During the 2018 NFL draft, I will be joining the SEC Network to break down the picks and NFL fits and take a deeper look at how the skill sets of the top prospects in the conference transition to the next level.
And while I'm not a scout -- I'll leave the actual ranking of prospects to other NFL draft experts -- I spent a lot time going through SEC tape to grade my favorite prospects. These are the defenders who jump out on film, the playmakers who can make an instant impact as rookies, the under-the-radar prospects who have a chance to catch onto 53-man NFL rosters.
Below, I've run through 36 of my favorite SEC prospects and sorted them into categories. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Roquan Smith and Derrius Guice are included, of course. But I also have Jeff Holland, Lorenzo Carter, Anthony Averett and other guys whose tape pops. Let's go.
Favorite plug-and-play defenders
These are my top-rated SEC defensive prospects -- players with the pro-ready traits who can make an immediate impact.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 8
With a unique set of versatile traits, 4.46 40 speed and fluid movement skills, Fitzpatrick (6-foot, 204 pounds) projects as a defensive chess piece in the NFL. Line him up at safety, roll him down to the slot, blitz him off the edge or let him matchup in space.
Similar to the impact former LSU star Tyrann Mathieu has had, Fitzpatrick gives defensive coordinators options. And with nine career interceptions -- including four pick-sixes -- Fitzpatrick has the playmaking talent to find the rock while also creating havoc as a run defender. The toughness jumps on the film with Fitzpatrick, and I love how he competes. Yes, scheme fit is key for a player with this level of versatility, but I see Fitzpatrick as a top-10 talent.
Prospect Profile: Roquan Smith
Todd McShay describes Roquan Smith as the best cover linebacker in the 2018 draft.
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 5