First '09 mock draft

Apparently determined to post the first NFL mock draft for 2009, Andrew Perloff of (the Sports Illustrated website) is on the record – or at least on-line – projecting that eight SEC players will go in Round 1 next April.

None of the eight play for Tennessee but, incredibly, two of them play for Ole Miss.

One of the Rebels to watch is Memphis native Michael Oher, an offensive tackle who picked Ole Miss over the Vols after a heated recruiting battle three years ago. Oher announced he was turning pro after the 2007 season but changed his mind and elected to return for another year in Oxford. Perloff projects him to be the seventh player picked next April.

The other Rebel who reportedly sports first-round potential is defensive tackle Peria Jerry. He checks in as pick No. 17 on Perloff's mock draft.

Talent-rich LSU also has two players who are first-round projections. Defensive end Tyson Jackson is rated pick No. 11 and wideout Demetrius Byrd is ranked as pick No. 18.

If Byrd is a first-rounder, he will be the fourth LSU wideout to go in Round 1 in a six-year span. Both Dwayne Bowe (pick 23) and Craig Davis (pick 30) were first-rounders in 2007. Michael Clayton was a first-rounder (pick 15) in 2004. In addition, Early Doucet was a third-round pick last weekend in the 2008 draft.

Perloff is assuming that Florida quarterback Tim Tebow will return for his senior season rather than declare for the 2009 draft. That leaves Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford as Perloff's choice to be the No. 1 pick in the '09 draft. This may seem a bit mystifying to many SEC fans, considering how erratic Stafford was in 2007. Perloff conceded as much in explaining the projection:

"A quarterback has gone No. 1 overall six out of the past eight years, and Stafford looks like the most likely candidate to develop into that kind of elite QB. His numbers were mediocre last year, but he had no line or receivers."

For what it's worth, here are the eight SEC players Perloff believes will be first-round picks next spring:

1. Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia

4. Andre Smith, OT, Alabama

7. Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss

11. Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU

17. Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss

18. Demetrius Byrd, WR, LSU

22. Percy Harvin, WR, Florida

28. Sen'Derrick Marks, DT, Auburn

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