Will Backus, Knoxville News Sentinel
The SEC had 63 players selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, making it the conference with the most selections for the 14th consecutive year.
Fifteen of those players were taken in the first round, and there were 25 total selected in the first two rounds.
That number could grow in 2021.
Here are the top 25 prospects from the SEC for the 2021 NFL draft, listed in alphabetical order:
LB Nick Bolton
Outlook: Though a little undersized, Bolton has consistently been listed as one of the top five inside linebacker prospects. He contributed for the Tigers as a freshman in 2018 and earned a starting spot as a sophomore.
LB K.J. Britt
Outlook: Britt showed out in his first season as a starter, earning All-SEC honors at the inside linebacker spot, recording 69 tackles (including 10 for loss). Electing to return for his senior year could help him vault up draft boards.
OL Deonte Brown
Outlook: Brown doesn’t have the versatility of other offensive linemen on this list, but he may be the best true guard available from the SEC. He has the size and pass-blocking ability NFL teams will covet and was a key piece in an Alabama front that only allowed 0.92 sacks per game.
DB Tyson Campbell
Outlook: Campbell started as a true freshman opposite NFL first-round pick Deandre Baker. Two years later, Campbell could see his stock rise in a similar fashion with a breakout season. His speed and size are ideal, but he needs to stay healthy.
WR Ja’Marr Chase
Outlook: The Biletnikoff Award winner cemented himself as one of the hardest-to-cover wide receivers last season in one of the most prolific offenses in the history of college football. He could be the first receiver off the board.
QB K.J. Costello
College: Mississippi State
Outlook: Costello was considered one of the top 50 prospects in the 2020 draft before his 2019 season at Stanford was derailed by injury. He has the benefit of playing under new coach Mike Leach after transferring to Mississippi State..
LB Jabril Cox
Outlook: The best player from the FCS ranks decided to join LSU as a graduate transfer out of North Dakota State. He was a two-time All-American with the Bison, a perennial powerhouse.
RB Najee Harris
Outlook: Harris fits the mold of what people have come to expect from Alabama running backs — massive and very hard to bring down on first contact. Following the success of another Crimson Tide product, Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans, NFL teams could be in the market for a bruiser like Harris.
RB Kylin Hill
College: Mississippi State
Outlook: Hill initially declared for the 2020 draft before withdrawing his name. With another season to showcase his blend of speed and bulldozing power, he should be considered among the top running back prospects.
OL Alex Leatherwood
Outlook: Six offensive tackles were taken in the first round of the 2020 draft and Leatherwood could have been the seventh, joining former teammate Jedrick Wills. Leatherwood also has some experience at guard.
DB Richard LeCounte
Outlook: The former five-star recruit’s decision to return for his senior season gives the Bulldogs a player who seems to always be around the ball.
OL Cade Mays
Outlook: Mays transferred to Tennessee after spending his first two years with Georgia and his eligibility for the upcoming season is still in the hands of the NCAA. He could still declare for the draft without playing a snap for the Vols and likely be picked early.
QB Kellen Mond
College: Texas A&M
Outlook: The biggest question for Mond is his consistency. He played well against Clemson and LSU in 2018 and then committed five turnovers against the same two teams last season. Mond is confident in his own abilities and a consistent senior season could make him a top-level pick.
LB Dylan Moses
Outlook: Moses has the versatility that NFL teams value with the ability to play inside and outside linebacker. He has the tools to be effective in pass coverage and as a rusher or run-stopper.
DB Israel Mukuamu
College: South Carolina
Outlook: Mukuamu has size at the cornerback position that makes him one of the most unique prospects for 2021. He had four interceptions as a sophomore.
QB Jamie Newman
Outlook: Newman could have declared for last year’s draft, but he chose to leave Wake Forest as a graduate transfer. He has the size and arm that the NFL covets, and with a strong season could play himself into the first round.
TE Kyle Pitts
Outlook: With his height and speed, Pitts can create mismatches against linebackers and safeties. Florida used him all over the field, and he will be UF’s most dangerous returning offensive option.
DL Tyler Shelvin
Outlook: Shelvin is a classic nose tackle who can eat plenty of space. He isn’t the type of defensive lineman who can get to the passer but affects the run game and regularly draws double-teams.
WR DeVonta Smith
Outlook: Smith was the leader in receiving yards (1,256) and touchdowns (14) on an Alabama offense that featured 2020 first-round receivers Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy. He’s a big-play threat who has averaged 17.9 yards per catch for his career, and he’s perfect for a team wanting to upgrade its vertical attack.
OL Trey Smith
Outlook: Smith could have skipped his senior season and entered the 2020 draft and would have likely been selected in the first two days. By returning, he can prove to NFL front offices that he’s fully recovered from blood clots that plagued him a couple of years ago.
CB Patrick Surtain II
Outlook: Surtain has the length and athleticism to succeed in the NFL, and he could be the first defensive back selected.
WR Jaylen Waddle
Outlook: Several projections have Waddle foregoing his senior season and making it into the first round. If that’s the case, he’ll continue to cement the Crimson Tide as a wide receiver factory.
LB Sam Williams
College: Ole Miss
Outlook: Williams makes the list based on potential alone and would need a strong senior season to earn first-round consideration, but he has all the tools for an NFL team hungry for a pass rusher.
WR Seth Williams
Outlook: Williams’ size helps him create mismatches against smaller corners and safeties. He’ll also benefit from new offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who runs a system that depends on airing the ball out.
DB Marco Wilson
Outlook: Wilson has a lot to prove, and that’s why he elected to return for his senior season. He missed most of 2018 with an ACL injury and played in all 13 games last season. Another healthy season could put him in the early rounds.
Gainesville Sun sports writer Pat Dooley contributed to this report.