First Round of NFL Draft Could go to the Dawgs
Just in case there was any doubt, the Southeastern Conference continues to lead the way when it comes to developing the best and brightest future NFL players.
According to the NFL Draft betting odds, it is expected once again that there will be more SEC players taken in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft than any other conference.
Here is a conference-by-conference look at the likely first-round picks. The Big 12 is not included because Iowa State running back Breece Hall is likely to be the only conference player to go in the opening round if a team opts to go with a running back that early.
There will be plenty of products from outside the Power-5 conferences to hear their names called on April 28, the first night of this year’s NFL Draft. Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning and Liberty quarterback Malik Willis lead that list when looking at the NFL Draft picks by school.
Atlantic Coast Conference
This is a case where quality wins over quantity.
Three ACC players have a chance of going in the top 10 beginning with North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu who may be the first offensive player selected according to the NFL Draft betting odds.
There are some who suggest that former Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is the best player in the draft. The only drawback for Hamilton is that the safety position is often undervalued when it comes to the top half of the first round. Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson had a huge season for the Seminoles after transferring from Georgia.
Three pass rushers figure to go in the top 10 and there is a chance that Johnson makes it four.
Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett is vying with Malik Willis out of Liberty to be the first quarterback chosen. If Pickett is selected where he is ranked by many NFL draft insiders, that would put him in the bottom half of the first round. However, quarterbacks tend to go higher than their draft ranking and a quarterback-needy team might pull the trigger on selecting Pickett much earlier than that.
The over/under on ACC players going in the first round is 4.5. For that to happen, Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth or Boston College interior offensive lineman Zion Johnson would have to go into the first round.
Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson is considered to be the best prospect in the draft and the edge rusher figures to go to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 1 overall pick. Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave could be among the first receivers to be selected.
Penn State’s Jahan Dotson is another former Big Ten receiver with a decent chance to go in the first round. Purdue’s George Karlaftis and Minnesota’s Boye Mafe are under-the-radar edge rushers who likely will go either late in the first round or early in the second. Michigan safety Dax Hill, Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker, Iowa interior offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum and Penn State edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie are players with a chance to be taken on the first night of the draft.
With nine Big Ten products rated among NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah’s top 32 players, the over/under number of 6.5 first-round picks from the Big Ten seems a little on the low side.
Not long ago, it appeared as if the NFL Draft betting odds had Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux as the favorite to the first player taken in the draft. His stock has fallen and now there is a chance he won’t even be the top pick out of the Pac-12 Conference.
Southern California receiver Drake London could earn that title if at least one NFL team thinks he has the speed necessary to be a No. 1 receiver at the professional level. Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd is another dynamic playmaker out of the Pac-12, but linebackers who aren’t projected to be elite pass rushers can tumble a bit on draft night.
Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie has different projected landing spots depending on which mock draft you want to believe. He will go in the first round, but could slip into the second half of the round.
There’s a major drop-off after those four, which makes the over/under total of Pac-12 first-round picks of 4.5 a little bit of a risky play for those who pick the over. The player who will decide on whether that falls over or under figures to be Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon.
The over/under on SEC products being selected in the first round is 10.5. It only seems as if 10 of those could be from Georgia. Six of the players in the top 50 draft prospects according to Jeremiah played for the Bulldogs a season ago and six are defensive players.
Travon Walker has passed teammate Jordan Davis, LSU cornerback Derek Stingley, Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal and receiver Jameson Williams as the SEC player most likely to be the first one off the board. The defensive lineman is showing up as high as No. 2 in the mock drafts.
There are 10 SEC players receiving first-round grades from Jeremiah, a former NFL scout. Just missing the cut are Georgia linebacker Quay Walker (No. 33), Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral (No. 35), Alabama linebacker Christian Harris (No. 39) and Georgia safety Lewis Cine (No. 46). If any of them sneak into the first round, that would make 11 SEC players taken in the first 32 picks.
When it comes to the 2022 NFL Draft picks by school, nobody is coming close to Georgia. Walker, Davis and Nakobe Dean rank sixth, seventh and 13th according to Jeremiah. Defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt is 20th, followed by Walker and Cine. Draft night could only further the case that the 2021 Georgia defense was one of the best in college football history.