SEC spotlight: Teams that have produced most active NFL players
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
The NCAA recently released an interesting list of players on NFL opening weekend rosters by college. This week we’ll take a look at which teams in the Power Five conferences produce the most pros and we continue with the SEC.
1. LSU - 50
The skinny: Leading all college football programs this season is LSU, with an amazing 50 ex-players in the NFL. With this, there are Tigers littered all over the league and on both sides of the ball.
Defensively, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, who both play for Arizona, are considered elite defensive backs, while on offense, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry have dominated the league since their arrival. Next in line are rookies Leonard Fournette and Jamal Adams, who are poised to take the league by storm this fall.
Farrell’s take: Not Alabama? Nope. The state of Louisiana has been a great talent-producing state, but LSU has also done well recruiting in other states like Florida and Texas as well. With the best home state recruiting advantage in college football, it’s not that surprising that the Tigers churn them out like they do. However, where are the numerous national titles to go along with this? This is one of the reasons Les Miles was ousted. He had so much talent but in recent years they underachieved.
2. FLORIDA - 45
The skinny: While Florida has had its fair share of struggles on the field in recent years, it continues to churn out NFL-level talent, especially from the secondary. Joe Haden and Josh Evans started the pattern, but more recently Keanu Neal, Brian Poole and Vernon Hargreaves have all made an immediate mark, and Jalen Tabor, Marcus Maye and Quincy Wilson will all get the opportunity to shine as rookies. Offensively, big seasons are expected from Jordan Reed and Mike Gillislee this fall.
Farrell’s take: The Gators, despite recent offensive woes, are ahead of Alabama as well and much of it is on the defensive side of the football as expected. The secondary representation is especially impressive and makes for a strong case as DBU, even ahead of LSU and others. We see now why Florida has still been competitive because the defense has been so loaded.
3. ALABAMA - 44
The skinny: With the number of first-rounders the Crimson Tide have produced in recent years, it may be surprising that they are currently only third in the SEC. However, the star power is there and seems to be improving annually. Julio Jones is one of the most dominant receivers in the league, Landon Collins has quickly become one of the top young safeties in the NFL, Amari Cooper continues to improve out in Oakland and Marcell Dareus is a dominant defensive tackle when healthy. Promising rookies are also strewn across the league, so it will be interesting to see if any can jump into stardom immediately.
Farrell’s take: Everyone loves to point out the Alabama busts and the Tide have had their share, so it will be interesting to see how guys like Jonathan Allen, Marlon Humphrey and Reuben Foster fare. Nick Saban's recruiting has been unrivaled for the last decade, so I expect Alabama to continue to churn out NFL players, but I’m surprised they are third in the SEC overall.
4. GEORGIA - 38
The skinny: The Bulldogs have developed NFL stars on both sides of the ball. Defensively, Geno Atkins, Charles Johnson and Justin Houston are just a few of the stars, while on offense A.J. Green, Matthew Stafford and Todd Gurley are each one of the more exciting players at their position. As the Peach State continues to establish itself as one of the top recruiting states in the country, the Bulldogs will have every opportunity to send a steady flow of players into the NFL.
Farrell’s take: Georgia also has an amazing in-state recruiting advantage similar to Louisiana, although more programs are willing to come in and steal recruits. This number is a bit low to me, although it would be second in the Big Ten so it’s all relative. I just expected more with that built-in recruiting advantage and some big-time recruiting classes. The way Kirby Smart is recruiting, this number will swell.
5. AUBURN - 34
The skinny: While Cameron Newton continues to be one of the marquee names in the NFL, the star power being produced by the Tigers has been few and far between. Karlos Dansby has been a reliable NFL linebacker since 2004, having totaled over 1,300 tackles along the way, while Pat Sims has been a run stopping defensive tackle since 2008. The Tigers do have several younger players in the league that have a chance to develop, such as Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Dee Ford, but will any of them take the next step in the coming years?
Farrell’s take: Auburn’s number isn’t far off that of Georgia, but the star power isn’t there. They have a lot of role players and depth guys, but it’s surprising they don’t have more stars. Auburn recruiting has been very good over the last decade but not enough players are being developed to be NFL standouts and perhaps that’s the reason for some average results the last few years. Although how many other teams have won a national title and played for another one in the last few years? This is puzzling.
Ole Miss 23 - Most successful… Eli Manning
Farrell’s take: The Vols have put more guys in the NFL recently and the recruiting has turned up a bit by Butch Jones while Texas A&M seems to have a high-level first-rounder every year but clearly not the depth of numbers to crack the top five. Arkansas hasn’t produced a ton of top tier talent but the numbers aren’t bad while the Gamecocks have some stars in the league. Ole Miss recently put three in round one with Hugh Freeze recruiting, but now could take a big step back.