Here’s a quick hitter from ESPN on early departures from the SEC East.
Teams hit hardest: Florida, Tennessee
These two are the only teams in the SEC East that are losing multiple underclassmen to the 2017 NFL draft. Florida was hit with five departures, including four on defense: linebacker Alex Anzalone, defensive tackle Caleb Brantley and cornerbacks Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson (offensive tackle David Sharpe was the fifth departure and lone offensive player to declare for early entry). That’s a lot of talent on defense to lose — Brantley, Tabor and Wilson are all projected first-round picks based on Todd McShay’s rankings. Tennessee lost three: its best defensive player (defensive end Derek Barnett), its leading receiver (Josh Malone) and its all-purpose yardage leader (running back Alvin Kamara). Barnett will be the hardest to replace, with 32.5 sacks over the last three seasons (best in the nation) but all three were productive for the Volunteers.
Most fortunate team: Georgia
The Bulldogs got some huge news when running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel opted to return for their senior seasons. These days, running back draft prospects often leave early — because too many carries can adversely affect one’s draft stock — but Chubb and Michel bucked that trend and Georgia’s offense will reap the benefits in 2017. Linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy and safety Dominick Sanders also said they’re returning, so the Bulldogs made out pretty well, with receiver Isaiah McKenzie being the only key underclassman to declare.
Biggest surprise: Three running backs staying in school
It’s a strong draft class for running backs but to see three of them — Chubb, Michel and Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb — decide to come back was a bit of a surprise. Chubb and Michel were especially surprising given their past injuries and Chubb even admitted he considered leaving because of the uncertainty that lingers mentally after his 2015 knee injury. Webb has more carries than any other SEC running back over the last three seasons (739). Their teams certainly welcome them back with open arms, and they’ll be key parts of any success the Bulldogs or Commodores have in 2017. Kamara (Tennessee) and Stanley “Boom” Williams (Kentucky) were the two key SEC East running backs who decided to declare for early entry.
Bottom line: it’s a big gap closer for Georgia. No, it’s not everything, but that plus recruiting should make for an interesting reordering of talent in the division over the next couple of seasons.