The SEC saw 53 former players get their names called during the 2018 NFL Draft. That number is the third-most in conference history.
What could end up being just as important are the guys who went undrafted. Every year, there are a select few players from this pool who end up being difference-makers for their respective franchise. It’s just a matter of determining who those select few are going to be.
Here are 6 former SEC players who have a great shot at making a 53-man roster, which is the first step to potentially becoming one of those impact players.
1. Trent Thompson, DL, Georgia
Landing Spot: Cleveland Browns
Analysis: Thompson needs to take that next step in his development. According to 247Sports, he was the former No. 1 player in 2015 class, so the talent is obviously there. It’s a matter of getting him to unlock all that potential.
That’s something he was never able to do at Georgia. In three seasons, the 6-foot-3, 288-pound defensive tackle only accumulated 5.5 sacks. The good news is that five of those came during 2016, which was the only season he managed to start and stay healthy.
After trading Danny Shelton to the New England Patriots, Cleveland’s defensive line could use more depth on the interior. They still have last year’s third-round pick Larry Ogunjobi, former Gator Caleb Brantley and two other impressive young defensive tackle (Trevon Coley and Jamie Meder), but more depth is needed — especially on passing downs.
Thompson can earn a spot as a rotational defensive lineman on passing downs.
2. Tony Brown, CB, Alabama
Landing Spot: Los Angeles Chargers
Analysis: Good luck finding a more physically impressive defensive back than Tony Brown. The former Alabama star is a specimen. He’s got the size (6-foot, 199 pounds) and speed (4.35 40-yard dash) needed to excel on the NFL level.
The question is where does he play? Brown lacks hip fluidity and the ability to mirror that would allow him to be an effective cornerback. It’s possible that he sees time at safety, but the Chargers just drafted Derwin James (No. 17 overall) and Kyzir White (No. 119 overall).
The good news for Brown is how effective he can be on coverage units. He has the history and physical makeup to be a special teams ace for the Chargers, which could allow him to stick around for awhile in the NFL. The video above is a perfect example of his presence covering kicks.
3. Eddy Pineiro, K, Florida
Landing Spot: Oakland Raiders
Analysis: The Raiders chose to part ways with long-time kicker Sebastian Janikowski this offseason. Giorgio Tavecchio is still on the roster, but he struggled at times. As a rookie, he converted 16 of 21 field goal attempts (76.2 percent), which put him at No. 28 in the NFL.
That’s where Pineiro comes in. The former Gators kicker was dynamite in college. He was the nation’s most accurate kicker in 2017, converting 17 of 18 attempts (94.4 percent). The more impressive aspect of his leg is the pure strength. Of the five attempts of 50-plus yards during his career, he converted all of them.
Pineiro was reunited with fellow Gator Johnny Townsend, who was drafted by the Raiders in the fifth round. Expect that reunion to last awhile.
4. Jeff Holland, EDGE, Auburn
Landing Spot: Denver Broncos
Jeff Holland is next in line for Denver Broncos UDFA diamond in the rough talent. He’s relentless and could be a replacement down the line. He’s a thread on Holland. You’ll thank me later. pic.twitter.com/mLKHL2mioc
— Cameron Parker (@CameronParkerPO) April 30, 2018
Analysis: There were some draft pundits who pegged Jeff Holland with a third-round grade. Yet, he somehow didn’t get drafted, probably a result of his limited athleticism.
Still, the former Auburn edge rusher is technically sound and could carve out a small role in Denver. The only problem is the competition that he’ll be facing.
The Broncos already had three solid edge defenders on the roster — Von Miller, Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett. As if that wasn’t enough, they added N.C. State star Bradley Chubb with the No. 5 overall pick in last Thursday’s draft.
It’ll be an uphill battle for Holland, but his talent should allow him to prevail. It just may not be with the Broncos.
5. Skai Moore, LB, South Carolina
Landing Spot: Indianapolis Colts
Analysis: The Colts defense has been atrocious over the last couple of years. They’ve finished in the top 3 in yards per game allowed for two straight seasons, after all.
Yes, Indianapolis did draft South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard in the second-round of the 2018 draft. They also added two more guys on Day 3 with Houston’s Matthew Adams and Syracuse’s Zaire Franklin.
Despite those additions, Moore could still end up on the final roster. He lacks adequate size (6-foot-2, 218 pounds) but he does possess an excellent feel for the game. Those natural instincts helped the South Carolina product haul in 14 career interceptions during his career with the Gamecocks.
With the Colts’ shift to a 4-3 base defense, Moore has the perfect opportunity to carve out a role as a backup weakside linebacker and special teams player — if his neck can hold up.
6. Trent Sherfield, WR, Vanderbilt
Landing Spot: Arizona Cardinals
Vanderbilt wide receiver Trent Sherfield 6-1, 205) had 50 receptions for a team-leading and career-high 729 yards and five touchdowns to go along with eight carries for 92 yards last season while playing in 12 games (eight starts).
Key an on WR Sherfield. https://t.co/brRzg8D9Y3
— Mike Jurecki (@mikejurecki) April 30, 2018
Analysis: Arizona’s receiver situation is somewhat fluid at the moment. Obviously, the 34-year-old Larry Fitzgerald is a lock to make the roster. Guys like J.J. Nelson, Brice Butler and Chad Williams probably are, too. Add in the team’s first-round pick — former Aggies star Christian Kirk —and that’s virtually five “locks” already in the fold.
The good news for Sherfield is the Cardinals carried six receivers on the 53-man roster last season.
Sherfield, the Commodores’ top receiver last season, has a good chance of earning that final spot. He’s listed at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, so the size is obviously there. Sherfield uses that size to work all levels of the field effectively, too.
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