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Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur (14) gets tangled with Florida defensive lineman Jachai Polite (99) as Shurmur gets a pass away in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Florida won 13-6. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Mel Kiper Jr. Talks Latest NFL Draft Projections, Including SEC Prospects

With the NFL combine taking place this week and the NFL Draft just two weeks away, mock drafts take center stage.

Mel Kiper Jr. dished out on several SEC prospects that could hear their name called in Nashville coming up in April.

Polite to the Seahawks

In his latest mock draft, Kiper has Seattle taking Florida EDGE Jachai Polite.

“You know, he had a great year,” Kiper said. “He went from being a four-sack guy to an 11 sack guy, and that’s what they want, is the pass rushers… I think the pass rusher is what Pete’s always wanted. Polite had, like I said, a great year at Florida. He kind of is a one-year wonder because this is the first year his sack numbers were really impressive. But he plays hard. He’s got that explosive burst to get to the quarterback, he’s a finisher coming off the edge, like I said, the Bruce Irvin types, that’s kind of what he falls into, that combo guy.”

Polite would help Seattle replace a pass-rushing force they lost when Michael Bennett joined the Eagles last offseason. Polite was a wrecking force for the Gators defense that significantly improved under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme. The Daytona Beach product was arguably the one who reaped the most benefits, finishing the season with 11 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss, and six forced fumbles.

If Polite can end up being anything like Bruce Irvin for Seattle, that would be a home run pick.

SEC QB’s

The top two quarterbacks from the Southeastern Conference in this year’s draft have to be Missouri’s Drew Lock and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham.

Kiper has Lock currently going at No. 15 to the Washingon Redskins, with Stidham going sometime on Day 2.

Lock to the Redskins makes sense, especially if Kyler Murray goes 13th to the Dolphins. Washington’s quarterback situation is up in the air following Alex Smith’s horrifying leg injury, and Lock was a productive four-year guy who could be a plug-and-play. Because of that, and his strong arm, Kiper could see Lock going to a team like the Broncos late in the first round if he were to slip.

“He could be there in late first, early second round. There’s no built-in consensus on where Lock is going to go,” Kiper said. “He’s got the big-time arm. He had a really good finish to the year, last seven games had 16 touchdown passes, only two picks. He had that huge game against Florida… He’s got the big league arm, big-time arm talent.”

“In fact two years ago, during the season I got a call from a GM in the NFL saying ‘Hey, you know who’s the guy that’s got the best arm in college football? It’s Drew Lock.'”

Meanwhile, with Stidham, Kiper says that while he didn’t put up the same big numbers as Lock, the talent is still there for Stidham to be an early pick.

“He’s got the arm talent, and from the pocket, he can move well enough. I think he impressed,” Kiper said.

Kiper even mentioned a conversation he had with ESPN analyst Louis Riddick in which Riddick said Stidham was the guy that most caught his eye at the Senior Bowl and could be an “underrated” prospect.

Top-end DL, EDGE talent

All of this is without mentioning some of the guys who could go at the very top of the draft.

Ohio State’s Nick Bosa is at the top of the board, but following right behind him are guys like Kentucky’s Josh Allen, EDGE, and Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams.

Kiper currently has Allen going No. 2 to the 49ers and Williams going No. 3 to the Jets, with Kiper saying that the gap between Bosa and Allen isn’t very big.

“He was kind of the strength and the corner piece of it all [Kentucky’s defense],” Kiper said. “With his length and his size and his speed and the kind of kid he is, yeah, he’s right there.”

About Jonathan Acosta

Native New Englander. Follow me on Twitter: @jonacosta_10

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