The 2015 NFL Draft wasn't exactly a banner year for the Sun Belt. The conference graduated only three: Texas State cornerback Craig Mager (3rd, San Diego), Texas State linebacker David Mayo (5th) Carolina and Louisiana defensive end Christian Ringo (6th, Green Bay).
Then again, 2015 wasn't all that non-representational of the conference's draft performance for the last five years.
2015: 3 picks
The Sun Belt isn't likely to match 2012's magic production in 2016, but the rebuilding conference is putting forth some intriguing talent this year. Of the eleven programs, Appalachian St. stands the best chance of hearing more than one name announced between April 28th and 30th, with five former Mountaineers listed in the CBSSports.com NFL Prospect Rankings.
Speaking of those rankings, the list below is arranged according to CBSSports.com, which is one of the few services I found that takes the time to rank a whopping 1,000 college players. Does that make the rankings absolute? Nope. But a bricklayer lays with the bricks he's given.
Sun Belt NFL Draft Contenders (CBS Overall Rank/Position Rank)
1. Ronald Blair (121/13), DE, Appalachian St. Mountaineers
Blair was a legit boogyman for the Mountaineers, ranking second in the SBC for sacks (7.5) and contributing to the nation's tightest goal line defense. The 6'4" 270lb disrupter also recorded 71 combined tackles last season, and he was the only member of the Sun Belt invited to the 2016 NFL Combine.
2. Doug Middleton (243/11), DB, Appalachian St. Mountaineers
The 6'1" 210lb free safety recorded 53 total tackles in 2015 and totaled 8 INTs in his career. Middleton was a leader of a stingy defensive unit that ranked 11th nationally in total defense.
3. Darion Griswold (280/13), TE, Arkansas State Red Wolves
Big Gris is a classic blocking tight end with the pass-catching skills of a modern TE/WR hybrid. At 6'5", 255lbs, Griswold skews among the bigger TEs in the draft. For his career, Griswold has 10 TDs and has left a countless number of frustrated defensive ends sackless and sad.
4. Antwione Williams (287/24), LB, Georgia Southern Eagles
There's nothing ant-like about Antwione Williams. At 6'3" 245lbs, the beefy linebacker was a beast who racked up the conference's third most sacks (4) in 2015. This Mack Truck on legs recorded 72 total tackles (18.5 for loss) in his final two seasons.
5. Davante Harris (382/29), OT, Appalachian St. Mountaineers
The Mountaineers ranked 6th in the nation for rushing in 2015, owing much to this 6'6" 290lb beef slab of a man. As Taylor Lamb's personal bodyguard, Harris finished the 2015 season a 2nd Team All Sun Belt Offensive Lineman and was invited to the 2016 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
6. Jamal Robinson (582/69), WR, Louisiana Ragin Cajuns
A First Team All-Sun Belt wide receiver in his final season, the 6'4" 205lb Robinson racked up 824 receiving yards and 5 TDs in 2015. Fully recovered from a 2014 season nagged by foot injuries, Robinson's NFL size helped him collect 20 TD passes during his career in Lafayette.
7. Rashon Ceaser (611/76), WR, ULM Warhawks
Injuries have hampered what should have been an epic college career for Ceaser, who's 6'1" 192lb frame is a perfect combo of speed and size. Despite missing eight games in 2015, Ceaser finished his Warhawk career with 12 TDs and nearly 2,500 yards, good for fourth on ULM's all-time receptions list.
8. Nick Arbuckle, (615/34), QB, Georgia State Panthers
Arbuckle is the Sun Belt's 2015 Student Athlete of the Year who led Georgia State to its first conference win, first FBS win, and first Bowl game in the program's brief history. He didn't do it with charisma alone. Arbuckle chucked the pill for an incredible 4,368 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2015. He finished his Panthers' career with 51 scores.
9. Brandon Burks (691/50), RB, Troy Trojans
The Trojans are still Rebuilding The Wall under fledgling head coach Neal Brown, and Burks' 1,000 rushing yard seasongot lost in a shuffle of losses. The 5'10" 207lb RB rumbled into the endzone seven times in 2015. Burks' did himself some favors during Troy Pro Day, benching 225lbs 24 times, recording a 37-inch vertical jump and a 4.41 forty.
10. J.D. McKissic, (718/94), WR, Arkansas State Red Wolves
The versatile and multi-talented recorded a 1,000 yard receiving season in 2012, and then became one of the most accomplished kick returners in A-State history. At 5'11 193lbs, McKissic is a tough, over-the-middle receiver who grabbed 11 of the Red Wolves toughest TDs in his career. He also has two career kick-off return TDs of 90+ yards.