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Big Board for the 2019 NBA Draft

After following the SEC and the rest of college basketball all season, here is my top 30 prospects for the 2019 NBA Draft. The first 14 prospects on this list, who deserve to be headed for the lottery, have more in-depth breakdowns while prospects 15-30 receive shorter descriptions. And yes, this is just one man’s opinion who watched way too much college basketball last season.

1. Zion Williamson, Forward, Duke

I’m all in on Mr. Williamson. Yes, we all know he is a hulking behemoth who can jump put of a gym. However, he is so much more than that. Combining that athleticism with his endless motor and defensive potential easily makes him the best overall prospect since Anthony Davis in 2012.

As far as weaknesses, his mechanics on his jump shot are still funky and he doesn’t get much lift underneath him when he shoots. He also needs to add a few more offensive moves to his game besides that Julius Randle spin move (which is very effective). But these are still nitpicks. Williamson actually shot better than his other talented teammates last season and his current offensive moves are borderline unguardable. Who knows just how good Zion will be, but he is a once in every decade type of talent. He is the prize of this draft.

2. Ja Morant, Point Guard, Murray State

I think there is a clear second-best player in this draft, and that title belongs to the best college player from the state of Kentucky last season. Morant is an uber-athletic point guard and an elite playmaker. “Skinny John Wall” is actually a relatively close comparison. He is in the mold of De’Aaron Fox from a body-build perspective, but I think his game is closer to that of a healthy Wall due to Morant’s flashiness.

While that is certainly high praise, Morant is not the generational prospect that Williamson is. His weaknesses are much more apparent. Morant needs to refine his jump shot as well, but more importantly, he is just straight-up bad on defense. This will make him a liability against the several great point guards in the league today. Overall, despite those critiques I do think his complete offensive game makes him a guaranteed non-bust at the next level. If he can learn behind Mike Conley Jr. in Memphis, I think he will end up being an all-star in the NBA.

3. Jarrett Culver, Shooting Guard, Texas Tech

Many say this is a three-player draft. I just don’t see it that way. After Zion and Ja, I think there is a large drop off. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t any good players after them, but I just don’t see any sure-fire all-stars. Many scouts have Duke’s R.J. Barrett here and for good reason. However, I think the more complete player is Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver.

Culver is easily the better shooter, arguably the better playmaker, has a better personality on the court, and is the better defender. While I’m not sure just how high his “ceiling” really is, I think his bust potential is smaller than any other player on this board. Culver also carried the Red Raiders all the way to the championship even while being the guy every team concentrated on. His role will be dependent on the team that is smart enough to pick him, but Culver is going to be good at whatever is asked of him at the next level.

4. R.J. Barrett, Forward, Duke

Before the college basketball season started, I had Barrett as the best player in this draft. I still really like his overall talent level despite him falling to No. 4 on this list. I actually think his greatest attribute is his play-making ability. Barrett brought the ball up the court many times for Duke and made some outstanding passes for his teammates. He has the ability to make those around him better.

However, there are two big questions facing him. The first being his three-point shooting. For a guy that shoots a lot of 3’s, he is not very good at it at all which is a problem in a league that has made a shift to that style of play. But the biggest problem I have with Barrett is his inclination to play hero-ball at the end of games. Barrett can become an all-star in this league. However, if he doesn’t fix his shot and that over-alpha mentality then he could be someone that no one likes to play with.

5. Brandon Clarke, Power Forward, Gonzaga

I have zero idea why more scouts do not have this guy higher on their boards. Clarke was easily the most underrated player in college basketball this season. Not only did he average 17 ppg and 8.6 rpg, but he also was fifth in the entire sport in blocks per game (3.8). He is an incredibly explosive athlete who is already an elite-level defender because of his timing in blocking shots.

The only thing holding him back from being higher on my board is that his midrange jumper needs more work for a guy that is just 6’8. Its “alright” right now, but it needs more consistency in order to make him a good offensive player at the next level. Worst-case scenario I see him being a Kenneth Faried-type at the in the league due to his high motor and competitiveness, but he has the potential to be much, much better than that.

6. Nassir Little, Forward, North Carolina

From here on out, I think there is another big drop off as far as guaranteed “good picks.” I’m confident that the top 5 players here will be good NBA players, but after that….oh boy. Good luck finding a quality starter. That’s just how the draft is this year.

This leads me to put Little here at No. 6. This is pretty controversial as some scouts truly hate him and won’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. The reason is that at times for UNC he seemed genuinely uninterested in playing hard when it didn’t matter. This is a huge red flag. However, when he is engaged like he was in the NCAA Tournament, Little is easily the best one-on-one defender in this draft. I see him right now as Jaylen Brown but with a weaker jump shot. Not the most attractive sentence, but at such a young age with an NBA ready body, Little is worth the risk. Either he turns into Stanley Johnson, or his offensive game improves and he turns into a poor man’s Kawhi Leonard. In this draft, that makes him my sixth best prospect. Always. Gamble. On. Defense.

7. Darius Garland, Point Guard, Vanderbilt

The first SEC player to make an appearance on this list just so happens to have played only five games of collegiate basketball due to injury. Like I said, its not a very deep draft. However, I do really like what very little I saw from Garland. At the point guard position, I think he is far and away the best shooter in this draft. His release is incredibly quick and natural. His handle is elite, and while he is a shoot-first PG he is still a good passer.

Those positives came against extremely weak competition, however. Garland’s frail frame also makes him a potential defensive liability. Also, we don’t know how good of a finisher he is at the rim. Basically, all that we for sure know about Garland is that he can shoot. That’s not enough for me to move him up higher on this list, but in a make-or-miss league it’s definitely a good attribute to have.

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Top Recruiting Classes in the SEC for 2019

(Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

With only a handful of uncommitted prospects left in the 2019 high school basketball recruiting class, each SEC team has most of their own classes filled out. Here are the top 5 teams in the conference who pulled the best group of recruits for this coming Fall. (Teams are ranked in descending order starting with the No. 1 class)

1. Kentucky

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the Wildcats will be bringing in the best crop of recruits this year. Not only is this the best class in the SEC, but its now the best in the entire country after the commitment of four-star Johnny Juzang who is a consensus top-35 prospect.

