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What can we learn from the SEC East’s top NFL Draft prospects’ recruiting profiles?

Missouri can’t keep up with Georgia’s recruiting prowess, but the NFL Draft is a reminder of how it can close the gap on Kentucky.

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Missouri Tigers v Georgia Bulldogs Photo by Steven Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

You saw Georgia play last year, so it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to hear they have double-digit players expected to hear their name called at some point in the top 150 picks of this year’s NFL Draft.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic has nine former Georgia players ranked among his top 75 NFL Draft prospects. The rest of the SEC has a combined 10 prospects ranked in the top 150. Yeah, Georgia was pretty talented last year.

This didn’t come out of nowhere. Georgia has had unprecedented success on the recruiting trail, and we’re now seeing that process pay dividends both on and off the field. The on-field success was capped this season with a National Championship. The off-field success is about to take place when Georgia has a 3-day infomercial on ESPN and NFL Network as we all watch more than a dozen former Bulldogs achieve their lifelong dream of getting drafted into the NFL.

Most of the players expecting to hear their names called next weekend come from the 2018 or 2019 recruiting class. It’s no coincidence Georgia had the highest rated recruiting classes in both years. The Bulldogs pulled in 11 five stars and 30 4-stars in 2018 and 2019 combined.

Rewind four years and they were the program highlighted on National Signing Day. Fast forward to today and it’s time to give them a spotlight for the crazy number of players they’re about to send to the NFL.

With Georgia as the backdrop, I wanted to take a look at how the SEC East’s NFL Draft prospects rated as recruits. The SEC East has a total of 22 players ranked among the top 150 prospects in this year’s draft, according to Dane Brugler’s big board. Georgia accounts for more than half of those players (12), and all of the 5-stars expected to be selected. It’s noteworthy that 17 of the 22 players from the SEC East who rank among the top 150 prospects were 4 or 5-star recruits. The lone exceptions are Georgia offensive guard Justin Shaffer, Kentucky offensive linemen Darian Kinnard and Luke Fortner, Tennessee defensive tackle Matthew Buttler and Mizzou cornerback Akayleb Evans (formerly of Tulsa).

Top 150 NFL Draft Prospects’ Recruiting Rankings

Team: 5-Star 4-Star 3-Star 2-Star Transfer JUCO
Team: 5-Star 4-Star 3-Star 2-Star Transfer JUCO
Georgia 4 7 1 1 (Wyatt)
Kentucky 2 2 1 (Robinson)
Tennessee 1 1
Missouri 1 1 (Evans)
South Carolina 1
Florida 2
Vanderbilt

Moral of the story: Recruiting matters. Not all blue chip talent goes on to do great things in college. Even fewer will go on to be selected in the top 150 of the NFL Draft. But a college football team’s chances of developing a quality NFL player are significantly higher with the high level talent. Georgia is the latest example of this, just as Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and many others have been in the past.

Missouri can’t measure its recruiting success by Georgia standards, but it should at least be able to keep up with the likes of Kentucky. The Wildcats have four players in Brugler’s top 150. Is it a coincidence those players happen to play offensive line (2), defensive end (1) and wide receiver (1)? I think not. Those are the positions Missouri was strongest when it was having its success in the early 2010’s.

Getting back to dominating in those positions that affect the quarterback is how Missouri can get back to contention for a top three finish in the division. Wide receiver looks good with former blue chip recruits such as Luther Burden III, Dominic Lovet and Mookie Cooper in the fold. The offensive line has a chance to get a massive influx of talent given how many blue chip recruits currently reside in Missouri or just across the border. Eli Drinkwitz and his staff secured commitments from four blue chip defensive linemen over the past two years.

Things are heading in the right direction in Columbia. The old saying, ‘recruiting is the lifeblood of a program,’ is a cliche for a reason. It’s true. When you’re watching the first round of the NFL Draft next week, look up how the players were rated as recruits. More often than not, you’ll find they were considered blue chip talents. Missouri has added quite a few over the last few years. The baseline has been set. The job is far from over.