VOL. 133 | NO. 87 | Tuesday, May 1, 2018
SEC and Alabama Again Dominate NFL Draft
By Don Wade
The dominance of SEC football might come into question on a particular Saturday or during a specific postseason. But not during the NFL Draft as general managers time and again treat the league as the next-closest thing to pro football.
This year NFL teams drafted 53 SEC players, including a dozen from the football factory known as the University of Alabama. It marked the 12th straight year that the SEC has led the nation in picks.
The SEC did not have a player taken in the first seven overall picks, but when the Chicago Bears selected Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith eighth overall it was the first of 10 first-round picks from the league.
Four Crimson Tide players went in the first round: defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick (11) to Miami, defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne (13) to Washington, linebacker Rashaan Evans (22) to the Tennessee Titans, and wide receiver Calvin Ridley (26) to Atlanta.
Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley went in the first round to Atlanta. (Associated Press file photo)
No surprise here, but the Power 5 schools led in NFL Draft picks. After the SEC’s 53 players, the ACC was second with 45, the Big 10 had 33, the Pac-12 had 30 and the Big 12 had 20. The American Athletic Conference was next with 18 and that total included University of Memphis receiver Anthony Miller in the second round to the Bears and linebacker Genard Avery in the fifth round to Cleveland.
The Tennessee Vols had three players drafted but none went as high as Miller (51st overall). Safety Rashaan Gaulden went in the third round to Carolina, running back John Kelly in the sixth round to the Los Angeles Rams, and defensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie in the sixth round to Kansas City.
Kahlil’s father, Reggie McKenzie, is general manager of the Chiefs’ biggest rival: the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders’ Twitter account had fun with it, posting: “Well, this is awkward …”
The son had his fun, too, telling media that he told his dad: “I can’t wait to whip up on you twice this year and the next year and the next year and the next year after that. We’re a competitive family (by) nature. This just adds one more ripple.”
Ole Miss had four players taken in the draft with defensive end Breeland Speaks going in the second round (46th overall) to the Chiefs. Defensive end Marquis Haynes went in the fourth round to Carolina, running back Jordan Wilkins (St. Benedict at Auburndale) in the fifth round to Indianapolis, and offensive lineman Rod Taylor in the seventh round to Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Mel Kiper already has released a Top 10 prospect list for the 2019 NFL Draft and Rebels receiver A.J. Brown is on it after leading all SEC receivers with 75 catches for 1,252 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Also on Kiper’s 2019 Top 10: Ole Miss offensive lineman Greg Little.
Mississippi State had two players chosen by the Houston Texas, with offensive lineman Martinas Rankin being picked in the third round and tight end Jordan Thomas being selected in the sixth round.
Arkansas also had two players picked in the draft with the Detroit Lions snagging offensive lineman Frank Ragnow in the first round (20th overall) and the Denver Broncos picking running back David Williams in the seventh round.
Quarterback Austin Allen signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent, same as Memphis QB Riley Ferguson.
Vanderbilt linebacker Oren Burks was the lone Commodore drafted and was taken in the third round by the Green Bay Packers.