Headlining this class are three five-star players who will all get significant playing time in Lexington this coming season: Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney, and Keion Brooks. Maxey is the star of this class. He is what scouts call “a complete guard”, and he is the betting favorite to lead Kentucky in scoring next season. Whitney is a hyper-athletic slasher who is also a decent jump shooter. Think of Brooks as a max-potential Wenyen Gabriel with more of an alpha mentality. Depending on the lineup, Brooks can play the 3 or the 4.

Rounding out the class is sharp-shooting Juzang at the small forward position, Kentucky’s own Dontaie Allen (4-star recruit), and grad transfer Nate Sestina from Bucknell (15.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg). Going off of ESPN’s top 100 ranked recruits, Kentucky will have 4 players in the top-35 coming to Lexington and that’s not even counting Allen and Sestina.

Where things really get scary is that the Wildcats are projected to land Jaden McDaniels who is a consensus top-10 prospect. Many scouts say that he will be a top-5 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Adding McDaniels to what’s already the best class in the nation is a scary thought for the rest of the SEC. It’s safe to say that Coach John Calipari is still one of the most dangerous recruiters in the country.

2. Georgia

Make fun of him all you want, but the truth is that Tom Crean is pretty awesome at recruiting high-level basketball players. 247sports considers Florida to have a slightly better class than Georgia, but I have to disagree. While the margin is very close between the two (more on that later), the fact is that the Bulldogs have Anthony Edwards and the Gators do not.

While James Wiseman is widely viewed as the best player in this class, I believe that title should belong to Edwards. The 6’4 five-star shooting guard is a highlight reel dunker who possesses game-changing athleticism. He is a complete scorer who gets incredible lift on his jump shots. I see him as a mesh between Dwyane Wade and Victor Oladipo. I believe Edwards will be the first overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Georgia’s class isn’t all about Edwards. Crean was also able to net four other top 100 recruits (based off 247sports’ list). All four are ranked between 65 to 100, but there is some real talent here. After Edwards, small forward Christian Brown is considered the Bulldogs’ next best prospect. Georgia will also be adding two more forwards with the commitments of Jaykwon Walton and Toumani Camera. However, the most interesting player here is 5’8 point guard Sahvir Wheeler. Despite his small size, Wheeler will probably be the starting point guard for the Bulldogs in 2019.

I’m not sure how good Georgia will be this upcoming season, but I can guarantee that they will be marginally better thanks to this outstanding class.

3. Florida

While I do like Georgia’s class just a smidge better than Florida’s, the Gators will be welcoming in two five-star prospects which is very impressive. Scottie Lewis is the headliner as the 6’5 small forward is very athletic but also very defensively sound. He will be asked to do a lot for Florida as their best defender and possibly as their best scorer.

The other five star player is point guard Tre Mann. Depending on how you feel about LaMelo Ball, Mann is widely viewed as the second-best true point guard in this class. Remember his name because he will be the starting point guard for the Gators in the 2019-2020 season.

Rounding out the class is four-star center Omar Payne who is a consensus top-50 prospect. Florida also added two other three-star prospects to their class as well. Overall, netting two McDonald’s All Americans is very impressive, and this would be seen as the best class in most conferences.

4. Alabama

New Head Coach Nate Oates has put together a pretty nice haul for 2019. While there are no All Americans or five star players coming in, the Crimson Tide will be adding three top-100 players. These three consensus four-star prospects are Juwan Gary, Jaylen Forbes, and Jaden Shackelford.

Gary is considered to be the best prospect coming in as he is ranked as the 63rd best player in the class by ESPN. Shackelford and Forbes are scoring guards who will be asked to try and improve the Crimson Tide’s offense. They will also be joined by three-star center Raymond Hawkins from Findlay Prep.

Oates also did some work on the transfer trail as former West Virginia and Covington Catholic star James Bolden will be suiting up for Alabama in 2019. Overall, I’m impressed by the depth here in this class. There isn’t a big-time star here, but adding in four quality players for Oates’ first season is great news for Crimson Tide fans. Oates will be a significant improvement over Avery Johnson.

5. Auburn

Bruce Pearl is getting another good recruiting class as he will be welcoming in three four-star players along with two three-star prospects. The headliner is small forward Isaac Okoro who is viewed as a top-40 prospect across multiple recruiting websites.

Okoro is a high-energy slasher who can play both the 2 and the 3. Where his potential will truly shine will be on the defensive end. Okoro already has a chiseled frame and great athleticism which will allow him to become very important defender on the wing for the Tigers.

Joining Okoro are fellow four-star prospects Tyrell Jones and Jaylin Williams. All three of these players will be asked to play a lot in the upcoming season as Auburn will have substantial losses coming off of March’s impressive Final Four run. Overall, Okoro is a nice addition, but I think this class is just a little underwhelming.


Best Picks from the SEC in the NFL Draft

In another amazing NFL Draft for the SEC, a record 64 players were taken from the conference. While there were surprises and some players unfortunately fell in the draft, some of these athletes landed in awesome situations. Here are the 10 best landing spots for players from the SEC in 2019 NFL Draft. (Players are in order of their selection in the draft)

1. Josh Allen-Kentucky, Seventh Overall Pick, Jacksonville Jaguars

This was a brilliant pick by the Jaguars. While some may say that their already great defense did not need to draft more help on that side of the ball, a player of Allen’s talent is an absolute steal.

While they are 4th in the league in scoring defense, Jacksonville still needs a linebacker that can really get after the quarterback. Telvin Smith and Myles Jack are very good do-everything linebackers, but they only had 3.5 sacks in between each other last season. Putting Allen next to them in their 4-3 defense forms one of the most complete linebacker cores in football. I would not be surprised at all if he finishes with 7-10 sacks this season.

