Sun Belt Craters In The 2019 NFL Draft
It was a terrible, horrible, not very good NFL Draft for the Sun Belt.
Nobody expected the Sun Belt to make an appearance in Day 1. After all, this wasn’t a bumper year for SBC talent. But there was still meat on the plate.
On Day 2, the Sun Belt was a no show again. But hey, no worries.
Day 3, it became increasingly evident, as the clock ticked with the picks, that the the Sun Belt is in deep trouble.
First and foremost, congrats to ULM’s Marcus Green, a dangerous wide receiver and explosive return man who terrorized Sun Belt teams throughout his productive career. Green was scooped in the 6th round by the Atlanta Falcons with the 203rd pick. Bravo, good sir!
- Three Sun Belt players who entered the Draft as underclassmen: Penny Hart (Georgia State), Clifton Duck (Appalachian State), and Keenen Brown
- The Sun Belt Player of the Year, Justice Hansen
- The Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, Ronheen Bingham
- Sun Belt First and Second Team All Conference Selections such as Blace Brown, Lonnard Bonner, Damion Willis, Jamrious Way, Wesley Fields and Justin Clifton.
The NFL selected five athletes from Division II. The FCS placed seven athletes. The MEAC and SWAC conferences alone promoted two apiece. Are you telling me that the NFL could only find ONE draftable athlete in the Sun Belt, but can find TWO in the SWAC?
That ain’t good.
So What To Do?
So far, new Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill hasn’t made a public statement about this year’s NFL Draft, but this needs to be on Mr. Gill’s agenda. After all, the Sun Belt isn’t just being left behind by the FBS in total; it’s getting smoked by the Group of Five.
- AAC: 11
- Mountain West: 10
- MAC: 9
- C-USA: 6
- Sun Belt: ONE!!
Historically, the Sun Belt hasn’t always exhibited laser-focus on promoting its assets (the commissioner mailing the trophy to the SBC football champion in 2016 is a prime example). Mr. Gill could provide a jolt of energy to the conference simply by being more visible. But since he was named Sun Belt Commissioner in March, Mr. Gill has remained low key. Perhaps he’s waiting for Sun Belt Media Day to announce a masterstroke.
Until then, Sun Belt programs need to look within. It’s difficult to recruit when players have a better shot of landing in the NFL by signing with Valdosta State.
Frankly, the Sun Belt generally snubs the early rounds. Arkansas State’s Tyrell Johnson was a 2nd rounder in 2008. Troy’s DeMarcus Ware was a first rounder way back in 2005. Maybe we’ve seen others? If so, I forget. Third-thru-Seven are the Sun Belt Magic Rounds. That, and UDFAs, but now I’m drifting into negative territory, and I’m a positive person.
Guys Definitely Gonna Get Drafted, Yo
Penny Hart, WR, Georgia State
Jalin Moore, RB, Appalachian State
Blace Brown, CB, Troy
Penny Hart is among the rare Sun Belt talents with the cajones to enter the Draft before his senior season. The former SBC Freshman of the Year had a swell Senior Bowl, but he may lack the necessary size to really dazzle NFL GMs.
Jalin Moore and Blace Brown are also considered Day 3 picks, though Moore and Brown both seem to look the part more than Hart, in my arrogant opinion.
Dudes That Should Get Drafted (But Mayprolly Won’t)
Ronheen Bingham, DE, Arkansas State
Clifton Duck, DB, Appalachian State
Keenan Brown, TE, Texas State
Marcus Green, WR, ULM
Ronheen Bingham is the SBC Defensive Player of the Year, and Clifton Duck was a First Team All Conference selection. Bingham’s knee and Duck’s size may be strikes against them.
Meanwhile, both Keenan Brown and Marcus Green were NFL Combine invitees with the tangibles for which GMs will risk a roll of the dice. If none or all of these guys were drafted, I wouldn’t be surprised. Though, admittedly, I’d be pretty damn pleased if all were drafted.
Future Sun Belt UDFAs
Justin Clifton, DB, Arkansas State
Deondre Douglas, WR, Troy
Jamarious Way, WR, South Alabama
Lanard Bonner, OL, Arkansas State
Justice Hansen, QB, Arkansas State
Deonte Crumitie, C, Troy
All of these guys are legendary All Sun Belt selections, with Hansen named SBC Player of the Year in 2018. Bonner turned heads at the Shrine Game, and Way participated in the NFL Combine. Look for at least one of these guys to hear his name called during the Draft.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.