability to track the football in flight quickly will make 2014 a breakout season for the speedy Mills.
I love defensive backs with quick twitch skills and coverage ability because that is where the game is headed today and Mills has those type skills to be an early round pick in 2015.
22. D’Haquille Williams — Wide Receiver, Auburn
The 6-2, 215 pound end has not taken a snap at the major college level, but he was the most physically gifted WR. I have ever seen come out of the Louisiana high school ranks and that would include Reggie Wayne, the late Chris Henry, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham.
In 2012 at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Williams caught 67 passes for 1,295 yards and 17 TD’s.
In 2013 he caught 51 passes for 733 yards and 9 scores.
The former East St. John High School standout is a physical end with excellent eye-hand coordination, he will battle for the football in a crowd and he has the foot speed to race away from defenders.
If he is focused and works at perfecting his craft he could well be the top wide receiver in the SEC by season’s end. Like another Auburn standout in Greg Robinson watch what type impact Williams will make for Auburn late in the year.
23. A.J. Johnson — Inside Linebacker, Tennessee
The 6-2, 245 pounder from Gainesville High School in Georgia has been a starter since his freshman season for the Vols.
The former Georgia Class AAA has totaled 324 tackles and 21 1/2 tackles for losses for Tennessee during his three-year career.
In many ways Johnson reminds me of former Florida All-SEC and current Buffalo Bills inside linebacker Brandon Spikes.
Johnson is instinctive, he has a knack for getting around heavy traffic out on the field, is physical at the point of attack and he is a sure openfield tackler.
Johnson needs to improve his pass coverage skills and drop techniques, but he is a major league thumper at middle linebacker and a force against the run.