SEC 15 Players to Watch
Impact players take the field this weekend in Indy
Contributing Writer |@samwforman
It’s hard to believe but football season for those not watching the AAF is starting to heat up once again.
Now, I know I normally keep my work to college football and mostly what is going on in the SEC and yes I know, spring practice is right around the corner in the college game. However, I thought I would put my knowledge of the SEC to good use for all you NFL only fans out there and people who love the NFL, but don’t watch SEC football.
So, here are the top 15 players that played in the SEC in 2018 that are in Indianapolis and participating in the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine that you need to keep your eye on.
Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) – Two things stick out that make Nick Fitzgerald someone to keep an eye on at the combine when it comes to players from the SEC. One, is how well does he do in interviews with the different teams? He is really more of a project type of player in my mind, so if he can wow and impress people in the interview process it could up the number of teams that are looking at what he could bring them on the field and maybe up the number willing to take on the project that will be Fitzgerald at the next level. He will have some pretty interesting questions to answer as well in my mind about past behavioral problems, like being suspended for State’s season opener in 2018. You will also want to keep an eye on him in any passing drills he decides to participate in at Indy. We know how gifted he is as a runner, but Fitzgerald struggled at times passing and then the next week would light it up through the air. So, you should keep an eye on how consistent he is during any passing drill he does at the combine. Having a consistent day passing at the combine and at his pro day will help move him up some boards and should increases the number of teams that will look at taking on the Fitzgerald project.
Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) – Ok, we have a lot of the same stuff going on here as we did with Fitzgerald. Consistency in the passing game is the real reason to keep an eye on Jarrett Stidham and that’s why he is on this list. He does not have the best mechanics throwing the ball in my opinion, but he can still make a lot of difficult throws look easy when he has a good day. Stidham also has a history of bad decision making and taking some chances he shouldn’t. So, consistency should be the thing Stidham is focusing on at the combine in any drills and really in each step of the process. While, I think he will interview well, he is a career back up in my mind. Maybe similar to a Colt McCoy path in the NFL. However, if he interviews well enough maybe someone will give him a chance as a project starter. It’s not the best quarterback class in 2019, but Stidham could use a solid and most importantly consistent day passing at the combine and his pro day to move up the draft board and up his odds to be a starter in the NFL.
Drew Lock (Missouri) – The highest rated quarterback from the SEC in this year’s draft pre-combine is easily Missouri’s Drew Lock. He is high on the list of SEC players to keep an eye on at the combine for a number of reasons. First off, he has a chance to be a first-round pick and maybe even go in the top 10. A bad performance would not be great for Lock but would not kill his hopes of going in the first round. A lot of people put him as the number two or three quarterback in the class behind Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State. What you want to see again here is consistency from Lock in any passing drills he does in Indianapolis. Lock did not have his most consistent season in 2018 for the Tigers and while not everyone is making a big deal out of it, a good day throwing the ball would only help him out. You also will want to watch the Denver Broncos when Lock is around as it has been reported that John Elway is “smitten” with Lock. That is a reason alone to keep an eye on him for the rest of the draft process and something to watch at the combine. However, the number one reason to watch Lock, Fitzgerald and Stidham is to see how consistent they can be in any passing drills they participate in at the combine.
THE RUNNING BACKS
Elijah Holyfield (Georgia) – Here is someone that I’m not sure should have left college early and that is one of many reasons to keep an eye on Elijah Holyfield at the combine. Where he ranks in a draft class that is not filled with great top of the draft running back talent has me unsure where to rank Holyfield amongst the other rushers in the 2019 draft. A big combine or a bad outing will make it a lot clearer where in this running back class Holyfield fits and what rounds he may be drafted in. Holyfield also makes this list because I think he needs to show some consistency in multiple areas, something he didn’t do the best job at during his time at Georgia. At times for the Dawgs he looked like a strong back that could be great between the tackles and at times he was almost dominated by opposing defenses in short yardage situations where his strength should have won out. Holyfield also never really carried much of a work load in college and that is a big question for him in the draft process. He saw limited action for Georgia early in his career as he was behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Then in 2018 he split time with D’Andre Swift and others. So, just what kind of impact can Holyfield make in the NFL? Well his performance at the combine will go a long way in us finding out the answer to that question.
Benny Snell Jr. (Kentucky) – Here is someone that if he had the career he had in Lexington almost anywhere else he would be one of the biggest names in the draft this year. That being said he is still a top name amongst running backs, but if Benny Snell played in Norman, Columbus or Tuscaloosa for example he would be better known nationally than he is and might be mentioned as the best back in this class. Just because of what he did at Kentucky is enough reason to keep an eye on him and see if he can keep it going at the next level. It will also be equally interesting to see where Snell stacks up in the weight room as it will be to see him compete in on field drills. Snell could solidify himself as one of the best backs with a good outing at the combine both on the field and off.
Trayveon Williams (Texas A&M) – The now former Texas Aggie wowed people at times in 2017 and 18, but again is a person I would have liked to see stay in college one more year. Now, that may be more because I want to watch him compete in the SEC for one more year than it is he needs one more year of college football like Holyfield for example. Williams is a very versatile player and should fit well in any NFL offense in my mind. He is a guy that can fill multiple roles and play in different kinds of backfield groupings. He would work well in a two-back system, a multi back system like what New England does or as a lead running back. Williams has NFL speed and hands and could work well in an Alvin Kamara kind of role, where he is the pass catcher and change of pace back to go alongside a more ground and pound type of back and that might give him the most success long term in the NFL. He should have no shortage of teams looking at him, but a really good combine could move him up some board and he will be fun to watch just for entertainment as he shows off his skills.
