SEC: early entry 2014 draft


The SEC has 28 of the 98 players who are early entrants to the NFL draft. We’ve looked at those players who must be replaced in the SEC East. Here are the stars from the SEC West who will leave big shoes to fill.

Leaving: Auburn OT Greg Robinson

The replacement: Shon Coleman. There are a number of players to keep in mind as candidates to take over for Robinson, who shot toward the top of draft boards with a dominant junior season. Coleman seems like the favorite at left tackle, but right tackle Avery Young could slide across the line into Robinson's old position. Keep an eye on Patrick Miller, who has starting experience at right tackle, and Robert Leff, as well.

[+] EnlargeMatt Joeckel
Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY SportsMatt Joeckel has some game experience but he is no sure thing to replace Johnny Manziel.
Leaving: Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel

The replacement: Pick 'em. This might be the most interesting race on the list. Nobody can replicate the improvisational talents that made Manziel a Heisman Trophy winner, but the Aggies have a collection of players who will compete to become Johnny Football's successor. Matt Joeckel (22-37, 293 yards, 2 TDs) started in Manziel's place last season, but he won't win the job simply because he's a senior. Sophomore Kenny Hill (16-22, 183 yards, 1 TD) and early enrollee Kyle Allen will also challenge for the starting nod.

Leaving: Texas A&M WR Mike Evans

The replacement: Ricky Seals-Jones. Texas A&M has no shortage of receiving talent on campus, although matching Evans' 1,394 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns will be difficult. An intriguing candidate here is Seals-Jones, who caught a 71-yard touchdown pass against Rice before hurting his knee and missing most of the season. The 6-foot-5 freshman was a huge get for Kevin Sumlin's staff last season and could easily become the Aggies' next big-time receiving weapon.

Leaving: Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio

The replacement: Leon Brown. Incoming freshman Cam Robinson could make some noise in the competition to replace Kouandjio, but let's go with the safe choice in the 6-foot-6 Brown, who has the frame to slide into the tackle spot. Brown filled in for injured Anthony Steen at right guard against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

Leaving: Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

The replacement: Nick Perry. Replacing Kiper's top safety prospect won't be easy -- especially with safety Vinnie Sunseri also jumping for the NFL -- but Perry looks like a safe choice here. The fifth-year senior is coming off season-ending surgery after appearing in only two games in 2013. He might get some competition from early enrollee Laurence Jones, so keep an eye on that competition during preseason practice.

Leaving: Auburn RB Tre Mason

The replacement: Cameron Artis-Payne. Although freshman Racean Thomas and redshirt freshman Peyton Barber are players to watch, next in line seems to be Artis-Payne, who played well behind Mason in 2013, rushing for 610 yards and averaging 6.7 yards per carry.

Leaving: LSU WR Odell Beckham

The replacement: Travin Dural. One of the most dynamic athletes in the country, Beckham's value as a return man and wideout cannot be understated. Speedster Dural played a limited role as a freshman (7-145, 2 TDs), but flashed some impressive playmaking skills when he combined with Anthony Jennings for a 49-yard, game-winning touchdown catch in the closing minutes against Arkansas.

Leaving: LSU WR Jarvis Landry

The replacement: Quantavius Leslie. The third-down security blanket for LSU's quarterbacks, Landry (77-1,193, 10 TDs) was one of the most clutch wideouts in the league. Juco transfer Leslie barely played in 2013, so he's hardly a lock here. If the Tigers secure a commitment from Malachi Dupre -- ESPN's No. 1 receiver and No. 17 overall prospect for 2014 -- he could also make an immediate impact.

Leaving: LSU RB Jeremy Hill

The replacement: Leonard Fournette. When available, Hill was one of the most productive backs in the nation. He had his share of off-field issues, which superprospect Fournette would do well to avoid. Recruiting analysts say Fournette is the closest thing to Adrian Peterson they’ve seen since the former Oklahoma star entered college, so he will almost certainly play early and play often. The Tigers also have veterans Terrance Magee (626 yards, 8 TDs) and Kenny Hilliard (310 yards, 7 TDs) to alleviate some of the pressure on the freshman.

