- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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For the ninth straight year, the SEC led all conferences with 54 draft picks, but when everything was said and done Saturday, there was still a heavy contingent of SEC players who weren't drafted. But that doesn't mean that some of those players won't have productive careers in the NFL.
There's always free agency, and everyone loves an underdog. Here are five of the top SEC players who weren't drafted buy have a chance to make solid impacts in the NFL (in alphabetical order):
La'el Collins, OT, LSU: Collins likely would have heard his name called in the first round. However, teams are being very cautious after he was questioned about the shooting death of a pregnant woman in Baton Rouge. While Collins isn't believed to be a suspect in her murder, according to police, teams want to wait and see what will happen with Collins and the case. But if he is cleared of any wrongdoing, he'll be a very attractive free agent prospect for teams. His agent's petition to make him eligible for next year's draft proved unsuccessful, but Collins is a good enough athlete that he could come in and start this fall. Finding a team won't be an issue if and when his legal issues are cleared up.
Trey DePriest, LB, Alabama: Clearly, he's far from a perfect linebacker prospect, but DePriest has potential that could make him a solid player in the NFL. What I always liked about DePriest was how tough he was. He wasn't afraid to play hurt, like he did all of 2014 after he tore his meniscus during fall camp. DePriest, who eventually signed with the Baltimore Ravens, still had 88 tackles, including 4.5 for loss last season. He doesn't have elite speed, and he's somewhat limited with his size, but he's rangy and is a very smart football player. He wasn't caught out of position much in college, and is someone who could really develop into a solid contributor/leader over time.
Reese Dismukes, C, Auburn: It was odd to see the Rimington Award winner (nation's best center) not get drafted, but it sounds like teams had character questions about Dismukes. That's interesting, but this is when NFL folks really find out everything about potential investments. Dismukes signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and there's no question that his on-field smarts will go a long way toward him eventually making the Steelers' roster. (At least, that's what I think.) Dismukes has the intelligence to run an offensive line, and he's an incredibly hard worker who isn't afraid to put in the extra work to be successful.
Nick Marshall, QB/DB, Auburn: OK, so Marshall as a quarterback probably wasn't going to work out in the NFL, but he is a very intriguing cornerback prospect. Remember, he started his career at Georgia as a defensive back for the Bulldogs and is incredibly athletic. Scouts liked some of what Marshall did at the Senior Bowl and after at corner, but no one really knows what to truly expect from someone who played quarterback the last two years and lacks the immediate intangibles needed to be a successful cornerback right now. Marshall signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars and will be someone to definitely keep an eye on, especially if he makes the team.
Cody Prewitt, S, Ole Miss: He was one of the SEC's top defensive backs the last two years, but he didn't exactly test out well before the draft. He wasn't always the most fluid with his movements on the field, but Prewitt is a solid athlete with nice speed to cover bigger receiving options. I know Prewitt wasn't exactly an elite prospect, but he's a workhorse and he won't be intimidated at the pro level. He's tough to outwork. Prewitt is a true leader and with a little more development can earn time on defense. He signed with the Tennessee Titans, and if he makes the roster, he should be a solid special teams contributor at first.