Ranking the top 10 defensive players in the SEC for 2023 season
The SEC has always seemed to produce some of the best defensive talent in the country. During the first round of the 2023 NFL draft, three defensive players from the SEC were selected.
As the 2023 season approaches, there are already a handful of defensive players that are on the radar of NFL teams.
As it stands, multiple players are being projected to land in the first round of the 2024 NFL draft. There is a little less than a year until next year’s draft takes place. It just goes to show the level of talent and competition that the SEC provides year-in and year-out.
Roll Tide Wire ranks the top 10 defensive players in the SEC heading into the 2023 season.
Kamari Lassiter, CB
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2022 Stats: 38 TACK / 0.5 SKS / 8 PBUs
During his first two seasons in Athens, Lassiter served primarily as a backup cornerback behind Kelee Ringo. He was still able to see a lot of playing time on Georgia’s defense. With Ringo heading to the NFL, the Bulldogs will call on Lassiter to assume the same role. I do not expect there to be a big drop-off as Lassiter has experience and is very versatile in the secondary. He can play multiple positions which will come in handy for the Bulldogs defense next season.
Dwight McGlothern, S
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2022 Stats: 52 TACK / 4 INTs / 2 FFs / 1 FR
Last season, the Razorbacks were led defensively by the trio of Bumper Pool, Drew Sanders, and Dwight McGlothern. With both Pool and Sanders heading to the NFL, the Hogs will look for McGlothern to perform even better in the fall. He hauled in a team-high four interceptions last season. He provides veteran experience and is arguably one of the more premier safeties in the SEC.
Nathaniel Watson, LB
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2022 Stats: 113 TACK / 6 SKS / 1 INT / 1 FF
Watson has spent five seasons in Starkville and will spend his sixth season with the Bulldogs as well. The Alabama native had the best season of his career last year. He was very impactful in stopping the run as well getting to the quarterback. Watson is the leader of the Bulldogs defense and will look to continue his success as a sixth-year senior.
Smael Mondon, LB
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2022 Stats: 76 TACK / 1 INT / 1 SACK
Georgia saw several of its top defenders head off to the NFL following the 2022 season. One player that will be back in Athens next season is junior linebacker Smael Mondon. The Georgia native took on an increased role as a sophomore and was a key piece on the Bulldogs defense.
Deontae Lawson, LB
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2022 Stats: 51 TACK / 4 PBUs
To begin the season, Alabama sophomore linebacker Deontae Lawson was a backup behind sixth-year senior Jaylen Moody. As the season progressed, Lawson assumed the starting role and thrived for the Crimson Tide. He showed off his ability to defend in pass coverage as well as being a run stopper. With several of Alabama’s starters heading to the NFL, Lawson will have to step up and be the leader of the Alabama defense next season.
Malaki Starks, DB
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2022 Stats: 69 TACK / 2 INTs / 7 PBUs
One freshman that made his name known last season was Georgia defensive back Malaki Starks. The Georgia native was used primarily as a hybrid linebacker, meaning that he played both safety and linebacker. His versatility is something that Georgia co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann utilized very often last season. He could be used in coverage as well as inside the box to minimize the rushing attack.
Maason Smith, DL
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2021 Stats: 19 TACK / 4 SKS
Last season, LSU was without one of its top defenders. In the first game of the season, sophomore Maason Smith suffered a torn achilles causing him to miss the rest of the season. With Smith returning, LSU is expected to have one of the best defenses in the conference, if not the country. Smith can play multiple positions along the defensive line and showed flashes of his potential as a true freshman in 2021. Smith’s play could go a long way in determining how successful the Tigers defense is in 2023.
Kool-Aid McKinstry, DB
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2022 Stats: 35 TACK / 1 INT / 1 SACK / 15 PBUs
Alabama had some flaws on the back end of its defense last season. One of the players that made very few mistakes was rising junior Kool-Aid McKinstry. McKinstry was undoubtedly one of the best players on Alabama’s defense last season. Several draft experts have McKinstry going in the top-10 in the 2024 NFL draft. He will look to solidify those projections during his junior season in Tuscaloosa.
Dallas Turner, LB
(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
2022 Stats: 37 TACK / 4 SKS / 1 FR
Alabama had arguably two of the best edge rushers in the country last season in Will Anderson Jr. and Dallas Turner. While Anderson Jr. is headed to the NFL, Turner returns for his junior season with the Tide. Last season, he was one of Alabama’s top defenders. His ability to win 1-on-1 situations and create pressure on the quarterback has him projected to be a top draft pick in next year’s NFL draft.
Harold Perkins, LB
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2022 Stats: 72 TACK / 7.5 SKS / 3 FFs / 1 INT
The No. 1 defender in the conference heading into next season in sophomore Harold Perkins. As a freshman at LSU, Perkins was able to put his skillset on display. As the season progressed, Perkins improved from week-to-week. He was used in a multitude of different ways whether it be as a standup outside linebacker, edge rusher, or as an inside linebacker. His style of play is eerily similar to Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons. Both possess great finesse, speed, and power. It does not matter where they are aligned on the defensive side of the ball.