The SEC dominated the nation, now it's dominating the NFL Draft
The most players to ever be selected in the first round of any NFL Draft from one conference is a massive 12 taken in 2006, from the ACC.
That class included the likes of Vernon Davis, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and No. 1-overall selection Mario Williams. Basically, the ACC had an absolute ton of talent, lost it all in one fell swoop and the league is still struggling to make it back to prominence.
Enough hating on the ACC, who enjoyed a surprisingly strong bowl season in 2012. The SEC is primed to have an extremely strong NFL Draft weekend in 2013.
Dwayne Bowe, LaRon Landry and Ben Grubbs made up part of the 11 members of the SEC who were selected in the first round in 2007, the conference record.
However, after dominating the last seven BCS National Championship games, it should come as no surprise that the SEC is sending a ton of players to the Draft's first round this year.
What is surprising is potentially how many. A whopping 21 SEC football players could potentially be selected amongst the top 32 picks come April.
Of course, not all are locks. Some are lightly locked in, others are on the bubble, and some might be left on the outside looking in -- although being taken in the second round is no small feat either.
May be on the outside looking in: Eric Reid, S, LSU Tigers
Eric Reid, a 6-foot-2, 212-pounder, is one of a record 10 Tigers leaving school a year early for the Draft. He is a hard-hitting safety who finished fourth on the team with 91 total tackles along with two interceptions.
However, teams are simply not looking for safeties this year. Texas' Kenny Vaccaro is rated higher than him, despite his abilities defending both the run and pass game. Vaccaro is probably going to be the only safety taken in the first round, most likely leaving Reid on the outside looking in.
May be on the outside looking in: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU Tigers
Kevin Minter dominated the SEC and the nation all season long. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound monster has a never-ending motor that eventually helped him collect a team-high 130 total tackles.
However, as of now he is projected as a late first round pick or early second. If Houston chooses to go with offense and take a receiver, such as USC's Robert Woods, Minter will be, yes, on the outside looking in.
May be on the outside looking in: Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama Crimson Tide
It is not every day a player comes around who has won three national titles while playing three different positions. It is not every day a player comes around who has done that while also playing in national Scrabble tournaments and enjoying time as a concert violinist.
Unfortunately, if the Packers don't take him as a replacement for Jeff Saturday at pick No. 26 (and they'll probably take a tight end instead) Jones may just find himself on the outside looking in.
May be on the outside looking in: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee Volunteers
Justin Hunter may have the numbers, but Cordarrelle Patterson is the Vols receiver seen as a first round lock. Hunter collected 73 passes for 1,083 yards, while Patterson hauled in 46 for 778. However, Patterson is seen as more physically gifted, while Hunter is seen as the more refined receiver. Teams seen to think that Patterson's ceiling is far higher than Hunter's.
My be on the outside looking in: DJ Fluker, OL, Alabama Crimson Tide
DJ Fluker is a large human bring: 6-foot-6, 335 pounds large, to be precise. He was a member of one of the most prolific offensive lines in college football history, and that exact thing may be what hinders him in the Draft. Despite his size, his knowledge of the game and incredibly technically sound footwork, his own teammates may, in fact, keep Fluker on the outside looking in.
Probable: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama Crimson Tide
Lacy was not going to be considered anywhere near the first round -- that is, until the final two weeks of his junior season. In the team's two biggest games, Lacy played big. The 6-foot, 220-pound bruiser busted out for 181 yards against Georgia in the SEC title game and another 140 against Notre Dame's previously impenetrable defense in the BCS National Championship.
With better-than-expected workouts, Pro Days, and at the Combine, Lacy can bump himself up. However, as of writing this, there is not a single running back projected to go in the first round.
Probable: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri Tigers
Richardson has all the tools to be a star. The tenacious lineman is listed at 6-foot-6 and 295 pounds and he has some real power. He finished with 74 tackles in 2012, the second-most on the team.
Seattle, Indianapolis and San Francisco all may be looking for a defensive tackle in the late first round. Pretty much all the linemen projected to go earlier are pass rushers and offensive guys.
Light Lock: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida Gators
The talent to quickly shed blockers and move up the football field is there. So is the size, at 6-foot-3 and 303 pounds. However, this is a fairly crowded class at defensive tackle. Beyond the SEC big boys, the group is headlined by Utah's Star Lotulelei. Whether or not he is taken between picks 15 and 32 will largely depend upon his pre-draft workouts. If he can out-lift, out-run or just plain old out-hustle guys like Mizzou's Sheldon Richardson and Georgia's John Jenkins, he'll be locked in.
Light Lock: Matt Elam, S, Florida Gators
The same reason LSU's Eric Reid may be left out of the first round is the same reason why All-American Gators star Matt Elam is not a total first-round lock. Teams are putting a premium on cornerstone linemen and cover corners such as Dee Milliner and Johnthan Banks.