On Allen’s end, what better situation to fall into than this one? He gets to play in sunny Florida for an already defensively dominant squad with a spot carved out for him. All he has to do is run straight at the quarterback all season long while the stalwarts on that side of the ball take care of everything else. Falling to seven was a tough look for Allen, but it may have been a blessing in disguise.

2. Montez Sweat-Mississippi State, 26th Overall Pick, Washington Redskins

Very similarly to Allen, another SEC edge rusher who surprisingly fell in the draft found a team with a defensive spot already carved out for him. The Redskins play a very suitable 3-4 defense for a hybrid defensive end prospect like Sweat.

Washington actually has a pretty decent defense with studs like Ryan Kerrigan, Mason Foster, and Josh Norman. However, they are just one more great edge rusher away from being a elite unit. That’s exactly what Sweat could potentially provide.

This is a no-pressure situation for the former Bulldog. Like Allen, there is no pressure on him to be elite right off the bat. Any positive plays he gives the Redskins will be a welcome addition to a defense just a player away from being one of the best in the league. Putting his 4.4 speed on the opposite side of the field from Kerrigan should be huge trouble for opposing NFC teams.

3. DeAndre Baker-Georgia, 30th Overall Pick, New York Giants

It’s no secret that I’m a very big fan of Baker’s skillset. No defensive back had more of a dominant year this past season in college football than he did. And yet, he found himself slipping all the way down to pick No. 30.

After getting rid of Landon Collins in the offseason, the Giants badly needed defensive back help for a unit that was already 23rd in passing yardage allowed per game. Baker has the talent to excel right away and the personality to handle the New York spotlight.

While the Giants are going to be a very, very bad team this year, this could actually work in Baker’s favor. Any player who has a good season on a terrible team will get more recognition than he probably deserves. That may just be Baker this season, and I expect him to be in the running for DPOY.

4. Irv Smith Jr.-Alabama, 2nd Round 50th Overall, Minnesota Vikings

This pick absolutely rocks because of its simplicity. Everyone knows that Minnesota has one of the best tight ends in the game with Kyle Rudolph. However, they do not have anyone of major significance behind him. This is especially worrying because it prevents the Vikings from ever going to a trustworthy two tight-end set.

Enter Smith Jr. His rare combination of speed and athleticism will make a dangerous on-field combo with his pro-bowl counterpart. All of the attention in this draft towards tight ends has been mainly geared towards the two great pass catchers from Iowa and rightfully so. But it’s a joke that Smith Jr. fell all the way to the 50th pick considering he is on the same level as them.

Despite the fall, it’s a perfect situation. He is on a pretty good team, has no pressure on him, and will be learning behind one of the best in the league. Give it 2-3 years and the former Alabama star will be a top-10 tight end in the league.

5. A.J. Brown-Ole Miss, 2nd Round 51st Overall, Tennessee Titans

Filling team needs in a draft is huge for franchises. However, sometimes you just have to take the best player available. Whenever you can do both at once, you get a home-run pick. That’s exactly what happened when the Titans selected A.J. Brown in the second round.

In my opinion, I thought Brown had a great case as the best receiver in this draft and he somehow fell to the middle of the second round. I’m not sure what happened here, but the Titans really lucked up here.

Tennessee ranked 29th in total passing yardage per game, and that wasn’t because Marcus Mariota is a bad quarterback. Besides Corey Davis, the receiving core was very disappointing last season. Brown is an instant upgrade to the unit, and I would not be surprised to see him overtake Tajae Sharpe as the secondary receiver for this franchise by the end of the year.

6. D.K. Metcalf-Ole Miss, 2nd Round 64th Overall, Seattle Seahawks

I have been on record saying that D.K. Metcalf might be a huge bust in the NFL. He has amazing size and speed, but he is coming off an injury and is bad route runner. Pretty much the only thing I see translating to the next level is his ability to run straight down the field and make athletic catches.

Well, if there is a team that utilizes this type of play more then the Seahawks do, I would like to see it. Russell Wilson may just be the best deep-ball thrower in the entire league as he is able to put insane arch on deep passes down the middle of the field.

Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett both had above average seasons last year benefiting off of Wilson’s playing style, and I think Metcalf will as well. It’s also important to note that Baldwin’s career may actually be over due to an unfortunate injury. Metcalf has a lot to improve upon, but being the potential No. 2 receiver with Wilson at quarterback is an awesome position for him to be in.

7. Jace Sternberger-Texas A&M, 3rd Round 75th Overall, Green Bay Packers

Here is another very smart tight end pick for a team that needs better offensive skill players. It was an incredibly rough season last year for Aaron Rodgers and company as the Packers missed the playoffs. While Davante Adams recorded 1,300 yards, no other receiver on the team had more than 636 receiving yards (Jimmy Graham).

Yes, Graham is still on the team, but he has taken several steps back in his career. He is not the player he once was which will give Sternberger valuable playing time this season. The Texas A&M star is an awesome RedZone target as he caught 10 TD’s last season. Just imagine what he can accomplish with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.

This is another situation where a very talented player will be learning behind an all-pro and catching passes from a star quarterback with little pressure on him. Sternberger is one lucky guy.

8. Benny Snell Jr.-Kentucky, 4th Round 122nd Overall, Pittsburgh Steelers

This guy has been underappreciated by so many (including me) for so long. He was easily one of the best running backs in college football this season, and Snell Jr. was easily the best back in the history of Kentucky football.

Yes, he ran a 4.66 40-yard dash at the combine which is, of course, not great to say the least. However, falling to the fourth round is a bit disrespectful. The awesome news is that he fell to a pretty great situation at Pittsburgh where his talents have the best chance to succeed.

What’s impressed me the most about Snell Jr. is his ability to be patient and let holes open up for him to then use his great strength and quickness to barrel over defenders. That’s exactly how Le’veon Bell and James Connor have played the position at Pittsburgh over the last few seasons. The offensive line is used to blocking for these types of backs, and Snell Jr. is bound to get valuable reps as the probable second-string back in this high-octane offense.

