|John Bazemore/Associated Press|
|Georgia junior Jarvis Jones has 10.5 sacks this season heading into Saturday's SEC title game against Alabama.|
Football scouts quickly will tell you that the Southeastern Conference is a hotbed for NFL talent. The SEC has produced at least one first-round selection in 65 consecutive drafts and led all conferences with nine first-round picks in 2012. When I was working as a scout with the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers, we routinely would watch top players from other conferences match up against SEC competition to see if they were truly NFL-caliber.
Given the superior depth and talent in the SEC, every NFL general manager and scout will pay close attention to the Alabama-Georgia matchup in the SEC championship game to see the future stars of tomorrow on display. Here are the top 10 players who will be on the Georgia Dome turf Saturday in Atlanta (4 p.m. ET, CBS):
1. Jarvis Jones*, Georgia, OLB: One of the most explosive pass rushers in college football. Jones shows cat-like quickness off the ball and is a freakish athlete with the speed and burst to run down quarterbacks from the backside. With few blockers possessing the footwork and lateral quickness to rival his movement skills, Jones is a difference maker with all of the tools that scouts covet in elite pass rushers.
2. Chance Warmack, Alabama, G: Interior blockers typically aren't valued at a premium, but Warmack is a special player at the position. At 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, he is a mammoth blocker with the size and strength to move defenders off the ball. Although his athleticism will hinder his capacity to block effectively on the move, Warmack's exceptional ability to generate a push at the point of attack against big defenders makes him a very desirable prospect for teams looking to upgrade their respective running games.
3. Dee Milliner*, Alabama, CB: The SEC routinely produces the top cornerbacks in college football, and Milliner is the next one to carry the torch. He is a polished cover corner with the speed, quickness and agility to blanket elite receivers on the perimeter. Milliner also displays the toughness and physicality to be an effective player against the run, which makes him the kind of defender that all defensive coordinators covet as a No. 1 corner.
4. Alec Ogletree*, Georgia, LB: Wow! That's the typically expression used by scouts to describe the exceptional athleticism and skills of Ogletree. He is a natural sideline-to-sideline defender with the speed and burst to make plays all over the field. From crashing off the edges as a rusher to dropping into intermediate zones in pass coverage, Ogletree is an ideal weakside linebacker prospect with the tools to shine at the next level.
5. D.J. Fluker*, Alabama, OT: Recent history has shown the value of right tackles increasing in the minds of evaluators around the league. Teams are more inclined to take a right tackle early in the draft to solidify both edges in the passing game. Fluker is a dominant right tackle prospect with the size, strength and footwork to excel on the right side as a pro. He moves defenders off the ball in the running game, while also displaying the balance and body control to anchor against rushers off the edge.
6. Aaron Murray*, Georgia, QB: Playing quarterback in the NFL is all about making sound decisions under duress, and few college quarterback do it better than Murray. The 6-1, 210-pound junior has enjoyed a stellar 2012 campaign, while displaying outstanding accuracy, ball placement and touch. Although he doesn't display elite arm strength, Murray's superb anticipation and timing allows him to routinely pick apart opponents with pinpoint throws. Evaluators are closely monitoring Murray's play to see if he has the goods to develop into an elite playmaker at the next level.
7. Jonathan Jenkins, Georgia, DT: The strength of the Bulldogs' defense is right down the middle with Jenkins entrenched at defensive tackle. The 6-foot-3, 358-pound senior is a gargantuan presence at the point of attack. Opponents are unable to move him off the spot, and his ability to occupy multiple players creates opportunities for the Bulldogs' linebackers to make plays at the line of scrimmage. With nose tackles increasingly popular in the NFL due to the proliferation of 3-4 defenses, Jenkins is on the rise on draft boards across the league.
8. Bacarri Rambo, Georgia, S: The presence of a playmaking safety is essential to fielding a dominant defense at every level of football. Rambo is undoubtedly one of the best ball hawks in college football with 16 career interceptions. He is naturally instinctive player in the middle of the field with a keen sense of timing and anticipation. Although he is most comfortable playing with vision in zone, Rambo possesses the athleticism to be effective in matchups against tight ends and slot receivers. Given his all around skills and playmaking ability, Rambo is one of the most intriguing prospects in the 2013 draft class.
9. Shawn Williams, Georgia, S: It is hard to find a hard-hitting safety with ball skills and awareness, but Williams appears to have it all. He excels at drilling runners in the hole and few safeties are better tacklers. Against the pass, he shows instincts and awareness floating in the middle and his four career interceptions reflect his ability to make plays. Although his speed could emerge as a concern, the combination of size, strength and skills that Williams brings to the table will make him a solid pick in the 2013 draft.
10. Barrett Jones, Alabama, C: The most versatile and productive offensive lineman in college football can solidify his reputation with a strong performance against the Bulldogs. Jones has significant starts at multiple positions (10 starts at left tackle, 25 starts at right guard and 11 games at center), and that versatility will make him invaluable in the minds of evaluators when the draft draws closer. With a strong performance against the Bulldogs' imposing defensive line, Jones could solidify his status as a top prospect.
Others to watch: A.J. McCarron, Alabama, QB; Eddie Lacy, Alabama, RB; Jesse Williams, Alabama, NT; Tavarres King, Georgia, WR
From my notebook
Former LSU standout Tyrann Mathieu announced his intentions to enter the 2013 draft earlier this week to little fanfare in the NFL scouting community.
While the "Honey Badger" is certainly one of the best defensive playmakers that I've seen in college football, he is not a lock to come off the board in the top half of the draft due to his off-field baggage, size and questionable technique. Mathieu reportedly has failed multiple drug tests at LSU and is facing a pending legal situation that could affect his standing on draft boards across the league.
When I asked an AFC South executive about Mathieu and taking a risk on his considerable talent, he cited concerns about drug issues and maturity based on his behavior over the past year. Beyond those issues, the executive was concerned about his diminutive stature (5-9, 175) and lack of disciplined technique that showed up in big games.
While Mathieu's playmaking, toughness and return skills will keep him in play as a possible high draft pick, I sense that Mathieu likely will carry Day 3 grades on most draft boards across the league.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks