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Florida tops SEC East for 2016 NFL Draft talent

The East division doesn't tout as much NFL talent as the West but it does have the conference's best player in Gators cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.

The SEC East hasn’t won a conference championship since 2008. Despite that imbalance in trophies, plenty of players from its seven teams are still finding their way to the NFL.

Florida has had 13 first-round picks since 2007. Missouri has had first-round picks two of its first three years in the conference. This year, Kentucky had its first Day 1 player selected last year since 2003.

The Florida Gators have the most appealing draft class in the division this year, thanks to their draft-eligible juniors. Next on the list is Missouri, followed closely by Kentucky and Tennessee with Georgia rounding out the middle of the pack.

Here's how SB Nation's bloggers covering each school assess this year's crop of NFL talent.

1. Florida - Alligator Army

(Analysis by Trevor Sikkema)

Vernon Hargreaves III, CB (junior): True lockdown corners don’t come around too often, but Florida has one in VH3. In man coverage, he mirrors a receiver's every move. He's got instincts to know when to bat the ball away and when to take a chance for an interception. At just 190 pounds, he’s not a hard hitter, but he has no fear of bringing his guy down. He could be the first corner off the board.

Demarcus Robinson, WR (junior): I’m surprised more NFL draft people don’t know who Demarcus Robinson is, but they’ll learn. He’s a 6’2, 205-pound receiver who wants to be the guy making all the catches. His biggest hurdle is just his focus. With a better structured offense this season, he could really improve his stock.

Antonio Morrison, LB (senior): To this point, Morrison’s claim to fame was his hit on FSU’s E.J. Manuel as a freshman in 2012. He led the Gators in tackles last year, becoming the first Florida linebacker since Brandon Spikes to record 100 tackles in a season. With slower pursuit speed and not much break when engaging blockers, it's hard to think he’ll go before Day 3.


(Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports)

2. Missouri - Rock M Nation

(Analysis by Jack Peglow)

Kentrell Brothers, LB (senior): Mizzou's leading tackler a year ago should hold on to that title, and could also make a run at being the team-leader in sacks. Under new defensive coordinator Barry Odom, blitzes will become more regular, and Brothers -- the most athletic linebacker of the bunch -- should be the weapon of choice to send hurtling toward opposing quarterbacks. If he can put up measurables to match the stats, he'll be worth a first- or second-round pick.

Evan Boehm, OL (senior): Boehm will anchor Missouri's offensive line from the center position, but centers don't usually get picked in the early part of the draft. Luckily Boehm can also play guard. He may even project better at that position. A former wrestler, he plays with great balance and smarts. He's likely to get picked on the second day.

Kenya Dennis, CB (senior): He has all the speed and athleticism to play at the next level, but his production of a top prospect hasn't been lacking for a top corner. If he wants to make a case for an early draft pick, he's going to need to show that he can put those measurables to work on the field.

(Star Missouri defensive tackle Harold Brantley will sit out this season due to injury)


(Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports)

3. Kentucky - A Sea of Blue

(Analysis by Will Marshall)

AJ Stamps, FS (senior): Stamps is UK's best NFL prospect this season. The JUCO transfer was a December enrollee, which benefited his development last spring and summer and part of the reason he contributed immediately last season. His abilities to cover a lot of ground in the back third allowed UK to take more risks. He's also an outstanding tackler in the open field.

Melvin Lewis, NT (senior): Lewis is another JUCO transfer who came to UK and was subsequently redshirted. Last season, he beat out five-star recruit Matt Elam starting as the 3-4 nose tackle. He battled some nagging injuries later in the season. Lewis has to work on keeping his pad level low, but he's come a long way.

Josh Forrest, ILB (senior): Forrest is converted receiver who moved to linebacker. He didn't see the field much in Stoops' first season, but ended up starting every game in 2014 and led the team in tackles. Forrest has length, speed and good coverage and blitzing abilities. If there's a knock, it's that he's not a physical tackler, and beating blocks to make a tackle for a loss was beyond him last season.

Fred Tiller, CB (senior): Tiller has good length, and is a solid open field tackler who plays at the boundary. He usually is matched up against the opponent's top receiver, including DeVante Parker. He still gets beat, but he's getting beat less each passing year.

Jordan Swindle, OT (senior): Swindle was arguably UK's best offensive lineman last season. He played right tackle, and moved to left tackle this season. He's a smart, physical blocker, but has average feet.

