When ESPN recently did their NFL ultimate All-Conference teams for current players, they ranked the SEC as the second-best conference overall.

After looking at the best players at each Big Ten and Big 12 school in the NFL since 1980, let’s now move on to the SEC. For this exercise, what they did in college means nothing, it's only what they did at the professional level. The five best players from each college over that timeframe are ranked, and the 14 schools in the conference are placed from worst to first based on those five players.

14. Vanderbilt

  • 1. Will Wolford, OT
  • 2. Jay Cutler, QB
  • 3. Casey Hayward, CB
  • 4. Shelton Quarles, LB
  • 5. Corey Chavous, S

Vanderbilt was a fairly easy choice to be at the bottom as they’ve only had one player in school history be named a First-Team All-Pro (punter Jim Arnold in 1987).

Honorable mentions: Jordan Matthews (WR), Zach Cunningham (LB)

13. Missouri

  • 1. Justin Smith, DE
  • 2. Eric Wright, CB
  • 3. Erik McMillan, S
  • 4. Sheldon Richardson, DT
  • 5. James Wilder, RB

Wright is one of six San Francisco players that was on all four of their Super Bowl-winning teams in the 1980s, and he was a First-Team All-Pro in 1985.

Honorable mentions: Otis Smith (CB), Jeremy Maclin (WR), Jeff Cross (DE), Brad Edelman (G), Aldon Smith (LB)

12. Kentucky

  • 1. Dermontti Dawson, C
  • 2. Randall Cobb, WR
  • 3. Larry Warford, G
  • 4. Za’Darius Smith, LB
  • 5. Bud Dupree, LB

They probably would have been in contention with Vanderbilt for last if not for Dawson, a legendary center for the Steelers who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.

Honorable mentions: Todd Perry (G), Steve Johnson (WR), Danny Trevathan (LB), Josh Allen (DE), Wesley Woodyard (LB)

11. Mississippi State

  • 1. Fletcher Cox (DT)
  • 2. Dak Prescott (QB)
  • 3. Kent Hull (C)
  • 4. Darius Slay (CB)
  • 5. Eric Moulds (WR)

The potential for Mississippi State to be higher in future-time is there, with Cox having made the last five Pro Bowls, Slay the last three, and Prescott owning a 97.0 quarterback rating in his first four seasons.

Honorable mentions: Walt Harris (CB), K.J. Wright (LB), Fred Smoot (CB), Benardrick McKinney (LB)

10. Arkansas

  • 1. Jason Peters (OT)
  • 2. Steve Atwater (S)
  • 3. Wayne Martin (DE/DT)
  • 4. Shawn Andrews (G)
  • 5. Ken Hamlin (S)

While Arkansas does have a player here in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Atwater), and one who likely will be in the future (Peters), the talent level drops off steeply after those two (Dan Hampton just missed out as his career began in 1979).

Honorable mentions: Bobbie Williams (G), Darren McFadden (RB), Billy Ray Smith (LB)

9. Mississippi

  • 1. Eli Manning (QB)
  • 2. Patrick Willis (LB)
  • 3. Wesley Walls (TE)
  • 4. Mike Wallace (WR)
  • 5. Laremy Tunsil (OT)

While the first two (Manning and Willis) could find themselves enshrined in Canton sometime in the future, there is a steep talent drop after them (although Tunsil and A.J. Brown have plenty of time to improve their resumes).

Honorable mentions: Tim Bowens (DT), Deuce McAllister (RB), A.J. Brown (WR), Derrick Burgess (DE)

8. Auburn

  • 1. Kevin Greene (LB/DE)
  • 2. Cam Newton (QB)
  • 3. Willie Anderson (OT)
  • 4. Takeo Spikes (LB)
  • 5. Stephen Davis (RB)

Davis is one of the more underappreciated running backs from the late 90s-early 2000s as he had four seasons in which he ran for at least 1,318 yards.

Honorable mentions: James Brooks (RB), Karlos Dansby (LB), Wayne Gandy (OT), Steve Wallace (OT), Gary Walker (DT), Jay Ratliff (DT), Marcus McNeill (OT), Ben Grubbs (G), Dee Ford (LB)

7. South Carolina

  • 1. Sterling Sharpe (WR)
  • 2. Stephon Gilmore (CB)
  • 3. John Abraham (DE)
  • 4. Melvin Ingram (DE)
  • 5. Jadeveon Clowney (DE)

What could have been if injuries didn’t force Sharpe into retirement after seven years? In six seasons after his rookie year, he averaged 90 catches for 1,224 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Honorable mentions: Johnathan Joseph (CB), Duce Staley (RB), Alshon Jeffery (WR), George Rogers (RB), Robert Brooks (WR), Jared Cook (TE)

6. Texas A&M

  • 1. Von Miller (LB)
  • 2. Richmond Webb (OT)
  • 3. Mike Evans (WR)
  • 4. Ray Childress (DE)
  • 5. Jacob Green (DE)

One of the premier pass rushers currently, Miller has accumulated 106 sacks in his first nine seasons and has been named to the Pro Bowl eight times.

