The SEC Leads In NFL Draft Choices For The 14th Straight Year

Quarterback Joe Burrow and linebacker Patrick Queen were two of 14 LSU players taken in last week's NFL Draft.Kirby Lee/USA Today

Tony Barnhart

Last Thursday the SEC posted a record 15 first-round choices in the NFL Draft. It broke the record of 12, which was also held by the SEC.

But of course I knew I would get several of these.

“The SEC is still overrated.”

My college football brethren from other parts of the country make this too easy.

Okay. Just for fun. Let’s look at some facts when it comes to SEC football.

These are not feelings.

These are not opinions.

This is not “SEC bias,” which is still my favorite term because nobody can define what it is.

These are facts:

**--Louisiana State University defeated Clemson 42-25 on Jan. 13 to win the College Football Playoff national championship.

**--Since the 2006 season, there have been 14 national champions crowned at the highest level of college football. The SEC has won 10 of those championships by four different schools (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU). Of the remaining four championship games, Alabama lost to Clemson with one second left and Auburn lost to Florida State with 13 seconds left.

**--The LSU team that just won the national championship set a school and SEC record with 14 players chosen in the NFL Draft.

**--For the 14th consecutive year, the SEC led all conferences in players chosen in the draft with 63.

2020 NFL DRAFT CHOICES BY CONFERENCE

SEC……………….63

Big Ten………….48

Pac-12……………32

ACC………………..27

Big 12……………..21

**--Of the Top Ten teams determined by the number of draft choices, five were from the SEC:

LSU………………14

Michigan ……..10

Ohio State………10

Alabama…………..9

Clemson…………..7

Florida……………..7

Georgia……………7

Utah…………………7

Auburn…………….6

Notre Dame……..6

So what are we saying here?

We’re saying that good football is played everywhere. But the facts are the facts. The SEC is on an unprecedented run in the sport.

We’re saying that there are a lot of reasons the SEC has had so much success in football since 1992, when the conference expanded to 12 teams, created divisional play, and launched the first conference championship game.

“The coaches thought I had lost my mind,” said former commissioner Roy Kramer a couple of years ago. “At times I thought they were right.”

The budgets have gotten bigger. The money paid to coaches has grown exponentially. There has been an explosion of facility improvements.

And television—yes television—has spread the message and made the world a much smaller place for recruits. The LSU roster in the national championship game last January had players from 11 different states.

Again, this isn’t complicated. Elite players coming out of high school want to play against other elite players and compete for national championships. They also want to develop their skills in order to prepare to play in the NFL.

Now other conferences are doing all of these things, too. You can get to the NFL from anywhere. Defensive back Kyle Dugger was drafted in the second round out of Lenoir-Rhyne.

But when one conference has won 10 of the last 14 national championships and has led college football in draft choices for each of the past 14 season, that qualifies as a pretty good trend.

Now, can we assume that all of this positively impacts recruiting for the SEC schools? You betcha.

In the most recent signing classes completed last February, six of the top 10 schools and nine of the Top 25 were from the SEC.

In fact, Georgia Coach Kirby Smart said last week that opponents outside of the conference are starting to tell recruits that the SEC may just be too tough and competitive for them—that maybe they should take an easier path to the NFL.

“But that’s not the way the NFL GMs are looking at it, and that’s not the way the NFL coaches are looking at it,” Smart said during an appearance on “The Paul Finebaum Show.”

“They want to take kids that want to compete at the highest level, that want to go play in those big-time matchups, and that’s what the kids want. They want to go play in the biggest games in the biggest places.”

According to ESPN.com, 45 of the nation’s Top 100 players signed with SEC schools during the most recent recruiting period.

Now we have no way of knowing how the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 college football season is going to impact any of this.

When football finally returns, will the SEC stay on this unprecedented roll?

It will be interesting to watch.

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Tony Barnhart

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