Outside of the news that quarterback Aaron Rodgers may want out of Green Bay (or at least a contract extension), and a number of teams have reached out to the Packers regarding a possible trade including the San Francisco 49ers, the first surprise regarding Alabama's players in the 2021 NFL Draft was who will not be on-hand in Cleveland for the first round Thursday night.
It's Nick Saban.
The coach had been a fixture for years, on-hand to support his former players, but this will be the third straight draft he'll miss. The 2020 NFL Draft was entirely virtual, and the year before Saban was recovering from hip surgery.
“You basically have to get invited by one of your players, and I told our players ‘Look, this is for your family,’’' Saban said to cleveland.com. “I said, ‘Don’t worry about inviting me or your coaches. This should be a moment for your family. I had a couple of guys, they probably wished I was there. But I also think it’s more important for their family to be there.’’
The decision is interesting because Saban usually doesn't miss an opportunity that can translate into recruiting help. Perhaps he'll be part of a broadcast or two over the weekend.
Incidentally, among the 13 players who will be in Cleveland for the first round include Mac Jones, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Christian Barmore and Patrick Surtain II. Landon Dickerson, Dylan Moses, Najee Harris and Alex Leatherwood will all appear virtually.
Here's the latest on Alabama's top 10 draft prospects:
Christian Barmore: Saban has come to the defensive lineman's defense, shooting down reports that he wasn't the most coachable player at Alabama. "We never had any issues here with him at all when it came to structure, whether it was football or academics,’' Saban told cleveland.com. “He always worked hard in the offseason program and he did whatever everybody told him to do. We were were very structured in regards to academics and he worked very hard at that. .... I never had a problem with him. He’s a good kid." Saban added: “He just has really good initial quickness for a big guy, and he’s a really good inside pass-rusher and he was very productive for us as a player. He’s very instinctive as a rusher.’’
Deonte Brown: Speculation from those who make a living predicting where and when players will be selected in the draft has been mixed when it comes to Brown. Six months ago some had him going near the end of the first round. Most recently, Brown has been tagged as a third or fourth round selection. "I'll just be happy to be with the team that wants me the most," said Brown, who was signing autographs in Huntsville on Wednesday night. "I've talked to a lot of teams that seem really interested in me." Why does Brown think a team should draft him? "Because I know how to/ win and I know how to compete," Brown said. — The Decatur Daily
Landon Dickerson: "When healthy, Dickerson is a monster on the offensive line, literally and figuratively. You just don’t find many guys who are built like he is and play the way he does. His medicals are the biggest issue teams may have with him as it leads to questions on how long he can last in the NFL. While he is capable of playing any of the five positions, inside is his best spot and only to be used as a tackle in emergency situations. There is also good enough movement to be used in any scheme, but his best work may be something that keeps him inside and relying on his power. — Mile High Huddle
Najee Harris: 2021's version of a consensus draft crush in Pittsburgh rests in the form of Alabama running back Najee Harris. Harris, who displayed himself as a do-it-all back in college, fits the mold as a three-down ball carrier at the next level and thus would be a great fit for many, if not all, organizations in search of one. ... Should Najee Harris be available to the Steelers at pick number 24, there's a strong chance he will be the team's pick. However, Harris has garnered interest from running back-needing teams picking ahead of Pittsburgh, showing no guarantee that the Steelers will have the opportunity to select him. — All Steelers
Mac Jones: According to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the 49ers are deciding between the Alabama quarterback and Trey Lance. "Which means they're unlikely or certain to not take Justin Fields at No. 3. What the 49ers have done the past couple weeks and months is gather as much information as humanly possible on Lance and Jones, from college coaches to private coaches to family members. Everything. I don't know that they're still grinding tape, I think that part is probably done. This is about getting all the other information they can. I would also add that the 49ers are not going to make this public until they pick."