Honorable mentions: Aaron Glenn (CB), Sam Adams (DT), Pat Williams (DT), William Thomas (LB), Ryan Tannehill (QB), Michael Bennett (DE), Jake Matthews (OT), Myles Garrett (DE)

5. Florida

  • 1. Emmitt Smith (RB)
  • 2. Maurkice Pouncey (C)
  • 3. Lomas Brown (OT)
  • 4. Fred Taylor (RB)
  • 5. Wilber Marshall (LB)

Pouncey is arguably the preeminent center playing in the NFL today with the Steelers as he has earned eight Pro Bowl nods and two First-Team All-Pro appearances in his first 10 seasons.

Honorable mentions: Kevin Carter (DE), Mike Peterson (LB), Jevon Kearse (DE), Cris Collinsworth (WR), Reggie Nelson (S), Trace Armstrong (DE), Carlos Dunlap (DE), Neal Anderson (RB), Joe Haden (CB), Mike Pouncey (C)

4. Georgia

  • 1. Champ Bailey (CB)
  • 2. Terrell Davis (RB)
  • 3. Richard Seymour (DT)
  • 4. Matthew Stafford (QB)
  • 5. Hines Ward (WR)

One of the more difficult teams to choose five, as plenty of multi-time Pro Bowlers are littered across the honorable mentions.

Honorable mentions: Mo Lewis (LB), Geno Atkins (DT), Ray Donaldson (C), Herschel Walker (RB), Thomas Davis (LB), Guy McIntyre (G), Garrison Hearst (RB), A.J. Green (WR), Marcus Stroud (DT), Justin Houston (LB), Todd Gurley (RB), Rodney Hampton (RB), Reshad Jones (S), Nick Chubb (RB)

3. LSU

  • 1. Kevin Mawae (C)
  • 2. Alan Faneca (G)
  • 3. Patrick Peterson (CB)
  • 4. Odell Beckham Jr. (WR)
  • 5. Andrew Whitworth (OT)

When Peterson was named to his eighth Pro Bowl after the 2018 season, he tied Barry Sanders as the youngest in NFL history to reach that number according to NBC Sports (28 years, 5 months).

Honorable mentions: Henry Thomas (DT), Kyle Williams (DT), Leonard Marshall (DE), Eric Martin (WR), Jarvis Landry (WR), Danielle Hunter (DE), Trai Turner (G), Tyrann Mathieu (S), Tre’Davious White (CB), Jamal Adams (S)

2. Alabama

  • 1. Derrick Thomas (LB)
  • 2. Julio Jones (WR)
  • 3. Dwight Stephenson (C)
  • 4. Shaun Alexander (RB)
  • 5. Cornelius Bennett (LB)

It has been an incredibly productive career for Jones, who at the age of 31 already ranks 35th all-time with 797 receptions and 25th all-time with 12,125 receiving yards.

Honorable mentions: Chris Samuels (OT), C.J. Mosley (LB), Dont’a Hightower (LB), Mark Ingram III (RB), Marcell Dareus (DT), Amari Cooper (WR), Landon Collins (S), Eddie Jackson (S), Derrick Henry (RB), Minkah Fitzpatrick (S), Marlon Humphrey (CB)

1. Tennessee

  • 1. Peyton Manning (QB)
  • 2. Reggie White (DE)
  • 3. Jason Witten (TE)
  • 4. Terry McDaniel (CB)
  • 5. Dale Carter (CB)

When the top three are a quarterback who has the record for most MVP awards with five, a defender who is second all-time with 198 career sacks, and a tight end who is fourth all-time with 1,215 career receptions, it’s not a very difficult choice to have Tennessee lead the way.

Honorable mentions: Chad Clifton (OT), Tim Irwin (OT), Raleigh McKenzie (G), Anthony Miller (WR), Shaun Ellis (DE), Jamal Lewis (RB), Al Wilson (LB), John Henderson (DT), Arian Foster (RB), Carl Pickens (WR), Albert Haynesworth (DT), Leonard Little (DE), Eric Berry (S), Alvin Kamara (RB)