However, that is also the reason why Elam is closer to being locked in than Reid. Elam intercepted four passes in 2012 and regularly covered wide receivers in the Gators' nickel defense. Baltimore and New England, late in the first round, would both be fantastic landing spots for him. If Ed Reed leaves the Ravens after the season, Elam is locked in.
Light Lock: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia Bulldogs
This dude's size is commensurate with his ability level. At 6-foot-3 and listed at 358 pounds, Jenkins is an impossible load for most offensive linemen to handle. He proved that throughout the 2012 season in Athens.
However, he was suspended for the team's Capital One Bowl win for academic reasons. Whether or not he is taken in the first round will depend largely upon his pre-draft interviews with those teams interested.
Lock: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama Crimson Tide
The numbers do not matter with this guy. The height doesn't matter, nor do the interceptions and passes defended.
All that matters is his strength.
Milliner was touted as the premier cover corner in all of college football and he did nothing but improve upon that notion as the season went on. While rare, Milliner may even find himself among the top five picked.
Lock: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama did not win three of the nation's four previous national titles on talent alone, but it certainly hasn't hurt.
Warmack stands in at 6-foot-3 and weighs 320 pounds, but he is light on his feet. Like the rest of Saban's linemen, his footwork is immaculate. He is the best interior offensive lineman in the draft, and could go to Tennessee as early as No. 10, but will probably drop a few spots from there and go somewhere in the teens.
Lock: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama Crimson Tide
Defensive ends are going to be at a premium this year, but there also seems to be a huge need around the league for run-stuffing defensive tackles. In spite of the shift to pass-heavy offenses, Vince Wilfork of the Patriots dominates, and now everyone wants their own copy. Williams is 6-foot-4, 320 pounds and light on his feet from his rugby days back in Australia.
Williams is behind a few other tackles, but he should not be around by the time the second round bell is rung.
Lock: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M Aggies
The lock of all locks, Joeckel won the Outland Trophy as the nation's top lineman in 2012. He protected the blindside of Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, and he has the rare combination of speed, size and strength to be the No. 1-overall pick for new coach Andy Reid at Kansas City.
Lock. Through and through.
Lock: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M Aggies
Practicing against guys like Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews every day down in College Station must have been somewhat of a benefit for the monstrous Damontre Moore.
The star Aggies defensive end made the program's move to the SEC far more successful than it may otherwise have been. He finished the year with 12.5 sacks and 21.0 tackles for a loss and once he's drafted somewhere within the top five, he will be doing the same thing at the next level.
Lock: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia Bulldogs
Jones is one of the most aggressive defensive stars to come out of college in quite some time. He can play out in space, but he is also a fantastic and relentless pass rusher. Jones led the nation with a whopping 14.0 sacks and his 24.5 tackles for a loss were also tops in the country.
Like Moore and Joeckel, Jones should not fall very far out of the top five.
Lock: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia Bulldogs
Jarvis Jones nabbed all the headlines in Athens, but Ogletree absolutely racked up the tackles. The 6-foot-3, 232-pound junior led the team with 111 tackles, showing the type of speed and aggression that translates quite simply to success at the next level.
Two teams drafting later in the first round, Baltimore and Chicago, just so happen to be looking for franchise linebackers at around the same late-20s area that Ogletree is expected to be taken.
Lock: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee Volunteers
Patterson and Justin Hunter each starred for the Vols in 2012. Outside of literally the NFL, one would be hard-pressed to find a better one-two punch in the nation. Patterson is 6-foot-3 and more than 200 pounds. He has size, speed and athletic ability to do whatever he wants on the football field.
His route-running abilities have come into question, but he slots in nicely with the Rams at No. 22.
Lock: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State Bulldogs
Banks is one of the best players to come out of Mississippi State in quite some time. He won the Jim Thorpe Award over Alabama's Dee Milliner, and if he is not taken ahead of Milliner in the draft, he will be the second corner taken off the board.
A top 15 pick is far more than reasonable for the man with 16 interceptions on his career.
Lock: Barkevious Mingo, LB/DE, LSU Tigers
Mingo headlines the nearly dozen underclassmen set to leave Baton Rouge a year early. He is not the heaviest guy out there, but at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, he is certainly big enough. And fast enough, for that matter. He is one of the top pass rushers on the board, and he brings a unique skillset in that, unlike Damontre Moore, he can play more like a linebacker despite his large stature. Look for him to go as early as No. 7 to Arizona.
Lock: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU Tigers
Montgomery is another beast out of Baton Rouge and, along with Mingo, is absolutely assured of being snapped up in the first round. He has prototypical size for a defensive end at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds with a relentless motor to boot. He tallied 13.0 tackles for a loss and 8.0 sacks on a defense where he was not featured.
He might fit quite snugly into Monte Kiffin's new defense in Dallas at No. 18, drop a bit to Cincy at No. 21, or even a bit further, but this talent is not going to last beyond the round.