Patrick Towles, QB (junior): Towles is the only player on UK's roster I can see leaving for the NFL a year early. The redshirt junior threw for 2,700 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season. He fell off in the last month against top-20 defenses like Mizzou, UT and UGA. Towles will have a ton of weapons to work with this season, more than any other UK quarterback since Andre Woodson in 2007. He has NFL arm strength, solid accuracy and is surprisingly athletic. His biggest issue last season was losing control of his fundamentals when the pocket was collapsing.


(Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports)

4. Tennessee - Rocky Top Talk

(Analysis by Will Shelton)

Cameron Sutton, CB (junior): Sutton is on pace to set the school record this fall for career passes defended after finishing 14th nationally last year. Teams have so far gotten away with not throwing at him very often, but he has still made an impact statistically. At 6'1, 189 pounds, bigger receivers could overpower him, but Sutton generally holds his own against anyone and his tackling improved from his freshman to sophomore season.

Marquez North, WR (junior): A 6'4 receiver with a knack for the big play, he made a picturesque diving catch in the end zone against Georgia and almost single-handedly helped the Vols upset South Carolina. He's had injury problems, and Tennessee's issues at quarterback and on the offensive line limited his overall numbers. His ceiling is incredibly high, even if he may need to show more consistency and/or stay for his senior season to move further up the big board.

Curt Maggitt, DE/OLB (senior): The biggest question here is where he might fit in the NFL. He started at OLB as a freshman in 2011, then tore his ACL in November 2012 and sat out all of 2013. The Vols used him as a hybrid DE/OLB last fall and he finished with 11 sacks. He has great instincts, especially as a pass rusher.

Brian Randolph, S (senior): He's a smart player with a history of injuries who might be a tad too small (6'0, 208 pounds) and a tad too slow for the NFL, but could be a really good fit in the right scheme as a mid- to late-round draft pick. He finished in the top 15 for team tackles in 2012 despite tearing his ACL in the third game of the season. He finished with 75 and 88 tackles the last two seasons and six interceptions over that span.


(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

5. Georgia - Dawg Sports

(Analysis by Macon Dawg)

Malcolm Mitchell, WR (senior): Mitchell's primary task for 2015 is to stay healthy. No one doubts his explosive athletic ability, ball skills or physicality at the receiver position, but Mitchell has yet to demonstrate that he's capable of playing for a full season. If he has a true breakout season, Mitchell could be a first-round pick. If he can't stay on the field, he's likely to be a late round pick or undrafted free agent, much like Marlon Brown in 2013.

Leonard Floyd, DE/LB (junior): Floyd considered entering this year's draft but decided to come back and try to get better. It was the right move. Floyd has demonstrated incredible pass rushing skills and decent chops in coverage, but has been a bit of a liability against the run at times. At 6'4, 230 pounds, Floyd needs to develop more upper body strength and improve his technique and consistency to prove he's an every day player at the NFL level.

John Theus, OT (senior): Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb are freakishly good running backs. But they didn't gain all those yards on their own. John Theus joined an incredibly reliable group of linemen who consistently sprung those guys into the second level. Theus is 6'5, 305 pounds, and still doesn't have the true "bookend" size you associate with left tackles at the NFL level. He's probably never going to have that. What he can do this year is show NFL personnel folks that he has the versatility to play either tackle spot and maybe even slide down to guard.


(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)

6. South Carolina - Garnet and Black Attack

(Analysis by Sam McDowell)

Skai Moore, MLB (junior): It will be interesting to see how Skai adapts to the new 4-3 alignment. He has put on roughly 15 pounds of muscle since last season and reports are that he is just as quick to the ball. Despite adding muscle, there's concern about him playing in the middle of the 4-3, especially against traditional power run offenses such as LSU and UGA.

Pharoh Cooper, WR (junior): Cooper is USC's most obvious offensive weapon. He runs good routes, possesses good hands, and knows how to find holes in the defense. Where he could stand to improve is his straight line speed. He just doesn't strike one as a pure speed demon on the field.

Brandon Shell, LT (senior): He's played right tackle for most of his career at USC, but is projected to move over to the blindside after the departure of Corey Robinson. Shell has the body type and the pedigree to be a successful left tackle. He struggled there in his freshman year before making the switch to the right side. Shell needs to show that he's improved from his freshman year to garner early round draft buzz. Fun fact: NFL Hall of Famer Art Shell, is his uncle.


(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

7. Vanderbilt - Anchor of Gold

(Analysis by Trevor Sikkema)

Caleb Azubike, DE/OLB (senior): Azubike made the switch from 4-3 DE to 3-4 OLB when head coach Derek Mason took over, which should help him in the long run as he’ll be primarily a pass-rushing guy from a stand-up position. He had a few nagging injuries last year, but Chase Goodbread of mentions him as a breakout candidate going into 2015.