After Day 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft saw four former Alabama football offensive players selected in the first round, the tables were turned Friday.
During the second and third rounds, it was the defense's turn.
Five former Crimson Tide defenders were picked, giving Alabama a total of nine players drafted through the first three rounds, plus former quarterback Jalen Hurts was also selected.
Hurts counts for Oklahoma, since it's where he finished up his career, so Alabama was one player shy of the 10-player three-round record set by LSU. However the SEC's 40 selections tied a draft record and was twice as more as any other league (Big Ten 17).
Safety Xavier McKinney, cornerback Trevon Diggs, defensive tackle Raekwon Davis and linebackers Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings were Alabama's selections.
McKinney, projected by many to be a first-round pick, went 36th to the New York Giants.
"It was a long first day," McKinney told Giants.com. "Of course I thought I was going to hear my name called that first day, so it was kind of just a tough night — a tough pill to swallow for me. Coming into this day I was hoping it would be better, which it was, and I really didn't know what was going to happen but I was praying that something good would happen and it did.
"I'm thankful to be a Giant."
Next up was Diggs, the 51st overall pick of the Dallas Cowboys.
He joins former Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper on the Dallas roster. The Cowboys considered him a first-round talent, and had done video calls with Diggs as well as Davis and wide receiver Henry Ruggs III.
“I’m proud to tell you, because I’m proud of it too, you got a star on your helmet," Jones said during a phone call to Diggs that was later released on the Cowboys' social media accounts. “I enjoyed our time, our interview, talking to you and everybody, your potential coaches and we’re all excited about you getting in here.
"What we’re most excited about is the improvement ... everybody [says] 'he can get better, he can get better.' Now remember what I told you: If anybody ever tells you that you get something for nothing, they lying to you. So we’ll have to go to work. But if you go to work, you’ll get something.”
Five picks after Ruggs, Davis heard his name called. With the 56th selection, Davis joined Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins.
"We're fired up, man," Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said in a phone call to Davis. "We're expecting you to be a leader, to be tough, be very physical, everything we want out of you. We know you're going to give it your all. We love your play style, and we think you're a good fit here for us.
"We're excited to make you a Miami Dolphin."
The two Alabama linebackers had to wait for the third round. Lewis was picked 84th by the Los Angles Rams.
Despite missing both the 2017 and 2018 seasons due to injuries, as well as suffering a hyperextended knee in 2019 against South Carolina, the Rams still saw potential in the strong edge rusher.
Finally, Jennings went a few minutes after Lewis. With the 87th pick, the New England Patriots took him to join former Crimson Tide standout Dont'a Hightower in the linebacker room.
Jennings played his fifth year as the seasoned veteran at the linebacker position. In 2018, he suffered a knee injury in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson, but bounced back the following year and produced for the Crimson Tide.
“The guy had a really tough injury a few years ago and really worked hard to get back and wanted to come back this year,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said in an interview back in November. “Of course, he didn’t think he was quite as good as he could be last year, and he’s done a fantastic job for us this year. I think he’s one of the top production guys, and I think he has created value for himself.”
All eyes now turn to Saturday for the final four rounds of the draft (11 a.m. CT, ESPN/NFL Network). Three more former Alabama players remain on the board in offensive lineman Matt Womack and safeties Jared Mayden and Shyheim Carter.