ESPN analyst Mel Kiper agreed recently when I passed along to him my belief that we saw perhaps the most talented crop of underclassmen in SEC history this season.
Kiper's latest mock NFL draft is further proof just how talented the SEC was in 2010. His first three picks are SEC players -- Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley going No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson going No. 2 to the Denver Broncos and Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus going No. 3 to the Buffalo Bills.
Kiper has five SEC players going in the top 10 picks, and all five are juniors. He also has Georgia receiver A.J. Green going No. 6 to the Cleveland Browns and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton going No. 10 to the Washington Redskins.
In his first round, Kiper has a total of 10 SEC players being selected, which is more than any other conference.
The other SEC players in his first round are Alabama receiver Julio Jones going No. 14 to the St. Louis Rams, Alabama running back Mark Ingram going No. 15 to the Miami Dolphins, Florida center Mike Pouncey going No. 19 to the New York Giants, Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston going No. 24 to the New Orleans Saints and Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett going No. 25 to the Seattle Seahawks.
Of the 10 SEC players projected by Kiper to go in the first round, nine are juniors.