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NFL Combine: SEC memories, storylines, hits and misses

Bryce Young
Bryce Young (© Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports)

The list of invitees to the NFL Scouting Combine is out and the workouts are to start in the coming weeks leading into the NFL Draft. Here is a look at some memories, thoughts and trends as we look at the names invited from the SEC:


NFL COMBINE: Big Ten memories, storylines, hits and misses

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Georgia has won back-to-back national titles and the Bulldogs don’t look to be going anywhere based on current recruiting trends. Plus, former UGA linebacker David Pollack said that Georgia has “taken hold of college football” the last few seasons – right in front of Alabama coach Nick Saban, much to his chagrin.

But the Crimson Tide’s demise might be overstated. Alabama leads with 13 players sent to the NFL Scouting Combine and it’s possible that the first pick is former five-star Will Anderson and the first quarterback taken early in the first round is former five-star Bryce Young.

The Crimson Tide went 11-2 this season with a last-second loss on a field goal at Tennessee and an overtime loss at LSU in overtime. Did Alabama maximize all the talent it had and make a run to the title? No. But the Tide are going nowhere and have proven once again they still sit right at the top with Georgia in college football.

Anderson, Young and defensive back Eli Ricks are the Alabama five-stars headed to the combine along with four-stars Jordan Battle, Brian Branch, Emil Ekiyor Jr., Jahmyr Gibbs, DeMarco Hellams, Cameron Latu, Henry To’oto’o and Byron Young leading the way.




Different mock drafts have different quarterbacks atop this draft class but it’s pretty clear to me – after following his recruitment and development over the last seven years at least – that Bryce Young should top that list. He will be a phenomenal NFL quarterback, like he was in high school and in college.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said last week that Young, the No. 2 prospect in the 2020 recruiting class, was a smaller version of Patrick Mahomes. From following him all these years, he’s more like Russell Wilson mixed with Mahomes where it looks like the play is collapsing and then the cool, calm Young always seems to make the perfect throw.

I could see an argument for Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, who I regret not making a five-star coming out of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. But I would take Young over him any day and that was reflected in the 2020 rankings and still stands in my book.

The argument for Kentucky’s Will Levis is understandable but not one I subscribe to. There are some mock drafts that have Anthony Richardson going No. 1 and that’s borderline absurd considering who could be taken ahead of him.

The tired argument about Young’s size will be addressed I’m sure during the pre-draft process. Look at his production and skill even dating back to when then-Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury offered Young in middle school.

He’s so good – and will continue to be in the NFL.



Nolan Smith
Nolan Smith (© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Fifteen former five-stars from the SEC have been invited to the NFL Combine and many of them are expected to be first-round selections. That’s a perfect hit from our rankings formula although some others are definitely going to fall out of that highest range but get drafted somewhere lower.

Alabama’s Will Anderson could be the top pick and while he was a five-star he should’ve been even higher after such a dominant performance at the All-American Bowl, where he was just so much more physical and dominant than everyone else there. His Alabama career backed it up.

Young should be the first quarterback off the board. Georgia’s Broderick Jones has the chance to be the first offensive tackle taken as that back-and-forth should go with Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., also a former five-star.

How the cornerbacks shake out will be interesting but former five-star Kelee Ringo could be the first one taken and he will test well. I remember seeing him run the 40-yard dash at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and he blew everyone away including fellow five-star Eli Ricks, who could be a gem in this draft class because he still has elite cover skills.

In some mock drafts, Georgia’s Nolan Smith and Darnell Washington and Tennessee’s Darnell Wright are fringe first-round or second-round selections so they’re still in the ballpark.

There were some probable misses, though, as Florida’s Justin Shorter, Brenton Cox and Gervon Dexter, ArkansasJadon Haselwood, Ole MissZach Evans, South Carolina’s Zacch Pickens and Texas A&M’s Jaylon Jones are unlikely to go in the first round.



Will Levis
Will Levis (© Matt Stone/Louisville Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Nobody is perfect and with so many elite players coming to the SEC and such a spotlight on that conference there are still going to be some major surprises along the way. Here are four players we definitely missed in the rankings process:

Stetson Bennett: How would it have been possible to rank Bennett any differently? He went to Georgia as a walk-on, left to go to Ellisville (Miss.) Jones County JC only to return to the Bulldogs where he was a long-term backup. Once Bennett got his chance he turned into a superstar and helped Georgia to the title but it would have been nearly impossible to predict.

O’Cyrus Torrence: The Greensburg (La.) St. Helena offensive lineman was a two-star prospect coming out of high school but could be one of the first players at his position taken off the board. He didn’t have any committable offers from Power Five programs but Torrence was huge in high school. However, he wasn’t seen much on the circuit and a low ranking was given - unfortunately.

Cedric Tillman: The 2018 recruiting class at Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman was one for the books with QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, TE Brevin Jordan, WR Jalen Nailor, LB Palaie Gaoteote and others leading the way. Tillman was a contributor but nowhere near what he became at Tennessee. The former two-star is an interesting case for the NFL, though, because he was quiet for three years in Knoxville, exploded on the scene for 1,000-plus yards in 2021 and then played only half the season in 2022 because of an ankle injury.

Will Levis: The Madison (Conn.) Xavier mid-three-star committed to Penn State but ended up as Sean Clifford’s backup and then transferred after a couple seasons to Kentucky, where his college career really took off. Levis could end up as the No. 1 quarterback taken off the board and is widely expected to go in the first round.



Devon Achane
Devon Achane (© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

The SEC is so competitive and there are some teams not keeping up when it comes to making the recruiting argument that players are getting developed for the NFL. Texas A&M has a five-star in Jaylon Jones and two four-stars in RB Devon Achane and DB Antonio Johnson along with a very young roster but coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff should be doing better by now.

Missouri with DL Isaiah McGuire and Vanderbilt with LB Anfernee Orji are sending only one player each to the combine.