9. Jarrett Stidham-Auburn, 4th Round 133rd Overall, New England Patriots

Let’s be honest: You all knew this pick was making this list. Before the draft, the Patriots backup quarterback behind legend Tom Brady was…. *checks notes*…..Brian Hoyer.

Stidham was a terrible fit in Auburn’s offense which also could never adequately block for him anyways. At Baylor as a freshman quarterback is where Stidham truly showcased his talent. I’m actually quite high on this guy, and I think the Patriots got an absolute steal here.

I think it’s a stretch to say that Brady will still be around three years from now which means Stidham has at least two full seasons to learn behind the greatest quarterback and coach in NFL history without any pressure to rush his development. Situations don’t get any better than this for a quarterback. Keep Stidham’s name in mind, folks. He will have his day sooner than you think.

10. Trayveon Williams-Texas A&M, 6th Round 182nd Overall, Cincinnati Bengals

Finally, we have Trayveon Williams who fell all the way to the 6th round of the draft. Like with Snell Jr., I think this fall was completely unwarranted. Williams was easily the second best running back in the SEC this year and for whatever reason he was overlooked.

He will most likely have to compete with Rodney Anderson for the right to be the third string running back once the season starts. However, Williams could easily beat out second string back Giovanni Bernard for his spot. Bernard’s time in the league seems to have went and gone already due to his long injury history.

With his elite speed and quickness, he is a great offset to starter Joe Mixon’s physical play. I would not be surprised that when we look back on this draft, we will be utterly surprised at how far Williams fell. This guy plays hard 100% of the time, and Bengals fans are going to love his effort.


How SEC Teams Will Fare in the NFL Draft

With the 2019 NFL Draft quickly approaching on Thursday April 25th, dozens of players from the SEC will have their dreams fulfilled. What follows is an analysis of how each team from the conference will fare in a draft that’s loaded with talent. (Teams are placed in alphabetical order)

Alabama

First Round Picks: 3-4

Total Selections: 10-11

No surprise here, folks. The NFL Draft will be dominated by the Crimson Tide as usual. Alabama has had four players selected in the first round in the past two drafts, and the same result could happen once again this year. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and offensive tackle Jonah Williams are locks to hear their names called on Thursday night. There is an extremely good chance that both of these talented athletes will be selected within the first 15 picks.

After the Williams duo comes off the board, expect Josh Jacobs to be picked in somewhere in the mid-20’s (most likely to Oakland) as the first running back off the board. That’s more than likely three guaranteed first-round picks. What will determine rather or not the Crimson Tide matches their quota of the last two seasons is the landing spot of tight end Irv Smith. Smith is rated by most as the third-best tight end in the draft and a borderline first round selection. Keep an eye out for Green Bay at pick No. 30. If Smith gets selected on Thursday night, it will most likely be there.

After that, well-known players like Deiotne Thompson, Mack Wilson, and Christian Miller will all be selected Friday night in either the second or third round. When it comes to Kentucky native Damien Harris, there is a reasonably good chance he will as well. However, don’t be shocked if Harris falls to the fourth round on Saturday.

Arkansas

First Round Picks: 0

Total Selections: 4

The draft will be relatively quiet for the Razorbacks in 2019. While they will most likely have four players drafted, their highest rated prospects Armon Watts and Hjalte Froholdt are day three prospects. This should not come as a huge surprise considering that Arkansas was an embarrassment to the SEC this past season. The Razorbacks only won two games, and they failed to win a single conference matchup. NFL scouts are largely turned off by such a bad year. There is always next season, I guess!

Auburn

First Round Picks: 0

Total Selections: 4

Its true that this a bit of a down year for Auburn in the draft. The Tigers will have zero first rounders, and only four players are projected to draft picks. However, things aren’t all that bad. The trio of Jamel Dean, Darius Slayton, and quarterback Jarrett Stidham will all be picked before the fifth round starts. In fact, I would not be surprised at all if all three hear their names called towards the end of the third round. For what was a pretty disappointing season, three players in the top three rounds would not be a bad haul at all.

Florida

First Round Picks: 1

Total Selections: 6

Offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor is projected to make a big splash early Thursday night for the Gators. While some mock drafts have him going in the 8-10 range, others have him getting selected in the late teens. Besides Alabama’s Jonah Williams, Taylor is the most complete prospect on the offensive line in this draft. Either way, all signs are pointing to a top-20 selection for the 6’5, 312-pound athlete.

Defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson will join Taylor in representing Florida in the first two rounds. The Florida native is a ball-hawking safety with elite playmaking skills. He has the athleticism to play as a consistent starter in the league. It would be a shock to see him slip into the third round. After those selections, the Gators are expected to have four more players picked in what will be a respectable draft haul.

Georgia

First Round Picks: 1

Total Selections: 9

With the exception of Alabama, no other team from the SEC will have as good of a draft as the Bulldogs will. This should come as no surprise considering that Georgia was just as good as the Crimson Tide this season and both teams were among the best in the nation. Their draft class is extremely deep as the likes of D’andre Walker, Riley Ridley, Isaac Nauta, Mecole Hardman, Elijah Holyfield, and Terry Godwin will all be second and third-day selections.

However, the headliner of this class is cornerback Deandre Baker. I’m incredibly high on him as I consider Baker the best all-around defensive back in the 2019 Draft. Not only is he the definition of a shutdown corner, but he is an intimidating tackler in the mold of a young Ed Reed. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the NFL is a bit low on him due to its infatuation with other more problematic prospects. Mark my words, Baker will be looked back upon as one of the steals of this draft.

Kentucky

First Round Picks: 1

Total Selections: 6

Welcome to national Josh Allen week everyone! In all seriousness, this is going to be possibly one of the biggest drafts in the history of Kentucky football. It seems relatively certain that there will be six Wildcats (Allen, Lonnie Johnson, Mike Edwards, Benny Snell, Chris Westry, Darius West) who hear their names called over all three days. To put this in perspective, this will be the most Kentucky players in the draft since 1979 which saw seven drafted over the course of 12 rounds. Only four players were selected in the first seven that season.