Leaving: LSU DT Anthony Johnson

The replacement: Christian LaCouture. The Nebraskan was a key reserve on LSU's 2013 defensive line as a true freshman. LaCouture (11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss) needs to make huge strides between now and August, however, in order to solidify the middle of a line that lost both starters (Johnson and Ego Ferguson) to early entry into the draft.

Leaving: LSU DT Ego Ferguson

[+] EnlargeLeonard Fournette
Miller Safrit/ESPNLeonard Fournette, the top running back prospect in the country, should see an immediate role in LSU's backfield.
The replacement: Quentin Thomas. Thomas (9 tackles, 0.5 tackles for a loss) started against Iowa in the Outback Bowl when Ferguson didn't make the trip, so he might be the favorite here for now. Filling the holes left by Johnson and Ferguson in the center of the line will be one of the big keys when LSU opens spring practice.

Leaving: Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief

The replacement: Laquon Treadwell. It's not as if Treadwell didn't play a huge role already (team-high 72 catches for 608 yards and 5 TDs), but he will take over for Moncrief (59-938, 6 TDs) as the Rebels' top receiving option next season. He hasn't flashed the same downfield explosiveness yet, but Treadwell has already proved himself as a high-caliber SEC player.

Leaving: Alabama LB Adrian Hubbard

The replacement: Dillon Lee. Rising junior Lee -- who has stayed out of trouble since getting sent home from Alabama's trip to Miami for the 2013 BCS National Championship Game -- possesses the athleticism to take over for Hubbard at strongside linebacker without Alabama's defense missing a beat.

Leaving: Alabama DL Jeoffrey Pagan

The replacement: A'Shawn Robinson. Losing Pagan hurts, but Alabama enjoys enviable depth at defensive end with Robinson (team-high 5.5 sacks plus 8 tackles for a loss) and Jonathan Allen already establishing themselves and D.J. Pettway returning at the position.

Leaving: Alabama S Vinnie Sunseri

The replacement: Landon Collins. Alabama's playcaller in the secondary was one of the team's top leaders, but Collins is a superior athlete and should quickly emerge as one of the league's better safeties.

Leaving: LSU OG Trai Turner

The replacement: Fehoko Fanaika. Redshirt sophomore Turner made one of the stranger early entry decisions in the league, opening the door for former junior college transfer Fanaika to possibly fill the lone opening on the offensive line at right guard.

Leaving: LSU RB Alfred Blue

The replacement: See Jeremy Hill. The NCAA granted Blue a fifth year of eligibility following a season-ending knee injury in 2012, but he opted not to use it after rarely playing a leading role in LSU's backfield.
When roughly a third -- 29 out of 98 -- of the early entries into the NFL draft come from one conference, it is evident that the league is brimming with talent. Furthermore, 20 SEC underclassmen who left college with eligibility remaining now rank among the top 10 players at their respective positions according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

Their departures obviously open the door for other talented players to fill their spots in 2014. It's no easy feat to replace some of these big names, but the competitions have already started between players hoping to do just that. Let's take a look at the SEC East players who are waiting in the wings to fill in for the SEC underclassmen who have left for the pros. (For a look at the SEC West, click here.)

Leaving: South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney

[+] EnlargeGerald Dixon
Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Getty ImagesGerald Dixon made a number of big plays in 2013 but replacing Jadeveon Clowney on a full-time basis won't be easy.
The replacement: Gerald Dixon. Clowney is a once-in-a-decade talent at defensive end -- he's the No. 1 overall draft prospect according to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and ESPN Scouts Inc. -- so expecting Dixon (17 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss in 2013) to fill his void is unreasonable. He was a key reserve by the end of the 2013 season and is the only defensive end on the roster physically ready to be an every-down player right now, and the Gamecocks expect Dixon to grab a starting job in the fall.