Alex Leatherwood: Oliver Hodgkinson of Pro Football Network projected the Jaguars to select Leatherwood with the first pick in the second round, and it's a move that makes a lot of sense. "If the Cincinnati Bengals taught us anything in 2020, it’s that you can’t trot your new quarterback out behind a sub-standard offensive line and expect him to succeed. If the Jaguars think that Lawrence will come in and miraculously turn around an offense that had the third-lowest percentage of drives end in a score while playing behind a line that allowed the eighth-most sacks in the league, they’re straight wrong. I’d expect to see Jacksonville address the offensive line at least once, maybe even twice in the 2021 NFL Draft. ... As a versatile lineman, Leatherwood has played across the line in Tuscaloosa during his career. He’s played on the right side, with 15 starts at right guard in 2018; he’s spent the last two years at left tackle. That versatility offers great value for the Jaguars, allowing Leatherwood to start immediately in 2021 while evaluating if he could be the long-term answer at left tackle."
Dylan Moses: "The best trait about Moses is also one that gives him a lot of issues on the football field. He has a high football IQ, but sometimes he seems to overthink instead of just playing the game. That can see him late to his position in coverage, or fill the wrong running lane. His lack of athleticism overall just piles on to the issue of overthinking because when he is late, he doesn’t have the athletic gifts to make up for it. The right coaches can get Moses to be a very effective NFL linebacker, but it all starts with getting him to just play the game and not overthink things. Once that happens, he has the potential to blossom into a solid starting linebacker. — Mile High Huddle
DeVonta Smith: There's a lot of talk that the Giants are very high on DeVonta Smith if he's still available. “Is DeVonta Smith there? And they have him as a top three player on their board. By the way, it’s possible if he gets by the Dolphins — this is the thought — that there’s a good chance he’s there at 11. Then I think they do that,” ESPN's Chris Raanan told Chris Carlin on ESPN Radio. “DeVonta Smith… If he makes it to 11, I think that would be their pick. Jaylen Waddle and Rashawn Slater, they’re in that next range; that next level. Right behind them — and maybe even even with them — are the two cornerbacks, Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn.”
Patrick Surtain II: “I think that we’ve got a good chance to have a top defensive player, the top ... be there at No. 10,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday. Early Thursday morning, two sources told CowboysSI.com that Dallas is "leaning'' toward one top cornerback ... but would be "ecstatic'' about the other. The "lean,'' the sources say, is about South Carolina's Jaycee Horn. The "but, ecstatic'' target is Alabama's Patrick Surtain. — Cowboy Maven
Jaylen Waddle: The buzz is growing about Waddle to the Dolphins at No. 6, but regardless he's unlikely to fall out of the top 10. "Like bees swarming that annoying hive that always seems to be constructed above your front door or just outside your second-floor window, the buzz is strong around Jaylen Waddle. Jim Mora Jr told me last week that is who he believes the Eagles will draft the Alabama receiver with pick No. 12. Then Mora changed his mind and said, no, he’ll be gone by then, so he changed to Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II. On Monday, Gil Brandt went with Waddle for the Eagles. “I think they have to, provided his ankle is OK, pick Waddle,” said Brandt. “I think Waddle is really, really a good player. They’ve failed picking a wide receiver in the last four or five years and they have this draft pick they took two years ago (J.J. Arcega-Whiteside) that was going to be so good and he hasn’t turned out to be much of anything and that’s hurt them. They have a retooling job." — Eagle Maven
When will the Alabama Players get Drafted?
We're big believers in following the money when looking for answers and projections, and the 2021 NFL Draft definitely applies.
According to SportsBettingDime.com, Alabama is favored to have eight former players selected in the top 100 of the draft.
