2014 NFL Draft: Southeastern Conference Sleepers to Watch

Lamin Barrow was overshadowed by many of his LSU teammates last season, but the linebacker is a promising prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft. (Photo: Derick E. Hingle — USA Today Sports)

BBD Staff Writer: Joseph Curtis

The Southeastern Conference set the record for most players selected from one conference with 63 players selected during the 2013 NFL Draft. This included 12 first-round picks, which tied the record for most from one conference.

The last time the SEC did not have the most players selected in the NFL Draft was 2006, when it finished third behind the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big Ten Conference.

The SEC is full of talent. Led by top prospects in South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews and Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, it doesn’t appear that SEC dominance will end anytime soon. In addition to the top prospects, the SEC is full of talent from top to bottom.

Lamin Barrow, LB, Louisiana State

While top picks Barkevious Mingo, Eric Reid and Kevin Minter got most of the attention on the LSU defense last season, Lamin Barrow put together a fantastic season in 2012.

Barrow recorded 104 tackles, second only to Minter, with 7.5 tackles for loss, five passes broken up and a forced fumble.

With only five starters returning from last years’ team, Barrow will be tasked as the leader of the LSU defense this season. While he started all of last season at weakside linebacker, he is capable of playing inside as well and he may make that switch before the season is over with Minter now in the NFL.

He has good size, listed at 6’2” and 232 pounds with a thick build. He looks a bit heavy-footed at times despite having decent speed.

He is very good against the run, consistently meeting the runner at the line of scrimmage, and he shows the ability to weave through traffic off the weakside. He diagnoses plays quickly.

He is a physical tackler who makes most tackles. He does have a tendency to go for arm tackles, which are usually a result of him being late to the play rather than his tackling ability.

Barrow’s liability comes against the pass. He’s only average in coverage and will have a hard time keeping up with most NFL tight ends. He also displays very little skill rushing the passer. He only looked to rush off the edge at LSU last season, and without good speed or moves, he made little impact.

While it looks like he’ll stay at weakside linebacker this season, Barrow’s best fit at the next level is inside. As a middle linebacker, he’ll be able to use his strengths against the run and be less held back by his weaknesses.

He is a mid-round pick heading into the season, but with a year of starting experience under his belt, he could improve his play and elevate his stock to a Day 2 selection.

Kenarious Gates, OL, Georgia

A 6’5”, 327-pound Georgia left tackle is going to draw comparisons to Cordy Glenn, but Kenarious Gates isn’t on the same level. Unlike Glenn, Gates lacks elite athleticism and solid technique. While Gates does have surprisingly quick feet, he is a waist-bender who lacks balance and acceleration off the line.

Against the pass, he doesn’t consistently take a good first step, which can put him in a bad position and often causes him to be reaching for the rusher. He also seems concerned with rushers coming off the edge and plays to the outside. He allows defenders to his inside far too often as a result. Against power rushers though, he is great thanks to his strength and playing with a wide base.

In pass protection, he seemingly relies on his quick feet to make up for his poor first step and his long arms to make up the rest of the ground.

As a run blocker, his good hand placement and strength make up for his lack of explosiveness off the ball. He does have the speed and quickness to get to the second level, but he has the tendency to take bad angles against defenders.

His lack of a mean streak is a bit disappointing. At his size and strength, he should be able to sustain blocks and finish them, but his demeanor is almost polite at times and he will let up on blocks early.

Gates’ future isn’t at left tackle in the NFL. He’ll either flip over to the right side or will more likely slide inside to guard. Despite his flaws, a player of his size with his athleticism is intriguing. He is a likely mid-round selection who needs lots of work on his technique to elevate his stock.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Alabama, Chaz Sutton, Donte Rumph, Florida, Georgia, Ja'Wuan James, John Fulton, Jonotthan Harrison, Kenarious Gates, Kenny Hilliard, Kentucky, Lamin Barrow, LSU, Mississippi State, Prospects to Watch, SEC, Sleepers, South Carolina, Tennessee, Tyler Russell, Vanderbilt, Wesley Johnson

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