It is long debated about what the best conference in college football is. The SEC? Big 12? Pac 12? Over the past decade, college football fans have witnessed the SEC dominate the post season and the rest of the NCAA, winning 8 of the last 10 national championships, Alabama owning 3 of those. When looking at the records, it is evident the SEC owns college football and it is difficult to argue otherwise. When it comes to subject of pumping out NFL talent, the SEC has also done a damn good job of pumping out NFL quality talent, with 63 players going from the conference just last year! However, do they posses the best NFL talent for this upcoming draft? Guys like Jadaveon Clowney, Jake Matthews and C.J. Mosley are elite talents in their own right, but does the SEC have the most top end talent at each position compared to other conferences? After thoroughly going over all the NCAA conferences for their NFL talent, the answer is no. That honor will go to the Pac-12.
The SEC offers a ton of offensive talent this year, mostly at offensive line and receiver. Players like Jake Matthews, Antonio Richardson, Gabe Jackson, Cyrus Kouandjio are at the top end of the offensive line talent and Donte Moncrief, Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Mitchell and Mike Evans are all very talented wide receivers. Aside from tight end, Arthur Lynch, the rest of the depth on offense in the division is mediocre.
The Pac-12 has offensive talent everywhere. Running back, a position the SEC is usually quite strong, is dominant in the Pac-12: Bishop Sankey is one of the best running backs in the country and resembles Ray Rice. Marion Grice is an explosive, intelligent back who would thrive in a zone blocking scheme with his vision. Ka’Deem Carey is a quick twitch, agile back who led the country in rushing last year. De’Anthony Thomas, more of an offensive weapon at the next level, is one of the fastest players in the country and is a threat in all facets of the game. Even after those top 4, players like Brendan Bigelow, Silas Redd and Daniel Jenkins add to the high level of talent.
Even though the SEC has some very talented wide receivers, the Pac-12, once again, one-ups them with their draft eligible talent. USC’s Marquise Lee is the best prospect in the country. While he is not physically dominant at 6 foot, 200 pounds, he is a true athlete. He is strong, with great hands and vertical ability to make the tough grabs. After the catch he is almost like a running back in the open field with his agility and speed. Lee could be a top 5 pick next year. After him, Kasen Williams is a physical receiver with the only thing holding him back is his quarterback. Williams is incredibly strong and is explosive off the line. He has great body control and makes his Quarterback look a lot better than he is. He could be a 1st round pick when it is all said and done as well. Josh Huff, Brandin Cooks and Austin Hill are all very talent receivers. Josh Huff is agile but makes his money as a violent run blocker, Cooks is quick and a solid deep threat and Hill is a complete package with size and speed, but needs to recover from a knee injury to work his way up the draft board.
At tight end, the SEC and the Pac-12 are polar opposites. I am a big fan of what Georgia’s Arthur Lynch brings to the table, but he alone does not compare to the array of different tight ends the Pac-12 brings into the discussion. Colt Lyerla is a 6’5”, 260 pound rocket who has incredible strength as a blocker and has great straight line speed. He has even lined up at running back for Oregon because of his dominant, open field ability. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was the most productive tight end in the country last year. While he is not a phenomenal athlete, his basketball background is evident when he goes up for 50/50 balls where he dominates small defensive backs. Chris Coyle a receiver in a 6’3”, 230 pound frame, Xavier Grimble is a 6’5” open field nightmare to tackle and Jake Murphy, the soft handed, strong safety valve out of Utah complete the Pac-12’s talented array of tight ends.
With big names like Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger, the SEC seems to have quite the crop of quarterbacks. Well, the numbers lie. Manziel is easily the best prospect of the bunch but he, evidently, has his issues mechanically on the field and mentally off the field that may scare scouts away. The other QBs are physically mediocre whose numbers are inflated by the systems the work in. Mettenberger’s arm strength is intriguing, but he makes daft decisions on and off the field and his past while at Georgia is extremely questionable. The Pac-12 on the other hand, has two of the most gifted young quarterbacks in the country in Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley. Hundley was thrown to the wolves last season behind a terrible offensive line, but he flourished and led UCLA to a successful season. He has a big arm and great mobility that is an asset in the new age NFL. Mariota is arguably the more physically gifted of the two, though he lacks Hundley’s overall polish. Mariota stands at 6’4” and 220 pounds and has a cannon for an arm while also having top-notch speed. He flashed a likeness to Colin Kaepernick in his redshirt freshman season and is poised for a big year.
Offensive line is the pride and joy of SEC offensive line prospects and probably the place where they have the Pac-12 beat. Jake Matthews and Antonio Richardson are both Top 10 players by my rankings and they are complimented by Gabe Jackson and Cyrus Kouandjio, who are both poised to climb up the board. However, the Pac-12 is no slouch in the offensive line department. Jake Fisher, Cameron Fleming, Hronniss Grasu, and Xavier Su’a Filo are all very athletic lineman who use there quickness and intelligence to push people around in the trenches and David Yankey is a versatile lineman who uses superb technique to stonewall pass rushers and pave the way in the running game. While the top end of Pac-12 line prospects does not compete with that of the SEC’s, the depth is certainly impressive.
With the exception of perhaps the offensive line, the Pac-12 has blue chip talent at almost every offensive position while the SEC truly does not. The young quarterbacks, the elite receiver prospect with talent sneaking up the rankings, the wide array of impressive tight ends with possibly 2 top 25 selections and of course, the host of great running backs. These key offensive positions blow the SEC’s talent out of the water while the Pac-12’s offensive line talent is nothing to scoff at. Overall, while the SEC is certainly not without talent on offensive, but the depth and level of dynamic Pac-12 players bring to the conversations far outdoes that of the SEC.
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