Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SEC [Print without images]

Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Kiper: Top 5 RBs, S draft prospects


Now that we've looked at draft guru expert Mel Kiper Jr.'s early list of the top wide receivers and defensive ends for the 2014 NFL draft, it's time to check out two more positions.

Today, we're on to running backs Insider and safeties Insider. The interesting thing about the SEC is it's extremely deep at running back, but most of the top returning backs aren't draft eligible. No SEC backs made Kiper's top five, but Auburn rising junior Tre Mason made his "Next up" list.

Mason was Auburn's best overall player last year, rushing for 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns. He also averaged 5.9 yards per carry. Mason should have even more room to move around in Gus Malzahn's spread offense. He has a pounding nature about him, but has the ability to break the big one and has the agility to make defenders miss at times.

Other draft-eligible running backs I'd keep an eye on in the SEC this fall:
When it comes to safeties, there are a few more SEC faces on Kiper's list. Headlining his top five is Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He's such a rangy player and covers so much ground with his speed. He's also very good in coverage, which NFL scouts will surely drool over this season. Clinton-Dix also showed last year that he isn't afraid of contact and can play up in the box if needed. He's probably the league's most versatile ballhawk.

Coming in on Kiper's "Next up" list are LSU's Craig Loston and Ronald Martin, and Mississippi State's Nickoe Whitley. Loston is someone people are really starting to rave about. He's always had the potential, but his work ethic has been called into question. However, with more responsibility thrown his way last year, he really started to make strides with his game. He's also a hard-hitter who will basically be the captain of the defensive backfield this fall.

As for Martin, he was Eric Reid's backup last year and played in 13 games with one start. He really is an athlete and showed off some of his breakaway speed and instincts when he intercepted a tipped pass in the Idaho game and took it 45 yards for a touchdown. He doesn't have a ton of experience, but he'll make up for that this season.

Whitley has been a solid weapon for Mississippi State's secondary for the past few years. He has 10 career interceptions and was third on the team with 88 tackles last season. Whitley is a big-play safety and covers a lot of ground in the back of the Bulldogs' defense.

Other draft-eligiblle safeties I'd keep an eye on this fall: