The SEC finished the 2015 NFL Draft with the most players selected. It didn't produce as many high draft picks as it has in recent years, so it took until the fourth round for it to take the lead. Even so, the conference had both the most picks in total and the most picks per team.
|Conference||Draft Picks||Picks per Team|
I have the individual counts for each school, but they require some interpretation.
Florida actually led the league despite only finishing third in the weaker East division with seven total wins. I could write an entire post on how that happened... and I did. It's right here.
Alabama having seven guys taken is no surprise. The Crimson Tide has had at least that many players taken in five of the last six drafts. It extended a four-year streak of at least one Bama defensive back being selected, with developing secondary being Nick Saban's historic specialty. Notably, Bama hasn't had a corner drafted since Dee Milliner in the 2013 draft, with two safeties going last year and another this year. As the Tide's pass defense has struggled in the past two years, a lack of great corners has been a key issue. Eddie Jackson figures to be a draft pick next year, but even he might not count as a corner since him getting reps at safety in the spring might mean a permanent position change.
A team that needs some explanation is Missouri, which had six players go if you give it credit for Dorial Green-Beckham. DGB was a second rounder, but he spent last season sitting out a transfer year at Oklahoma anyway. Of the five Tigers who did play last year, three went in the first two rounds. Having two of them be defensive ends hurts, but those two were replacements for the previous year's DEs. Mizzou has turned into a defensive line factory, and it figures to be all right there again in 2015.
It's never great to have to replace a second-round
center offensive tackle (Mitch Morse), but the other two picks only went in the sixth and seventh rounds. You might hear that MU lost six draft picks and think it's a huge talent drain, but it's not nearly as bad as "six draft picks" could have been. The Tigers should be in the thick of the East race again this fall despite that high pick total.
Arkansas will be a trendy dark horse pick for the West this fall, but we should note that the team lost five picks. Only one, former quarterback-turned-tight end A.J. Derby, was from the offense, and a lot of the optimism for the team in 2015 stems from the brutally effective offensive attack that built itself up over the course of last season. The defense was far more improved last year versus the prior season than the offense was, though, and that unit lost four guys. If the Razorbacks don't improve their record this year, we might be able to point to the defensive draft losses as the reason.
I won't go through every team that thoroughly, but I will point out a few nuggets. LSU was one of the top teams in 2014 for games played by underclassmen. Les Miles doesn't exactly redshirt players like Jim Grobe did, so that figure wasn't skewed by a ton of redshirt sophomores in their third years playing. Four picks is a lower total for the Tigers, but the team had a lot of young players contributing.
Along the same lines, Auburn disappointed relative to preseason expectations despite starting a low number of underclassmen playing and losing five draft picks plus its starting quarterback. That explains to a degree the offseason optimism for the Plainsmen, as the relatively low number of returning starts means the bums who underachieved last year are largely gone (ahem). AU already has two projected first rounders for next year, and it could go up to three depending on how much of his potential Jeremy Johnson fulfills.
Finally, having a low number of players drafted doesn't necessarily mean a program is in bad shape. A&M, Ole Miss, and Tennessee had two, one, and zero players taken, respectively. It's not that they were bereft of talent, but rather they're promising teams with most of their talent being young. In their cases, it actually bodes well for this year that they didn't have many draft picks among them. Those three, along with the similarly young LSU that I mentioned above, are four of the top five in the SEC in returning starts.
Vanderbilt, of course, is the other side of that coin. James Franklin left the cupboard more bare than most realized, and its goose egg really was a reflection of a team not having many good players.