Draft's first day will be loaded with SEC

(Jim Brown/USA Today)

Who will the Vikings' draft pick in the first round? There's about a 50-50 shot it will be a player from the SEC, the conference that will dominate the first day of the draft.

A funny thing is going to happen in the next couple of months. People who have never spent time following college football become "experts" in the weeks and days leading up to the draft. Who will the Vikings take? I could place an even-money wager today – 10 weeks before the draft – and have just as good a chance of winning as losing.

Come again?

Try it. Make a bet that the player the Vikings select will be a proud member of the Southeastern Conference.

On Tuesday the first of several incarnations of the Viking Update mock draft will be unveiled. Of the 32 players we projected to go in the first round, 15 of them (47 percent) played in the SEC. It could have been even more pronounced.

As far as college football is concerned, the SEC is where it's at. Period. Move on. Arguments fall upon deaf ears. Nothing has changed over the last few years. If anything, the competition is getting so fierce that members of the coaching staffs in the SEC are watching junior high school game film to get a foot in the door with the "Next Big Thing."

While the first Viking Update mock of 2013 has 15 SEC players being selected among the first 32 (Spoiler alert! The Vikings aren't one of them), that doesn't include players like defensive linemen John Jenkins of Georgia, Jesse Williams of Alabama, Corey Lemonier of Auburn or wide receiver Justin Hunter of Tennessee – all of whom project out with first-round grades. A case can be made that more than half of the first-round picks made in late-April will come from one conference. The other baker's dozen come from the rest of the country – every conference and every team.

That should be a cause for pause among college football fans. The SEC has produced the last seven national champions for a reason. The other major sports have minor leagues that serve as feeder programs. "Officially" the SEC is just another conference of the reducing number of conferences that dot the landscape in the 21st century of college ball. "Unofficially" the SEC is the pipeline to the pros and the coaches in hurricane country are selling that point hard.

In the coming weeks and months, those who have fine teeth in their college-football comb will step forward and proclaim to be the smartest guy in the room when it comes to a marriage of a college player and an NFL franchise. Much lesser talent evaluators will claim epiphany-style short-term clarity as "an expert."

The fact of the matter is that you don't need to be an expert to "get it" when it comes to college football. Talent pools are what feeds the beast. In most conferences, the pool requires that you jump in feet-first. It's not very deep. You can cliff-dive in the SEC pool. It's deep and getting deeper.

If you want to make a bet that's sure to win, wager that a dozen players from the SEC will come off the board in prime-time on the first day of the draft. Your bet will be covered long before the first night is over, but the hardest part may be finding someone to take that action. The NFL fraternity will get stocked with grip-and-grins and unsettling man-hugs between Roger Goodell and SEC players, and the green room in New York will be stocked with players from the Southeastern Conference.

Like it or not, the NFL has a minor league system. It goes by the name SEC.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.


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