Josh Jacobs (Alabama) – Josh Jacobs is someone that knows how to work in a crowded backfield from his time at Alabama. He also knows how to make the most out of carries when they come his way and that is one reason why he is very high up on most draft boards. Now, I know it is not the best running back class, but I don’t fully get why he is placed so high by so many people. Personally, I loved watching him at Alabama and would want him on my team, but I think he needs a good combine performance to really live up to the hype he has had at times early in the draft process. Jacobs can do it all as he carried the ball 120 times in 2018 and had 20 receptions as a part of a crowed backfield for the Tide. What is really impressive is he knows how to find the end zone as he scored on a touchdown on 11 of his runs and three of his receptions in 2018, both career highs for Jacobs. I want to see where he stacks up in the weight room and in 40 times before I will put him as the top back in the class. However, he has a chance to really establish himself as a top back in this draft with a solid outing in Indy.
A.J. Brown (Ole Miss) – While Antonio Brown is the receiver dominating headlines right now in the NFL, former Ole Miss standout A.J. Brown could take some of the light off of the soon to be ex Steeler with a good combine performance. One reason to keep an eye on Brown will be to see where he winds up compared to teammate D.K. Metcalf. During the season it was Brown that got most of the attention and NFL love, but Metcalf in many ways is getting more love from the NFL now. Brown is a guy that can line up anywhere in the NFL in my opinion and would be a good fit for a lot of teams. Seeing what teams say about him may be the most interesting part of his time at the combine, but he is electric on the field an a must watch during any drills for the receivers.
D.K. Metcalf (Ole Miss) – Staying with a former Rebel we have Metcalf, who from pictures on social media looks set to destroy the competition at the combine. Like stated with Brown, it will be fun to watch the two former teammates compete against each other. However, Brown is a tall and from his social media photos strong receiver and seeing what he can do in drills and in the weight room make him a must watch on the receiver’s day in Indianapolis. He should grade out well in the weight room and should be near the top of the receivers in any lifts. However, if he doesn’t look as good as expected it could get interesting for Metcalf quickly.
Deebo Samuel (South Carolina) – Deebo Samuel was one of the fastest and talented receivers in the SEC for the last several years. The reason he makes this list is simple, he can build off of what he did at the Senior Bowl and where does he measure in. Personally, Samuel is a steal of the draft candidate for me as I’m not sure where in the draft he will go and I think he may be underrated come draft time. Samuel is a slot guy more than likely in the NFL, but could play any position for a receiver in my opinion. He even reminds me a bit of Emmanuel Sanders when he entered the league, where he is a great fit in one role early on and if he lands with the right teams and in the right system might just wind up being a number one receiver at some point in his career. His skill set lands him on this list as well as it will just be fun to watch him at the combine.
TIGHT END and OFFENSIVE LINE
Isaac Nauta (Georgia) – Isaac Nauta might have been and in my opinion was the best tight end in the SEC while he was at Georgia. Nauta in 2018 caught 30 passes and had three touchdowns for the Bulldogs. In my opinion UGA didn’t throw the ball to Nauta enough while he was in Athens. At 6’4 he has the size to be a major red zone weapon in the NFL and at 240 he has the size to make a living in the middle of the filed. It will be interesting to see where Natua winds up amongst the tight ends in the 40. I expect him to do well in the weight room and the interview room. He will be fun to watch in any drills he does and with a solid trip to the combine could become one of if not the best tight end in the class.
Martez Ivey (Florida) – Martez Ivey makes this list because of his potential. I don’t feel like Ivey ever fully lived up to his potential at Florida and that could wind up making him a steal in the draft if he goes to the right place and keeps developing. Ivey needs to be near the top in the weight room and needs to do well in the interview room as well in my opinion and if he does he could move up some draft boards. Ivey could be a nice player in the NFL, but for him it all starts with an above average to great performance at the combine to prove he can finally fully unlock his full potential and that he has matured past some behavioral issues at Florida.
Josh Allen (Kentucky) – Much like fellow Wild Cat Snell, Josh Allen makes the list because you just want to see if he can be as good in the NFL as he was at Kentucky. You just have to like this kid and how hard he works and if he goes to the right place in my opinion he could be a star in the NFL. Allen enters the combine as arguably the best linebacker and maybe the best defensive prospect overall. He could solidify his spot and possibly a spot as a top 10 pick if he does what most expect him to do at the combine, which is to be great. You will want to keep an eye on Allen to see if he has a slipup somewhere or if he leaves no longer the best linebacker or falls on people’s draft boards out of the top 10. Allen also could put up some great numbers and if you are a fan of watching the on-field drills during the combine, Allen could be poised to really make them exciting when the linebackers take the field.
Quinnen Williams (Alabama) – Ok it’s no secret that Alabama’s Quinnen Williams was one of the best players in college football this past season. Which is why he is also one of the best players in the 2019 NFL Draft. Williams has all the potential needed to go number one overall to Arizona. Although, you have to wonder if the Cardinals are looking at anyone else besides Kyler Murray or moving down to draft Murray. The main reason to watch Williams is he will be impressive in the weight room and you would expect the same on the field. It will also be worth keeping an eye on him to see if he underperforms and where he winds up compared to the other top defensive lineman in this year’s draft Nick Bosa from Ohio State.
Greedy Williams (LSU) – Former LSU standout Greedy Williams enters the combine as the best defensive back according to most people. That is really the main reason he is on this list. Can he leave Indianapolis with the same level of hype and still be the top defensive back on most people’s draft boards? He also has a chance to go in the top 10. A solid all around showing at the combine could lock up a top 10 spot for Williams on draft night. Also Williams is electric on the field and will be fun to watch in any drills he does. A place to see where he stacks up that is interesting is in the weight room and that is a place where he could really separate himself from other defensive backs in the draft.