Fans who aren’t from the southern states can argue (and often do), but the SEC is practically the NFL’s junior varsity.
The LSU-Alabama game from last season featured more first-round talent than plenty of Power Five college programs will produce in a decade. SEC games just look different than the rest of college football.
The NFL realizes this. The SEC had 64 draft picks last year, 24 more than any other conference. The SEC has had the most picks of any conference in 13 straight drafts, which is astounding. The SEC has had the most first-round picks in four straight drafts, and eight of the last nine.
And this year could be a record-setting draft for the SEC. In fact, the odds at BetMGM in New Jersey indicate the SEC could cruise past the old record for first-round picks by a single conference.
Could half of first round be SEC players?
The record for first-round picks by one conference is 12. The ACC had 12 first-round picks in 2006, a mark tied by the SEC in 2013 and 2017.
That’s why this year’s prop for SEC first-round picks is startling:
Total SEC players drafted in the first round
Over 15.5 +115; Under 15.5 -139
Cashing an over ticket would mean half of the first round came from a single conference. Unbelievable.
The under is favored, though not by too much. The SEC could go well under the total, get 13 first-round picks, and still set the record. And if it does get to 16 (or more?), that’s a record that might stand for a really long time.
Considering BetMGM’s totals for LSU and Alabama players in the first round adds up to 11, the SEC is clearly headed for a memorable draft year. Getting 16 picks in the first round seems to be a tall task, but there are certainly enough candidates and NFL teams don’t shy away from taking SEC players. At plus odds, I’ll take the over.
What are the odds for other conferences?
In his latest mock draft (not counting the entertaining fan mock draft he conducted), Yahoo Sports NFL draft expert Eric Edholm had 17 SEC players in the first round, including 10 of the first 17 picks. But that was a few weeks ago, and some SEC players might have fallen just out of the first round since then:
Edholm: “The Big Ten hive will have its day in this draft. The way I see it, that conference will dominate the top four picks with possibly three selections and a defector (Joe Burrow) who once called the B1G home.
“Of course, that's about the time in the draft when the SEC will hit the gas and not really think about the brakes. No one likes to hear this outside of SEC country, but it’s hard to ignore. The stone-cold locks from the conference to land in Round 1, to me, are: Burrow, Derrick Brown, C.J. Henderson, Jedrick Wills, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Andrew Thomas, K’Lavon Chaisson, Javon Kinlaw, Patrick Queen and — I think — Justin Jefferson. You can probably say Tua Tagovailoa is close to a lock, too, but I can’t say there hasn’t been some legit concern about him; still, come on, someone is taking him.
“That’s 12 that are pretty close to certain. Then there is a group of eight — Kristian Fulton, D’Andre Swift, Xavier McKinney, Marlon Davidson, Trevon Diggs, Isaiah Wilson, Grant Delpit and Noah Igbinoghene — that feel like 50-50 shots, although some will have an easier time than others squeezing into the top 32 picks.
“Diggs’ stock feels like it has been dropping. Same with Delpit. Igbinoghene and Davidson are getting more love now. But I will say that a month ago, I felt 16 was very doable. Now, I must admit, I am siding on the under there just a bit.”
Looking at the BetMGM prop bets for other conferences in the first round also shows what a dominant league the SEC is. Keep in mind when looking at these props for conferences that LSU and Alabama each have lines of 5.5 first-round players:
Total ACC players drafted in the first round
Over 3.5 +225; Under 3.5 -286
Total Big Ten players drafted in the first round
Over 5.5 -130; Under 5.5 +110
Total Big 12 players drafted in the first round
Over 3.5 +150; Under 3.5 -179
Total Pac-12 players drafted in the first round
Over 2.5 +170; Under 2.5 -209
Yeah, it’s an SEC party.
Of the remaining conferences, the under on the Big Ten might be the best value. Chase Young, Jeffrey Okudah and Tristan Wirfs are likely to be gone in the first 10-12 picks. After that, there are no first-round locks. Penn State edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos is a likely first-round pick, though in the last half of the round. Michigan center Cesar Ruiz, Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun and Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. are potential first-round picks too, but they could all slip to the second round. It seems the presence of the three locks early in the first round have pushed up the Big Ten’s total just a bit, and at plus odds it’s worth taking the under.
But one thing is clear: Every other conference is battling for second place to the SEC. In fact, it might take two or three conferences to equal the number of SEC first-round picks this year.
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