Not a fan of any particular NFL team, tonight’s draft is merely a curiosity, more about numbers than names
The only time the TV was dedicated to the first round of picking was May 8, 2014, when the Cleveland Browns used the 22nd selection on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Even then, watching was all about whether the Dallas Cowboys were enamored enough with Manziel to use the 14th pick on him and, if not, whether a team would defy the naysayers and take Manziel in the first round.
Personally, the biggest talking point during the drawn-out, three-day draft no longer qualifies as breaking news. The selection of the first 32 names is merely a reminder that the Southeastern Conference is loaded with athletes and that Alabama has the most.
For the first time, Nevada is taking bets on the NFL draft and many of the 17 wagers approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Board are SEC-related. Among the over-under numbers:
—11.5, SEC players drafted in the first round. If the number is over, a conference with less than 11 percent of the 128 FBS schools will provide more than 35 percent of the athletes selected in the first round. Eight SEC players were drafted in the first round in 2016, seven in 2015, 11 in 2014, 12 in 2013, and nine in 2012.
Not surprisingly, Alabama is the five-year leader with 11, followed by Florida and Texas A&M with seven each, LSU with five, and Georgia with four. Arkansas and Vanderbilt are the only SEC schools without first-round picks during that period.
—4.5, Alabama players taken in the first round. The record of four from one SEC school was set by Auburn in 2005, tied by LSU two years later, and equaled by Alabama in both 2011 and 2012.
ESPN’s NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. endorses the over. Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, linebacker Reuben Foster, and tight end O.J. Howard are first-round locks. Whether Alabama exceeds the number depends on the selection of cornerback Marion Humphrey, offensive tackle Cam Robinson, and outside linebacker Tim Williams.
The SEC total and glut of Alabama players help explain why it is difficult for Arkansas and others to compete with the SEC’s best every week. Arkansas’ last first-round picks were Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in 2008.
—2.5, LSU players taken in the first round. The question is whether cornerback Tre’Davious White will join Top 10 picks safety Jamal Adams and running back Leonard Fournette. The shoes Fournette sported at the LSU spring game Saturday night indicate confidence in big bucks on the immediate horizon. Hideous to some, the purple Christian Louboutins go for a smooth $1,300.
This year, defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr., tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, offensive tackle Dan Skipper, and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter are the Razorbacks likely to be among the 256 selected during the eight rounds and none of the four will be in the first three rounds.
According to CBSSports.com, Wise is 13th best at his position, and could squeeze into the fourth round. The same site lists Sprinkle No. 11 at his position, but 55 spots below Wise. Both Skipper and Ledbetter are outside the top 15 at their positions and are rated behind Sprinkle.
Of some interest is whether an NFL team will abandon rigid position specs and spend a final round pick on a wide receiver that runs a 4.6 40 at best.
In question is Drew Morgan, who has proved time and again he can play in the SEC. Pretty much a special teams player his first two years at Arkansas, Morgan was supposed to be the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver his junior year, but wound up leading the team with 63 catches. Last year, he caught 65.
He runs good routes, catches everything, and is fearless across the middle. That might not be enough for NFL teams, but he deserves a chance.
Harry King is sports columnist for GateHouse Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org