Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Sometimes those opinions are just wrong.
Maybe we were even off base at points last week when we tried to nail down the SEC’s top five players at each position over the last decade. In some cases, the SEC blog’s readers let us know just how wrong we were – and so we decided to chime in with our own thoughts this week.
Each day this week, we will revisit those position rankings, with one of our SEC writers discussing his thoughts on the position with the co-worker who came up with the original top five.
For the most part, ESPN SEC writer Edward Aschoff and David Ching were in agreement about the top five at defensive back (1. Eric Berry, 2. Patrick Peterson, 3. Tyrann Mathieu, 4. Joe Haden, 5. Morris Claiborne):
Edward Aschoff: I didn’t have much of an issue with your list, really. Berry or Peterson certainly deserved to be No. 1 in my book, and I like that you have Mathieu in the top three. I don’t know if I’ve seen a more exciting player, regardless of position. Mathieu could do everything for LSU. He might not have been fantastic in coverage, but he was an animal for receivers to deal with and took a chunk of the field away from quarterbacks.
Imagine what he could have done with another full season.
You could have gone either way with Claiborne, who was fifth on your list, or Vernon Hargreaves III, who was left off. Claiborne had more hardware, and I think teammate Jalen Tabor was better in Hargreaves’ final season. But when you consider what Hargreaves did with his undersized frame, you could say he deserved to be in the top five.
People might be upset at the fact you didn’t have any Alabama players or Johnthan Banks in your top five, but I think you got it right by leaving them out. Banks was great, but would you honestly take him over the five in front of him? Just don’t think you can.
David Ching: Just like I had a difficult time naming a top five offensive linemen, I struggled a bit with who to place in the final spot in my defensive back top five last week. Banks won a Jim Thorpe Award, so he was tough to leave off, as was Hargreaves, a three-time All-SEC corner and two-time All-American.
Like you said, if any exclusion seemed most unfair, it was that I didn’t have a single Alabama defensive back in my top five. The Crimson Tide has had five DBs picked in the first round since 2007 – including No. 7 overall pick Mark Barron and No. 9 overall pick Dee Milliner – and none of them cracked the list. They certainly deserved the recognition, but did either of them belong in the top five over Claiborne, the No. 6 pick in the 2012 draft and the Jim Thorpe Award winner and coaches’ SEC defensive player of the year in 2011? It was a tough call, but I gave Claiborne a slight edge. I wouldn’t argue too strongly against three or four alternatives for that No. 5 spot, though, because there were a lot of great options.
Aschoff: Barron and Milliner were outstanding at Alabama. I would have certainly taken them on any college team I just happened to be coaching at the time. But I honestly believe Haden and Claiborne were overall better players, so you won't get an argument from me. You also could make quite the argument for Reggie Nelson. I was just a young pup when I first saw him at Florida, but I had never seen someone cover so much ground so well live and in living color. But he played only a season in the last decade, so I think you can get away with not having him in the top five. And he played only two seasons at UF.
Rashad Johnson (Alabama) is another guy who could have made the "just missed" list, along with Casey Hayward (Vanderbilt) and Ahmad Black, who went from special teams stud to a starter with 13 career interceptions and 244 tackles (142 solo).
That's the thing about the SEC, though. This league knows how to produce top-tier defensive backs.