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Media Days Marathon: Draft Questions From The SEC, Day 1

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Jadaveon Clowney is head-and-shoulders above the field and will be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images.
Jadaveon Clowney is head-and-shoulders above the field and will be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images.

In his opening comments at the premier media day gathering of college football’s premier conference, SEC commissioner Mike Slive wasted no time in whipping out what he called his “brag bag.” It was more a metaphorical championship brag banner than a bag, woven out of undeniable numbers and meant to be waved in the faces of whatever non-believers still remain out there (a sort of statistical “stick it” to Bob Stoops).

He wielded lofty numbers like “7” (the number of consecutive national championships won by SEC programs) and “4” (the number of Heisman Trophies won by SEC players in the past six years). He even dared to throw the “3” card (number of SEC players honored as Academic All-American of the Year in the last four years).

Impressive numbers, to be sure. But there was one stat slung by Slive that stood out, the only one that counts in the eyes of the NFL.

Sixty-three.

As in 63 players selected in the 2013 NFL Draft from the SEC, more than the next two conferences (ACC: 31, Pac-12: 28) combined. Sixty-three out of 254 players drafted, almost exactly one-fourth of the field.

In the past five years, the SEC has produced 228 NFL draft picks. Our first look at the 2014 draft projected 10 SEC players would go in the first round.

As far as the NFL is concerned, the SEC is No. 1 – as a one-stop shopping, the place where teams can buy football talent in bulk.

We continue our Media Day Marathon at the top, asking the following three draft-related questions about teams that participated in the first day of SEC media madness.

1. Is Jadeveon Clowney really that good?

If all you knew about South Carolina’s star defensive end was what you learned from his media day press conference, you’d still come away impressed. You’d see a guy who loves his mother, who isn’t afraid to show off his Steve Spurrier impression, and an athlete so gifted that when he was asked whether it was true he’d run a 4.4 40-yard dash at 275 pounds, he politely corrected the questioner. About his weight ("268, 270"), not the 40 time (4.46).

We’ll spend the next nine months repeating what we’ve been saying for the last three: Clowney will be the first player taken in the 2014 draft. You don’t even need to know who’s picking first; he’s a once-in-generation pass rusher, and there isn’t a team in the NFL who couldn’t use one of those.

So rather than open the superlative spigot and shower him in praise today, let us instead provide the following public service announcement.

Get out your calendar. Then circle the following dates:

August 29th. September 14th. October 19th.

Those are the dates when Clowney will match up against players who will be on everyone’s list of top-10 left tackles heading into next year’s draft: North Carolina’s James Hurst, Vanderbilt’s Wesley Johnson and Tennessee’s Tiny Richardson.

Watch those matchups and see what Clowney does to future NFL tackles. Then go back and watch highlights of his Outback Bowl performance against Michigan’s Taylor Lewan. And, if South Carolina makes it to the SEC Championship, be sure not to miss Clowney matching up (potentially) against either Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio or Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews.

Be sure to see for yourself what makes Clowney such a special prospect. Come away impressed by what you saw with your own eyes, not by the sonnets pundits will be penning in his honor. And then dive into the only conversation that will remain: Who’s going to go No. 2 in the draft?

2. Should Loucheiz Purifoy say “no way” to playing two ways?

This is one of those situations where being a team player might not be to an individual’s advantage.

Purifoy is one of the top cornerback prospects in the country. But his development as a defender might be slowed by the practice time he is expected to have to put in on the offensive side of the ball. Florida heads into training camp with so many questions at wide receiver, coach Will Muschamp has already affirmed that Purifoy will see his share of snaps on offense.

He’s a tremendous athlete, and he may turn out to be a reliable college receiver. Still, he remains raw enough in his coverage skills that he’d benefit most from a full-time focus on the position he’ll play in the pros. But then there’s something to be said for versatility and doing whatever it takes to help your team win (Where have you gone, Troy Brown?).

If the Purifoy double-play happens, it will be a shame that Georgia won't use Malcolm Mitchel in similar fashion again. Mitchell likely will play receiver exclusively this fall. It would have added an interesting wrinkle to the already lively Florida-Georgia rivalry to have Purifoy covering Mitchell when the Dawgs had the ball and then have Mitchell cover Purifoy when the Gators took possession.

3. How much does Done Moncrief love Hugh Freeze?

Well, two years ago, in Houston Nutt’s final season at Ole Miss, Moncrief had a productive freshman season and looked like he might become a decent college player. Then Freeze arrived in Oxford, with his hurry-up offense, Moncrief’s numbers all doubled and now he looks like the second coming of Mike Wallace.

No one at Ole Miss has benefitted more from Freeze’s system than Moncrief, and the 6-foot-3, 216-pounder has already registered on the NFL radar. Having four touchdowns of 50+ yards in a season will do that for a prospect.

The Rebels return 10 offensive starters, including quarterback Bo Wallace, who recently resumed throwing after healing up from a clavicle injury. Freeze said Tuesday that he expects everyone “to be further along in everyone’s understanding of what we’re trying to do.”

One more season in this system and Moncrief might not be able to resist leaving The Grove a year early, his draft stock could be red hot. Whenever he does come out, either next spring or 2015, Moncrief will be a prized catch in the draft.