As for the likes of Bunchy Stallings, C.J. Conrad, Derrick Baity, and Jordan Jones, it seems like they will be undrafted free agents. But I think either Stallings or Conrad could potentially sneak into the seventh round where all kinds of chaos happens.

Instead of concentrating on Allen like most will rightfully do throughout this week, I want to talk about Lonnie Johnson and his ascension up draft boards. His rise now finds him squarely as a second-round pick which is just outstanding. The NFL misses on a lot of underrated prospects, but the secret is out on Johnson who is just a prototypical, hard-nosed defensive back.

LSU

First Round Picks: 2

Total Selections: 4         

It will be fireworks for LSU early in the draft as dominant defensive players Devin White and Greedy Williams are poised to become first-round selections. After that, however, only Foster Moreau and Nick Brossette have a reasonable chance at getting drafted.

Williams is viewed by many as the best cornerback in the draft, but I really think that’s Georgia’s Dandre Baker. White, on the other hand, is the unquestioned best true linebacker coming out of college this year. He is a consummate leader and a player that has the speed to play sideline to sideline. If White falls past the top ten, it will be a national travesty. Expect greatness from him throughout his career.

Mississippi State

First Round Picks: 2-3

Total Selections: 7

After a very impressive year defensively in the SEC, the Bulldogs will see at least five of their defensive players all selected over the weekend. The headliners are defensive linemen Montez Sweat and Jeffrey Simmons. Both are guarantees to go in the first round, and both are heavily favored to go in the top 15. I think Sweat is the better overall prospect due to all the many issues that come along with Simmons. Look out for defensive back Jonathan Abram as well. Many have him slotted to go at the very end of first round which would give Miss. State an impressive three first-rounders.

After that, a few of their offensive linemen will join the other defensive players as day two and day three selections. In case you were wondering, quarterback Nick Fitzgerald will not be drafted. While he will get picked up as a free agent, do not be expecting to hear his name called this weekend. It may be surprising that the Bulldogs will have such a good draft, but it makes sense considering its mostly all defensive prospects.

Missouri

First Round Picks: 1

Total Selections: 6

The headline of Missouri’s draft class is obviously quarterback Drew Lock. In a relatively average draft class for quarterbacks, Lock is easily the most divisive of the bunch. While he has a prototypical NFL arm, he is wildly inconsistent and often inaccurate as a passer. His ceiling is reasonably high, but he is most assuredly a prospect. Lock needs to wait a season behind an experienced passer and learn the ropes of the league like Patrick Mahomes did. For his sake, Denver at No. 10 would be the best spot as he learns behind Joe Flacco.

After Lock, Wide receiver Emanuel Hall is the Tigers’ next best prospect. Hall has good hands and great speed. He is most likely an early day three prospect who will later be followed by a few of his fellow teammates.

Ole Miss

First Round Picks: 1-2

Total Selections: 5

Three of Mississippi’s five draft selections will be wide receivers. The Rebels’ receiving core was easily the best of the conference so it makes sense that their top three pass-catchers will all be drafted. Their two best – D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown – have a great chance at being first rounders.

Its important to note that the NFL has a very high opinion of Metcalf due to his freakish athleticism. He is a for sure first rounder. What’s crazy is that Brown is the better overall receiver, and he might be regulated to the second round. I really do think he has the best hands in the draft. I’m in the minority on this, but I guarantee Brown will have a better career than Metcalf.

South Carolina

First Round Picks: 0

Total Selections: 3

This is the part of the column where I praise Deebo Samuel for an entire paragraph. While offensive linemen Dennis Daley and Zack Bailey will most likely be day 3 three selections, Samuel is a lock for the second round. Personally, I think he is one of the more underrated players coming out of college this season. Samuel has excellent speed, strength, and most importantly great hands for a receiver. His one knock is that he has had several injuries throughout his career. While this is true, I still think scouts are way too low on Samuel. Remember the name because he will be a dependable NFL receiver throughout his career.

Tennessee

First Round Picks: 0

Total Selections: 0

Yes. You read that right. The Volunteers will have no players selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, let alone any in the first round. NFL.com has two Tennessee players (Micha Abernathy, Kyle Phillips) projected as undrafted free agents who will probably be invited to training camps. Unless one of them luck up and get drafted, this will be the only team from the conference who will not be represented at the draft this year. You hate to see it.

Texas A&M

First Round Picks: Maybe 1

Total Selections: 9

This is going to sneak up on people, but the Aggies are about to have an impressive NFL Draft. First, center Erik McCoy has seen his name fly up draft boards after having a dominant NFL Combine. Despite weighing in at over 300 pounds, McCoy shocked scouts as he ran a 4.89 40-yard dash which is just silly for an athlete of his size. He also possesses the strength to push around NFL lineman which is why many have going in the first round.

After McCoy’s selection, the Aggies are slated to have another eight players selected. While most of these players will be day three picks, guys like tight end Jace Sternberger and running back Trayveon Williams might be called on day two. The sheer number of players does make a little bit of sense. Texas A&M did finish second in the SEC West (people forget that) and Jimbo Fisher is a great developer of talent. Things will start to get really scary once Fisher starts to get his top-rated recruits in Aggieland.

Vanderbilt

First Round Picks: 0

Total Selections: 2

It will be a mostly quiet draft for the Commodores in 2019. However, Vanderbilt will actually make a splash pretty early. Cornerback Joejuan Williams has impressed scouts with his combination of size (6’4) and length which is very desirable at his position. There is a slight chance that Williams will be selected in the second round. If not, then he will be a guaranteed third round pick. Usually Vanderbilt doesn’t make much head way in the draft so its pretty cool to see a Commodore selected relatively quickly. Oh yea, quarterback Kyle Shurmur is a lock to be picked in the last few rounds. He has huge family ties in the league which means it would be a shock if his name is not called at all.


