The SEC schools with the most number of NFL first-round draft selections:
Alabama - 43
Florida - 43
Tennessee - 43
LSU - 35
Auburn - 28
Texas A&M - 28
Georgia - 27
Source: SEC media guides
Last December, Alabama and Georgia produced the greatest drama in the history of the Southeastern Conference football championship game.
Beginning Thursday, the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs could combine for nearly a fourth of the first-round selections in the NFL draft and as many as 20 picks overall. Georgia should surpass its program record for the most NFL picks in a single draft, wile Alabama is expected to provide four first-round selections for a third consecutive year.
"When you go back to the preseason and compare Alabama to Georgia, Georgia had more NFL talent," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said last week. "As we get closer, Georgia probably will have more players drafted, but it's not a definite."
Eddie Lacy rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns to lead Alabama to a 32-28 win over the Bulldogs inside the Georgia Dome. McShay is pegging Lacy to go 22nd overall to the St. Louis Rams as his fourth Crimson Tide player taken, behind cornerback Dee Milliner (10th to Tennessee), guard Chance Warmack (12th to Miami) and tackle D.J. Fluker (15th to New Orleans).
Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones, James Carpenter and Mark Ingram were Alabama's first-round picks in 2011, and Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dont'a Hightower were first-rounders a year ago. For the Tide to place five in the first round for a first time, defensive tackle Jesse Williams would have to sneak in.
Only the Miami Hurricanes, who produced four first-round picks in 2001, five in both '02 and '03 and a record six in '04, have delivered a more impressive stretch in recent years.
"You've got to put Alabama up there in terms of runs with the all-time teams in terms of pipelines to the NFL," McShay said. "It's been amazing. I think a lot of it is [coach] Nick Saban, his experience in the NFL and also the schedule that he puts these guys on.
"The vast majority of his players are prepared mentally, and they're mature. They're ready to contribute in the league."
Alabama, which had eight players drafted last year, set its all-time standard at 10 in 1945. The Tide could attain 10 again this week with the four first-round projections, Williams, offensive lineman Barrett Jones, linebacker Nico Johnson, tight end Michael Williams, safety Robert Lester and by having a defensive end, either Damion Square or Quinton Dial, taken.
The Bulldogs are expected to place linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree in the first round, with noseguard John Jenkins and defensive end Cornelius Washington going late in the first or somewhere in the second. McShay has Jones, who was Mel Kiper's top overall prospect a couple of months ago, going 17th to Pittsburgh and Ogletree 20th to Chicago.
Georgia's record of eight NFL picks occurred in 2002, when defensive end Charles Grant, linebacker Will Witherspoon and tight end Randy McMichael headed the contingent. That would be topped this week with Jones, Ogletree, Jenkins, Washington, receiver Tavarres King, noseguard Kwame Geathers, cornerback Sanders Commings, and safeties Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams.
Also in the picture for the Bulldogs are defensive end Abry Jones, cornerback Branden Smith and receiver Marlon Brown.
"This is a team that came within a whisker of playing for the national title and maybe being national champions," Kiper said. "They almost beat Alabama, and they would have played Notre Dame. Based on the way Notre Dame played against Alabama, you would have thought Georgia would have handled them.
"Georgia was so close to being the national championship team this past year, and the talent was there. They are going to have a ton of prospects drafted high."
Milliner, Warmack, Fluker and Lacy are among the 23 players who will be inside New York's Radio City Music Hall for Thursday's first round, but Georgia will not have any players present.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...