SEC leads the way in NFL Combine invites but ACC not far behind
Here is a look at the number of players invited to this week's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis from each Power Five conference and which schools lead the way with an opinion on each conference from Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell.
SEC - 70
Alabama leads all teams with 14 participants led by WR Calvin Ridley, DB Minkah Fitzpatrick and DT Da’Ron Payne, who are all expected to go in the early- to mid-first round. Plenty of others especially on defense are expected to be drafted from the Crimson Tide. Both Georgia and LSU have 10 players each at the combine as LB Roquan Smith and RB duo Sony Michel and Nick Chubb lead the way for the Bulldogs. LSU RB Derrius Guice and DE Arden Key could be first-round picks and others could emerge. Next up in the SEC is Auburn with seven players followed by Florida with six. Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M will send four players to the combine. Arkansas has three, Mississippi State two and Missouri and Vanderbilt have one each. Kentucky is the lone conference school without any representation.
Farrell’s take: “I don’t think it’s a surprise that the SEC is No. 1. The state of Georgia actually out-producing California, Texas and Florida in some instances when it comes to high-level draft picks certainly helps the Bulldogs. LSU has let some kids get away especially to Alabama so I think that impacts them.”
ACC - 60
In a conference that has been recently dominated by Clemson and Florida State, it’s Miami with nine players heading to the combine that leads all ACC teams although none are first-round locks. The Seminoles are in second place with eight led by safety Derwin James followed by NC State, Pitt and Virginia Tech with seven each. The first ACC player off the board is likely to be Wolfpack defensive end Bradley Chubb, who could go among the first few selections. Conference power Clemson and Louisville are sending five each. Virginia has four, Boston College is sending three, followed by North Carolina and Wake Forest with two each. Three ACC teams - Duke, Syracuse and Georgia Tech - don’t have any players headed to the combine.
Farrell’s take: “It’s surprising Clemson is not up there but they had a lot of kids come back that would have been at the combine and would have been high draft picks. The ACC is going to continue to close the gap and it wouldn’t shock me if they surpassed the SEC. Miami is recruiting very well under Mark Richt. NC State is the big surprise there. Florida State, Clemson and Miami, those three alone, are going to really load up the numbers for the ACC.”
BIG TEN - 50
Ohio State leads the way again and other than Penn State - with eight selections - it’s not even close. The Buckeyes have 11 players headed to the combine led by DB Denzel Ward, OL Billy Price, DE Sam Hubbard and many others. The Nittany Lions will probably have the first player drafted from the Big Ten in RB Saquon Barkley. Nearly 40 percent of all Big Ten combine invitees come from Ohio State and Penn State. After those two teams, Wisconsin is sending six, followed by Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska with five each. Michigan has three participants, then Maryland and Northwestern have two each. Michigan State, Purdue and Rutgers have one player each heading to Indianapolis. Illinois and Minnesota have been shut out.
Farrell’s take: “Michigan State is surprising. Michigan is not so surprising because it had such an experienced team two years ago and put so many kids in the combine and then the draft. A lot of its guys aren’t draft eligible and then a few that were, decided to come back. Michigan State is very surprising, that’s a very low number. It usually has a junior- and senior-laden team. When Michigan starts churning out more consistently as Jim Harbaugh recruits you’ll see the Big Ten numbers go up.”
PAC-12 - 45
All 12 schools in the conference are represented but no team is far and away the leader with combine participants. Washington leads the way with seven and DT Vita Vea could be one of the top players taken off the board on Day 1. USC and UCLA are tied with six each and Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold are battling to possibly be the first quarterbacks drafted. Stanford also is sending six players to the combine followed by Arizona State with five. Four players from Utah and Washington State are heading to Indianapolis, followed by Oregon with three and then Arizona, Cal, Colorado and Oregon State are sending one each.
Farrell’s take: “Washington being No. 1 is impressive. UCLA and USC should always be top two so Washington has become a very formidable program when it comes to putting guys not only in the combine but in the draft. That’s only going to help the Huskies recruit, it’s only going to help that Chris Petersen is a very good talent evaluator. The USC and UCLA numbers are low so I would expect those to rise with USC’s talent and Chip Kelly being at UCLA.”
BIG 12 - 29
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has been under a microscope since the end of the season and he leads the Sooners, who have six players headed to the combine. Texas is tied for the Big 12 lead with Oklahoma, also sending a half dozen players to Indianapolis. Then it’s Oklahoma State with five, led by quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington. After those three schools, Texas Tech and West Virginia have three each, Kansas State and TCU have two each and then one player from Iowa State and Kansas are headed to the combine. Baylor is the lone Big 12 school without any representatives there.
Farrell’s take: “That’s 12 invites out of two schools. You just don’t have as many programs in the Big 12. Even if the league does expand, adding some mid-level to lower-level teams isn’t going to change this, either. It’s always going to be top heavy. The other programs - Kansas State, Kansas and Iowa State - they just don’t help. It’s Texas and Oklahoma, and to a secondary extent it’s Oklahoma State and TCU. That’s it. There’s going to be a huge discrepancy between the top teams and the others for the foreseeable future.”