Former Holmes HS Star Transferring from WVU to Alabama

Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Oats is bringing a former Kentucky high school basketball standout down to Tuscaloosa. Grad transfer James “Beetle” Bolden graduated from Covington’s Holmes High School back in 2015, where he averaged 19.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.

Bolden averaged just over 12 points per game for the West Virginia Mountaineers last season, but he sat out the remainder of the year after tweaking his ankle against Tennessee back in January. Nate Oats wasn’t the sexiest hire Alabama could’ve made, but he’s assembling what should be a pretty formidable Crimson Tide team for next season.

2019-2020 is shaping up to be another fun season of SEC basketball.

@JayWinkKSR 


Ranking the Top SEC Prospects in the NFL Draft

With the 2019 NFL Draft quickly approaching on April 25th, dozens of players from the SEC will have their dreams fulfilled. Here the top 10 prospects from the conference, all of which you can expect to see drafted in the first round.

1. Quinnen Williams, DT Alabama

Williams is the best prospect in this draft. Period. I’m dead set on this. We will most likely not be the first pick, however, considering that Arizona seems to be zoned in on Oklahoma Quarterback Kyler Murray. He might not even be the second overall pick as San Francisco is reported to be all in on Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa. I actually think Bosa is a top-three prospect in this draft, but there are durability concerns with him. There are none with Williams. Any team that is smart enough to pick him after Murray and Bosa are selected will be getting the steal of the draft.

The reason why I am so high on Williams is because you know exactly what you are getting with him. He has all the makings of a pro bowl defensive tackle due to his combined effort and athleticism he showed in two seasons at Tuscaloosa. He is a top-5 prospect with no question marks. He never takes a play off, is a menace in stopping both the run and the pass, and he should be in the running for the Pro Bowl within the first couple seasons of his career. This shouldn’t be a hard decision, but NFL teams often whiff on the obvious.

Projection: Should be a lock for a Top-3 Pick, will not get past Tampa Bay at No. 5

2. Josh Allen, Edge Rusher Kentucky

After Williams, it’s incredibly obvious that the next best prospect from the SEC is Kentucky’s own Josh Allen. In case you needed a refresher, Allen was the best pass rusher in college football in 2018. He was second in the country in total sacks with 17, and that should have been more considering how often SEC offensive linemen had to hold Allen just to watch after their own quarterback. With that kind of production at 6’5, 262 pounds, its blatantly obvious that he is the best pure edge rusher in this draft.

What’s important to watch out for with Allen is his ability to play in a 4-3 defense. At UK he mainly played in a two-point stance so he would fit perfectly in a 3-4 scheme. Most scouts think he will be versatile enough to shift over into a 4-3, but it is a question mark for teams who run that defense. After Murray and Bosa are selected, all signs are pointing to Allen being a member of the New York Jets with the third pick. The Jets badly need a pass rusher, and the Kentucky star would be a perfect fit in their 3-4 scheme.

If they unwisely go in another direction, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jon Gruden and the Raiders select Allen with the No. 4 pick despite their 4-3 defense. Gruden is just crazy enough to make a comfortable fit for a great edge rusher which they so badly need.

Projection: No. 3 Overall pick to the New York Jets

3. Montez Sweat, Edge Rusher Mississippi State

While I think Sweat is deserving of the third best prospect on this list, he can best be described as a discount version of Josh Allen. That’s not necessarily a slight against Sweat. At 6’6, 260 pounds, he is actually a relatively similar version of Allen. The major difference is that Sweat depends more on his speed and much less on his overall physicality. In fact, those are his big positives and negatives. He is incredibly fast, and he needs more bulk on his body to get through physical offensive tackles at the next level. But wow is this dude fast.

Sweat is talented enough to where he could develop into a player that’s potentially better than Allen, but I don’t see it. He still needs to work on his overall move set. Right now, he only has like one or two effective moves on defenders. That comes with the right coaching staff, and hopefully he finds his way onto the right team. He is one of the rawest prospects in this draft. Its boom or bust for this guy. I see him being a dependable pass rusher who will make a few pro bowls.

Projection: Top 10 Pick

4. Devin White, Linebacker LSU

White is one of my personal favorite players in this draft. There are several really talented linebackers coming out of college this year, but I think White is the best of the bunch. During his time in Baton Rouge he compiled almost 300 total tackles. He is incredibly quick as he uses his 4.4 40-yard dash to be a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker. He can cover the entire field while being incredibly hard-nosed. They may not be a tougher player in this draft than White.

White may honestly be the defensive rookie of the year because he is going to be highly productive right away. The only reason why I have him at #4 is because I think he can get a little too aggressive sometimes. This leads to some bad tackling angles and big misreads on play-action passes. However, being too aggressive as a linebacker is not always such a bad problem to have. As far as where he might land, I honestly have no good guess here. Some mock drafts have him going in the top 10, several others have him falling to Pittsburgh at #20. White will be another candidate for the steal of the draft when he falls. Just watch.

Projection: Top 20 Pick

5. Jawaan Taylor, Offensive Tackle Florida

I’ll admit, I may be a little high on Taylor and a little low Alabama tackle Jonah Williams who you will hear more about later. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Taylor is the best tackle in this draft. The reason being is that he has some of the best feet I’ve seen on an offensive lineman of his size. Human beings should not be this light and quick on their feet at 6’5, 313 pounds:

He isn’t a perfect tackle prospect as he is still a bit raw, but he is very close to being a complete offensive tackle heading into the league. He is good against the pass and the run. His draft position is a moving target much like White’s. I’ve seen him as high as 6 or 7 and as low as 18. If I had to call it, I would say Taylor will have his name called relatively early.

Projection: Top 15 Pick

6. Jeffrey Simmons, Defensive Tackle Mississippi State

Simmons is this draft’s “problematic player.” He absolutely has the talent of a top-ten pick. However, he recently tore his ACL, and he was arrested on an assault charge in 2016 after a video showcased him hitting a woman multiple times. With all the problems the NFL has had with its players committing violence against women, this is a terrible look to say the least for Simmons. He is an incredibly talented player, but things aren’t looking great for him right now. It will be up to a team to gamble on his injury and his history.

