So begins the gauntlet.
This Saturday, Arkansas starts the meat of its SEC schedule. Almost every conference foe is loaded with top-end talent.
While Arkansas has a few 2020 NFL Draft possibilities in Rakeem Boyd, Kamren Curl and McTelvin Agim, no Hog projects to go high in that draft (though Trey Knox and Treylon Burks already look like early rounders for the 2022 draft).
These future NFL Hogs have a chance to burnish their CVs by performing well against the best of the best. And they will have plenty of chances to do just that soon, since Arkansas may face five of the top 10 picks in next spring’s NFL Draft, based on various NFL mock drafts.
This is just another sign that the Hogs are “blessed” to play in the SEC West in this era, coming off a historically bad loss to San Jose State. Consider that the SEC East has only two such likely Top 10 picks in Andrew Thomas (Georgia) and CJ Henderson (Florida).
Here are the five most promising future pros the Hogs will face this season:
Derrick Brown - DT, Auburn
Last week, Texas A&M felt the singular fury of Derrick Brown.
It nigh burned Aggieland to the ground.
Brown, a 6’5, 318-pound land Leviathan, had four tackles (including three for a loss) with two sacks totaling minus-11 yards, a forced fumble and two pass breakups. Without him, Texas A&M doesn’t lose 20-28 at home.
Brown’s awesome start to this season, and Auburn’s Top 10 ranking so far, is a reason he’s squeaking into the top 10 of some mock drafts.
Kristian Fulton - CB, LSU
Like Brown, Kristian Fulton is a senior, though he’s playing only his second full season at LSU. He’s a speedy, disciplined corner who has come on like a monsoon this season, having excelled against 9th-ranked Texas in the Tigers’ second game. Fulton, a projected top-10 NFL pick in almost every mock, is another reason Hog fans continue to be jealous over the state other programs’ secondaries.
Grant Delpit - S, LSU
Sadly for the rest of the SEC, Kristian Fulton might not even be the best defensive back on his own team. Grant Delpit is considered to be even more of a sure thing. The 6-3, 203-pound safety racked up 10 tackles against Arkansas in games against the Hogs in the last two seasons. Fulton and Delpit are the main reason LSU probably has the country’s best secondary.
Jerry Jeudy - WR, Alabama
Jerry Jeudy is starting to look like he might be the best wide receiver to come out of college since Odell Beckham, Jr. Alabama’s No.1 man is worthy of the props, and seems likely to torch virtually every secondary he faces throughout the rest of the year. Keep an eye on the New Jersey sportsbooks and Vegas odds as the NFL Draft approaches and see if he actually tops his quarterback in the odds for the top pick. Right now, Tua Tagovailoa gets more buzz as a potential No. 1 pick, but it will be interesting to see how close Jeudy can come to rivaling his quarterback in the mock drafts.
Tua Tagovailoa - QB, Alabama
No SEC fan needs to be told how skilled Tagovailoa is, especially Arkansas fans after Alabama hung 65 on Arkansas last year. In 2018, Tua racked up a 199.4 QB rating but this year is even better with a 225.3 rating. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the early-season cupcakes Alabama has been devouring with the impunity of Jabba the Hutt.
San Jose State was supposed to be one of those kinds of cupcakes for Arkansas last week. We all know what happened. The 31-24 loss has caused Hog fans’ confidence on SB Nation’s major fan poll to drop to 0% and former Hogs like Clint Stoerner to heavily criticize the coaching (though Stoerner did refer to those who want Chad Morris fired as “losers.”) Still, the fact that such an under-talented team could defeat an SEC team does contain one silver lining: It provides hope that, if lessons are learned and everything clicks, the Hogs can do the same against one of their upcoming Goliaths.