Texas A&M Aggies: C.J. Johnson

It’s never too early to look ahead.

The 2014 NFL draft is over. It’s dead to us already. On to 2015.

The SEC had the first pick (Jadeveon Clowney), the most intriguing pick (Johnny Manziel), the most talked-about pick (AJ McCarron) and the most historically significant pick (Michael Sam) in the entire draft this year. The league even had the most overall picks with 49.

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAmari Cooper could be a coveted WR for the 2015 NFL draft.
What will it do for an encore in 2015? While it’s hard to imagine SEC players dominating headlines in quite the same way, the league will undoubtably have a strong contingent of players drafted.

With that in mind, the SEC Blog decided to project next year’s top 20 NFL draft prospects. Edward Aschoff picked his 10 from the East earlier. Now it’s time for 10 from the West to keep an eye on, in alphabetical order:

  • La’el Collins, OL, LSU: Collins very well could have skipped school, entered the draft and been taken anywhere from the second to fourth round. But he chose to return to school, which could pay huge dividends if he improves his pass blocking. Already a known road-grader in the running game, he’ll benefit from the versatility to play either guard or tackle.
  • Landon Collins, S, Alabama: He’ll make plays in the passing game. He’ll make plays at the line of scrimmage. And just in case you want an immediate return, he’ll make plays in special teams. The former five-star prospect showed his all-around game this past season with 70 tackles, eight passes defended, four tackles for loss and two interceptions. With a big junior season, his stock could soar.
  • Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: He is silky smooth on the football field. But don’t let that fool you; he’s got all the moves. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, he can run in the 4.3-second range. He can go get the ball in traffic and has come up big in clutch situations. With his nifty footwork, he’ll remind some of Colts wideout Reggie Wayne.
  • Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas: A third-round grade from the NFL draft board wasn’t enough to get Flowers to leave school early. After racking up 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks last season, he returns to Fayetteville with the opportunity to improve upon those numbers. Strong, quick and well-built at 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds, he could turn heads in 2014.
  • C.J. Johnson, DE, Ole Miss: This one might come as a bit of a surprise after he missed more than half of last season to an injury. But the NFL clearly loves pass rushers (23 defensive ends were drafted this year), and Johnson is one of the best in the SEC. He has that quick first step scouts covet. If he can show he’s athletic enough to play both defensive end and outside linebacker, he could make himself attractive to several NFL teams.
  • Bernardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State: The tape doesn't lie. McKinney has been a tackling machine for two years now. He could have entered this year’s draft, but stayed. If Mississippi State makes a run this year, he’ll get noticed. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, he can run in the 4.6 range, which will catch scouts’ eyes.
  • Jalen Mills, DB, LSU: You just know the Tigers are going to produce an NFL defensive back, and Mills has all the tools to develop into that guy. The former Freshman All-American has played both cornerback and safety, which will help him at the next level.
  • Cedric Ogbuehi, OL, Texas A&M: It will look familiar -- another Aggies offensive lineman going in the first round of the NFL draft, and Ogbuehi has all the tools to do it. He has played guard and right tackle already, but this year will star at the big-money position of left tackle.
  • Gabe Wright, DL, Auburn: It’s easy to forget that Wright was once a top-30 prospect in the country. Playing in the interior of the defensive line can get you lost. But with a big season, we could see Wright catch the attention of scouts and make a Dee Ford-like rise up draft boards.
  • T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama: It’s not a good time to be a running back coming out of college. And leaving early seems strange, but after all the carries Yeldon has racked up and the pressure behind him on the depth chart, it might be time to leave. He might not have great top-end speed, but scouts will love his vision, blocking and general all-around game.
We all know junior college players are a crap shoot.

Sometimes you hit it big with them. Sometimes you swing and miss.

With spring practice cranking up for a handful of SEC schools, we’ve come up with our top-five impact junior college newcomers in the league. These guys are all already on campus and will go through spring practice. They’re listed alphabetically.

Here goes:

Dontavius Blair, OT, Tennessee: With the Vols losing all five starters on their offensive line from last season, they need reinforcements. The 6-foot-8, 313-pound Blair is the odds-on favorite to replace Antonio Richardson at left tackle. Blair was rated as the nation's No. 6 offensive tackle prospect in the ESPN Junior College 50.

C.J. Johnson, DT, Kentucky: The Wildcats lost Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble in the middle of their defensive line, so there’s plenty of opportunity for the 6-3, 295-pound Johnson to show what he can do this spring. Kentucky held on to Johnson despite Miami pushing hard until the very end.

Abu Lamin, DT, South Carolina: The Gamecocks need a run-stuffer in the middle, and the 6-4, 295-pound Lamin fits that bill. He has three years of eligibility remaining and has the kind of burst off the ball and overall athleticism to develop into much more than just a run-stopper for the Gamecocks.

Christian Russell, LB, Ole Miss: The 6-foot, 230-pound Russell is big, fast and physical and has outstanding closing speed. The Rebels signed him with the hope that he could step in for Mike Marry in the middle. Russell was ranked by ESPN as the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect in the country among junior college players.

D'haquille Williams, WR, Auburn: The 6-3, 213-pound Williams is the epitome of a big-play receiver. He was rated the top overall junior college prospect in the country regardless of position and has all the physical tools to emerge as Auburn’s No. 1 option in the passing game next season.

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