National Football League

The SEC dominates the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft — again 

April 30

Alabama and the SEC dominated the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, leaving no doubt about where the bulk of the nation's football talent lies.

There were many notable takeaways from Thursday’s first round of the draft, and one of the most significant was the downright dominance of the Southeastern Conference.

After night one, the SEC could claim more than one-third of all players selected, with 12 of the 32 first-rounders hailing from the conference.

It marked the sixth consecutive year that the SEC had the most first-round picks of any conference. Here are the SEC's tallies year by year:

  • 2021: 12 
  • 2020: 15 (an NFL record) 
  • 2019: 9 
  • 2018: 10 
  • 2017: 12 
  • 2016: 8 

The SEC accounted for six of the top 10 picks this year, with TE Kyle Pitts (No. 4, Florida), WR Ja’Marr Chase (No. 5, LSU), WR Jaylen Waddle (No. 6, Alabama), CB Jaycee Horn (No. 8, South Carolina), CB Patrick Surtain II (No. 9, Alabama) and WR DeVonta Smith (No. 10, Alabama).

The conference's six top-10 selections tied for the most by any conference in the top 10 of an NFL Draft — tied with none another than the SEC last year.

Through the first 20 picks of the first round, the SEC could claim half of the draftees.

What's more, Alabama alone was tied with the rest of the SEC in picks, and each had more players taken than any other conference.

Here’s the breakdown by conference after the first round:

  • SEC: 12
  • Big Ten: 7
  • ACC: 6
  • Pac-12: 3
  • AAC: 2
  • MVC: 1 
  • Independent: 1

Of the SEC's 12 selections, six came from the University of Alabama, continuing coach Nick Saban's trend of utter draft dominance.

With those six — Waddle, Surtain II, Smith, Mac Jones, Alex Leatherwood and Najee Harris — Alabama tied the NFL record for most first-round picks by one school, set by the 2004 Miami Hurricanes.

With the selections of Waddle and Heisman Trophy winner Smith, the Crimson Tide made more NFL draft history as the first team with multiple wide receivers selected in the first rounds of consecutive drafts. In 2020, Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy were selected at No. 12 and No. 15, respectively. 

This was also the first time that four wide receivers from one conference were selected in the first round.

With the Cincinnati Bengals selecting Chase at No. 5, the Miami Dolphins taking Waddle at No. 6 and the Philadelphia Eagles picking up Smith at No. 10, each of the incoming rookies will be reunited with his former QB: Chase with Joe Burrow, Waddle with Tua Tagovailoa and Smith with Jaylen Hurts.

Two of those three reunions are former Alabama QB-WR duos, with Chase and Burrow having played together on LSU's 2019 championship team.

In just about every way we can measure, the SEC reigned supreme in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. 

Next up: rounds two through seven.

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