Here's the entire list, with the corresponding round added:
- Mac Jones 3.5 (first)
- Jaylen Waddle 8.5 (first)
- DeVonta Smith 10.5 (first)
- Patrick Surtain II 12.5 (first)
- Christian Barmore 26.5 (first)
- Alex Leatherwood 40.5 (second)
- Najee Harris 50.5 (second)
- Landon Dickerson 58.5 (second)
- Deonte Brown 93.5 (third)
- Dylan Moses 116.5 (fourth)
- Miller Forristall 255.5 (seventh)
However, BetOnline sees things a little differently. It agrees that Jaylen Waddle is likely to be selected before DeVonta Smith, but barely, with the over/under(s) set at 11 and 11.5, respectively.
The Crimson Tide player who is has been on the move is Najee Harris. The running back opened at 32 1/2, but is all the way up to 25 1/2, which means he's become a solid first-round prospect.
If so, Alabama has a terrific chance to match the NFL record for most first-round selections in a single draft with six.
The final SI mock draft has been posted and has five Alabama players going in the first round, four in the top 11. But the guess here is that Barmore goes in the first round, giving the Crimson Tide six.
The Draft Buzz and Rumors
• New England and Carolina have discussed a deal to give the Patriots the No. 8 pick. (Albert Breer, The MMQB)
• The Washington Football Team could trade up from the No. 19 pick into the top 10. (Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano, ESPN). However, it doesn't sound like Washington is targeting a quarterback. The biggest need is offensive line, but the Giants may be looking to move up as well to try and grab Penei Sewell.
• Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said Wednesday that Atlanta wants to land an "impact player, whether it's someone who is going to sit or is going to play on day one." (Tom Pelissero, NFL Network). That sounds a lot like tight end Kyle Pitts. However, numerous teams have reached out to the Falcons about a possible trade. (Steve Wyche, NFL Network).
• Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, who recently had back surgery, tested positive for COVID-19 on a test administered by the NFL on Tuesday.
• The Eagles have been active in seeking potential moves to trade up in the draft. It's possible they might be trying to get ahead of Dallas in an effort to draft a top cornerback. (Jeremy Fowler, ESPN). The Saints are also reportedly looking into trading up.
• Najee Harris is aiming to be the fourth Crimson Tide running back of the Nick Saban era to be drafted in the first round, joining Mark Ingram Jr. (2011), Trent Richardson (2012) and Josh Jacobs (2019). However, a Doak Walker winner hasn't gone in the first round since Melvin Gordon in 2015.
• If DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are both first-round selections, they'll be the sixth pair of wide receiver teammates to do since 1967. However, Alabama would be the first to pull it off in consecutive years after Henry Ruggs III went 12th and Jerry Juedy at No. 15 last year.
• Last year Alabama joined USC in 1968 as the only schools to have four offensive players selected in the first round of a draft (Tua Tagovailoa, Jedrick Wills Jr., Ruggs and Jeudy). Not only could the Crimson Tide match or top the accomplishment, but could be the first school during the modern draft era to have a quarterback, running back and two wide receivers selected in the first round of the same NFL draft.
• Patrick Surtain II is poised to be the eighth Crimson Tide defensive back to be selected in the first round since 20101. It would also snap a three-year "drought" as the last was Minkah Fitzpatrick at No. 11 overall in 2018.
• Christian Barmore could be the fourth Alabama defensive lineman to be a first-round pick over the last five drafts.
• If Smith and Waddle go on consecutive first-round picks, it'll be on the fourth time in draft history that teammates who played the same position went back-to-back. It would be the second time in Alabama history, behind defensive ends John Copeland and Eric Curry (No. 5 and 6) in 1993.
• Alabama has at at least tied for the most first-round selections in six of the last 10 drafts.
Did you notice?
GQ deep dive on DeVonta Smith: "I am the storm"
Christopher Walsh's notes column All Things CW appears weekly on BamaCentral.
Outside of the news that quarterback Aaron Rodgers may want out of Green Bay (or at least a contract extension), and a number of teams have reached out to the Packers regarding a possible trade including the San Francisco 49ers, the first surprise regarding Alabama's players in the 2021 NFL Draft was who will not be on-hand in Cleveland for the first round Thursday night. Subscribe for full article
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