Leaving: Florida CB Marcus Roberson

The replacement: Vernon Hargreaves III. Florida almost always has ridiculous cornerback talent, and it will still be in good shape after losing top-10 corners Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy. Hargreaves was actually a first-team All-SEC pick this season as a true freshman, and he might be the league's next superstar shutdown corner.

Leaving: Florida CB Loucheiz Purifoy

The replacement: Brian Poole. Poole -- the Gators' starting nickelback in 2013 -- is probably the favorite to take over for Purifoy, although early enrollee Jalen Tabor might also land the job and allow Florida to leave Poole at nickel.

Leaving: Missouri DE Kony Ealy

The replacement: Markus Golden. Missouri loses two of the league's top defensive ends in Ealy and Michael Sam, but Golden proved himself capable of becoming a force at the position, as well. He recorded 13 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks and even returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown against Toledo.

Leaving: Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson

The replacement: Dontavius Blair. Richardson's left tackle spot is only one opening on a Tennessee offensive line that will be mighty young in 2014. That was a strength of the team over the past two seasons, but will be perhaps the biggest question entering spring practice. Butch Jones' staff is depending on Garden City Community College transfer and early enrollee Blair to win Richardson's job and bring some physical maturity to the inexperienced line.

Leaving: South Carolina DL Kelcy Quarles

The replacement: Gerald Dixon Jr. Replacing Quarles, Kiper's No. 3 defensive tackle draft prospect, might be Dixon Jr., the half-brother of the Gerald Dixon who could take over for Clowney at defensive end. That should keep things interesting for the Gamecocks' broadcasting crew next season.

Leaving: Florida DT Dominique Easley

The replacement: Leon Orr and Darious Cummings. Senior Easley turned down a chance at a medical redshirt to enter the draft, but Kiper lists him as the No. 4 defensive tackle prospect, so his ability to anchor the line has not gone unnoticed. Easley's impact was certainly evident after he was injured last season and Orr and Cummings struggled to disrupt opposing offenses in a similar fashion. They need to step it up this year or redshirt freshmen Caleb Brantley or Jay-nard Bostwick might steal playing time.

Leaving: South Carolina WR Bruce Ellington

[+] EnlargeBrian Poole
AP Photo/John RaouxBrian Poole has been Florida's star nickelback but could move into a new role with the Gators losing two starting corners.
The replacement: Pharoh Cooper. One of the most dynamic wideouts in the league, Ellington (49-775, 8 TDs) could be replaced by a player with similar athleticism in Cooper (3-54, 1 TD), who played sparingly as a freshman in 2013.

Leaving: South Carolina CB Victor Hampton

The replacement: Rico McWilliams. Redshirt freshman McWilliams played a limited role in his return from a 2012 season-ending knee injury, but could be in line to replace the physical Hampton in the fall.

Leaving: Florida LB Ronald Powell

The replacement: Neiron Ball. Fifth-year senior Ball (25 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss) has started nine times and appeared in 36 games, so he should be able to slide into Powell's spot at strongside linebacker without many growing pains.

Leaving: Missouri RB Henry Josey

The replacement: Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy. Despite a solid 2013 season (1,166 yards, 16 TDs), Josey's draft stock is highly questionable following a career-threatening knee injury that forced him to miss all of 2012. He was the driving force in Missouri's impressive running game, but the other two pieces in the Tigers' three-pronged attack, Hansbrough (685 yards, 4 TDs) and Murphy (601 yards, 9 TDs) will be back.

Leaving: Vanderbilt WR Chris Boyd

The replacement: Boyd did not play in 2013 -- he was dismissed as part of a rape investigation involving several former teammates -- so it's not a matter of replacing his production in 2014. Vanderbilt's passing game faces a massive hole next season thanks to the losses of Jordan Matthews (112-1,477, 7 TDs), Jonathan Krause (42-714, 3 TDs) and Boyd.

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