Projection: Middle of the First Round

7. DeAndre Baker, Cornerback Georgia

This is a baaaaaaaad man. I’m incredibly high on Baker even if most scouts have him as the second or third best corner in this draft. I think he is the best one overall. Baker is a great tackler who has the capability to put opposing players in the ground Ed Reed-style. He hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown on his watch since 2016 for crying out loud. I don’t understand what the NFL is missing with Baker. Guys like Byron Murphy and Greedy Williams are rated higher on many draft boards. I think that’s lunacy. Despite being a little short at 5’11, it doesn’t get much better than Baker at corner.

Projection: Top 25 Pick

8. Greedy Williams, Cornerback LSU

Williams will be one of the players selected in the first round due to his “high ceiling.” He is an amazing coverage corner. Standing at 6’2, he has prototypical size for the position in the league. Couple that in with his 4.37 40 and you have on paper the best corner prospect in the draft. However, Williams has huge holes in his game. He gives very little effort in stopping the run game due to the fact that he can’t tackle. Any team that picks him is selecting an elite coverage corner. However, they better have players elsewhere on the field that can shutdown the run game because Williams is not that type of player.

Projection: Top 15 Pick

9. Jonah Williams, Offensive Tackle Alabama

Williams is the second-best offensive lineman in this class and the second best from the SEC. He is a dependable pass protector and he is even better in the run game. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see more of a run-dominant team select Williams and move him around the line. This is because he doesn’t have prototypical size or length at a position that demands it. While he is a good pass blocker, I think a team would be wise to draft him and play him at guard. I see a team picking Williams within the top 10 due to his versatility.

Projection: Top 10 Pick

10. Josh Jacobs, Running Back Alabama

Jacobs is a very curious prospect at running back. At Alabama he split a lot of reps with Damian and Najee Harris until late in the season when Head Coach Nick Saban realized just how good Jacobs was. He possesses elite strength at the position and he runs furiously. He is an immediate three-down back in the league who has a great nose for the end zone. In a class that’s relatively weak at this position, I think Jacobs is the best overall prospect. He is a much, much better player than Damien Harris and I think that’s saying something. His leadership mentality and toughness guarantee him a first-round selection to a team that is willing to select a running back that high. Watch out for the Raiders at pick No. 24 or 27 to take a swing at Jacobs.

Projection: Late First Round

Honorable Mention: Drew Lock, DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, Jonathan Abram


Final Grades for SEC Basketball Teams

Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The College Basketball Season finally ended as the Virginia Cavaliers defeated Texas Tech on Monday by a score of 85-77. So how did each SEC team fair overall this season? Below are my final grades and analysis for every squad in the conference for 2018-19. Teams are in order based on their final ranking in conference play.

LSU

Record: 28-7,  Sweet Sixteen Finish

Final Grade: B+

The Tigers are a very hard team to grade. Do you concentrate on their surprising on-the-court success? Or, do you take into consideration all of the problems off-court with potential recruiting violations involving Head Coach Will Wade and freshman Javonte Smart?

Personally, I am choosing to look more at the on-court product until more information comes out on the current scandal in Baton Rouge. Is it possible that they achieved almost 30 wins and a Sweet Sixteen appearance unfairly? Yes.

However, winning the SEC Regular Season Title is very, very impressive given their preseason ranking which placed them as a middle-of-the-road conference team. Wade did a great job with his team this year. Despite a tumultuous past two months, this was a very memorable season for LSU.

Tennessee

Record: 31-6, Sweet Sixteen Finish

Final Grade: B+

The Volunteers were one of the best teams in the entire nation for the vast majority of this season. However, I think everyone can agree that the ending to their terrific year was very disappointing.

Not only did they get absolutely embarrassed in the SEC title game by a head coach formerly employed by Tennessee (Bruce Pearl), but the Volunteers also failed to make the Elite Eight as they ran into a red-hot Purdue squad in the NCAA tournament.

This was without question the best Volunteer team in school history. It was an absolute pleasure to watch Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield wreak havoc all season long. The bad news is that Tennessee actually underachieved when it mattered most. No matter how good that regular season was, they will mostly be remembered for letting Purdue’s Ryan Cline put on one of the most memorable shooting performances in tournament history.

Kentucky

Record: 30-7, Elite Eight Finish

Final Grade: A-

The Wildcats actually had quite a different path than Tennessee. Like I previously mentioned, the Volunteers were ranked in the top ten for the vast majority of the year. Don’t forget that Kentucky started out 10-3 with losses to Seton Hall and Alabama. Things were so gloomy that even Quade Green decided to transfer.

Turning a 10-3 start into a 30-7 final record against incredibly tough competition is very impressive no matter how you try and spin it. Yes, the season still ended in a disappointment. Kentucky lost to an Auburn team they absolutely should have beaten. Reid Travis and PJ Washington deserved a better ending to their college careers.

Despite that very hurtful loss, every single team in the nation would take a 30-win season and an Elite Eight finish if they had the chance to do so. There was just one more piece missing in this year’s Kentucky team (looking at you Zion), but this was still a memorable season for Kentucky that many fans would not trade for.

South Carolina

Record: 16-16, No Postseason

Final Grade: C-

What an utterly bizarre season it was for the Gamecocks. They managed to successfully finish fourth in conference play, yet they could not even break .500 on the season.

What kind of a grade do you give South Carolina who placed higher in its conference standings than a team that made the Final Four? Also. the Gamecocks did not even finish with a winning record for crying out loud.

No matter how you chose to spin this, I do think that Head Coach Frank Martin got the most out of his team this season. They played their best basketball in conference play and gave a lot of good teams fits. If nothing else, they were an impressive annoyance for a few tournament teams. That’s good enough to receive a passing grade.

Auburn

Final Record: 30-10, Final Four Finish

Final Grade: A+

The Tigers won the SEC Tournament, won exactly 30 games, and made their first Final Four in school history. I could care less how many games they lost, or how underwhelming their regular season was. This was easily the best season in school history, and Auburn deserves their A+ grade.

What’s even more interesting is that if it had not been for a very controversial foul call (it was a foul) in the last seconds of the Final Four against eventual champion Virginia, the Tigers could have won the whole tournament.

The Cavaliers were just a team of destiny this season. I realize that some of you may only consider an A+ be given to just the team that wins it all. However, the randomness of this tournament every year opens up for a few, special cases. The best Auburn team ever is unquestionably one of those cases.

Mississippi State

Record 23-11, First Round Exit

Final Grade: B-

The Bulldogs got red-hot down the stretch in February as they won five games in a row heading into the month of March. Unfortunately for them, all of that positive momentum was stopped when they had to play Tennessee and Auburn a combined three times in a two-week span.

That isn’t exactly the kind of momentum changer you want before you play a 5/12 game against a hungry mid-major in the form of Liberty University. The Bulldogs fell in the first round to a team that shot 48% from the three-point line. If your opponent hits 12 three’s in one game, you probably aren’t walking out of that matchup a winner.

Either way, I was often impressed with the Bulldogs in the regular season. Coach Ben Howland is still trying to build a good program in Starkville. While they would have received a higher grade if they had at least made the second round, you get the feeling that maybe Howland has something nice going on down there.

Ole Miss

Record 20-13, First Round Exit

Final Grade: B+

The Rebels were far and away the biggest surprise from the SEC this season. They were picked to finish last in the conference and they managed to comfortably make the NCAA Tournament!! That accomplishment within itself is worthy of an “A” grade on the season.

But how Ole Miss finished the season cannot be ignored. They lost five of their last six games including an embarrassing first round blowout to a below average Oklahoma team.  No way can any team play like that in March an earn an A.

Despite a bad ending, Head Coach Kermit Davis has the Rebels already back on track in his first season. Winning 20 games and making the tournament is a massive success for a team that won only five conference games last season.

Florida

Record: 20-16, Second Round Exit

Final Grade: B

Florida’s season is mainly going to be defined by them actually making the tournament and beating a tough Nevada squad in the first round. Remember, if the Gators had not of beaten LSU in the SEC Tournament, then they would have missed the Tournament altogether.

Overall, this is a situation similar to Ole Miss. Florida successfully won 20 games and made the tournament. They were originally picked to finish fifth in the conference so its safe to say that they underwhelmed in the 2018-19 season.

Head Coach Mike White was often criticized the majority of the year. However, beating LSU and Nevada proved that this guy gets the most out of his players. The Gators did not have a large amount of talent this year, but they still managed to have a respectable season despite being underwhelming.

Arkansas

Record: 18-16, NIT Second Round

Final Grade: D+

No team in the SEC disappointed more this season than the Razorbacks did. At one point, Arkansas basically forget how to play basketball as they lost six straight games in a row over the span of three weeks.

I don’t care that they made the second round of the NIT at all. Failing to win 20 games and to make the tournament in a season when star Daniel Gafford went out of his way to return to school is a failure. Gafford would have been a lottery pick last season, but this year’s Razorback team was so disappointing that it actually hurt his draft stock in this year’s draft.

The burden falls completely on former Head Coach Mike Anderson who has now been replaced with Eric Musselman. Brighter days may be on the horizon, but wow did this season stink for the Razorbacks.

Alabama

Record: 18-16, NIT First Round

Final Grade: C-

Welcome to the “wow this team had such a disappointing season that they had to fire their head coach” section of this column. The Crimson Tide barely had a winning season, and they failed to make the NCAA Tournament.

Out goes Head Coach Avery Johnson, and in comes new front man Nate Oaks from Buffalo. This may seem like a surprising move, but once you consider Alabama lost five of their last six games including a home loss to Norfolk State (!), this move makes a lot of sense.

Texas A&M

Record: 14-18, No Postseason

Final Grade: D+

I thoroughly did not understand Texas A&M’s decision to fire former Head Coach Billy Kennedy. Everyone knew that the Aggies were going to be in a massive rebuilding year. Yet, after winning just 14 games the administration went ahead and fired Kennedy.

It makes a little more sense that they went out and got Virginia Teach Head Coach Buzz Williams who is quickly climbing up the ladder of best coaches in the sport. In summary, Texas A&M had the terrible season everyone assumed they would have, and they got a really good head coach out of it. Not too shabby, I guess.

Missouri

Record: 15-17, No Postseason

Final Grade: D

The Tigers got dealt a really bad hand when star Jontay Porter tore his ACL and missed the entire season. This was a devastating injury that completely killed Missouri’s season. The fact that they won 15 games without him is actually sort of impressive.

Sadly, that’s all this year is going to be for the Tigers. Maybe brighter days are ahead, but the 2018-19 season will always be one massive “what if?”

Georgia

Record: 11-21, No Postseason

Final Grade: F+

Tom Crean’s first year in Athens was pretty terrible to say the least. The Bulldogs only won two conference games, and at one point they had lost nine straight in SEC play.

However, there is very small room for optimism. Forward Nicolas Claxton caught the eye of many NBA scouts and he will be returning next season. Combine that with the future arrival of possibly the best recruit in the class of 2019 in Anthony Edwards and you have a nice outlook for the 2019-20 season. That’s all I got on this team because wow was Georgia terrible this year.

Vanderbilt

Record: 9-23, No Postseason

Final Grade: Complete and Total Failure

Zero. That’s the amount of SEC games the Commodores won this season. Did star Darius Garland’s season ending injury in the first few weeks of the season lead to this? Yes. But zero is still zero. Bryce Drew has now been fired, and there is nothing to remember from this abject disaster.

Vanderbilt deserves exactly zero more words written about them, so I’ll stop now.

That does it, folks. I’ve enjoyed covering the SEC throughout the season as the conference has made drastic strides in the sport. With a great crop of new head coaches coming in, I can only expect the conference to improve even more. The success of this year has put the rest of the college basketball world on notice: The SEC is back and better than ever.