After dominating the 2020 college football season, Alabama is poised to do the same with the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Crimson Tide had four underclassmen announced their intent to leave a year early, with all four considered potential first-round selections.
Patrick Surtain II (CB): Could be draft's top defensive back.
Mac Jones (QB): No one's overall draft stock rose higher this season.
Jaylen Waddle (WR): Returned from ankle fracture to play some against Ohio State.
Christian Barmore (DL): Defensive MVP of the National Championship Game.
Among the notable players who did not participate in the press conference were cornerback Josh Jobe and linebacker Christopher Allen, who are both expected to return. There was also no sign of defensive lineman LaBryan Ray after missing most of the season with an elbow injury.
In general, Nick Saban almost always gives his blessing if a player is projected to go in the first round. He's been known to make an exception at running back, as the position has the shortest career span.
Other potential first-round selection include the players who came back to play their senior year in 2020, tackle Alex Leatherwood, running back Najee Harris, wide receiver DeVonta Smith, and maybe even center Landon Dickerson, although his draft stock obviously took a hit with his knee injury.
The record for most first-round picks in an NFL draft is six (Miami, 2004).
The Big Picture
One of the few bad things about playing in the National Championship Game is that after it's over many of the players have to make almost immediate decisions about their future.
The deadline for underclassmen/third-year players to declare themselves eligible for the next NFL draft is just one week later.
Alabama defeated Ohio State in Miami on Monday night. The team flew home Tuesday. Decision day is next Monday, Jan. 18.
That doesn't leave much time. It's also tough for the players considering transferring as the spring semester at Alabama began Wednesday.
Greatly complicating things this year is the NCAA's ruling to not have the 2020 season count against anyone's eligibility.
Consequently, if a senior wanted to stay for an extra year to try an improve his chances of playing in the NFL, he could.
A pair of players to watch in that regard are center Chris Owens (who isn't just a senior, but a redshirt senior) and running back Brian Robinson Jr. They could be starters in the spring, although Alabama has other options at those positions as well.
“I've definitely thought about it,” senior tight end Miller Forristall said on Dec. 29, but added that his focus was elsewhere at the time. "If I stay another year I'll push for even more guys to come back.”
However, linebacker Dylan Moses, who wasn't 100 percent while coming off knee surgery, ended any speculation about his return by announcing he was departing . Guard Deonte Brown and tight end Miller Forristall have signed with an agent.
Participated in Senior Day
Deonte Brown (OL)
Ben Davis (LB)
Landon Dickerson (OL)
Thomas Fletcher (SN)
Miller Forristall (TE)
Najee Harris (RB)
Alex Leatherwood (OL)
Joshua McMillon (LB)
Dylan Moses (LB)
Chris Owens (OL)
Brian Robinson Jr., (RB)
Charlie Scott (P)
DeVonta Smith (WR)
Carl Tucker (TE)
The only player out of that group who is expected back is Robinson.
Brown, Dickerson and Fletcher agreed to play in the Senior Bowl, although Dickerson is now out due to his injury. They have been joined by Leatherwood, Smith, Jones and Harris.
Harris, Leatherwood and Smith all could have made the jump to the NFL last year, but opted to return.
"He came back this to try and win a national championship and improve his draft stuff, and I feel like he’s done exactly that," quarterback Mac Jones said about Smith, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner.
Defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis announced on social media his plans to return to the Capstone for his redshirt senior season.
"The NFL has always been my dream since I started playing football and always will be, but after talking to my parents we think the best decision for me is to take an advantage of my red shirt senior year,” Mathis posted in a tweet. “So with that being said I will be returning to the University of Alabama to work my butt off on and off the field. I have goals for myself and that is to add value to myself, and also become one of the best defensive lineman in the 2022 draft!"
On the year, he had 16 total tackles, fie tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hurries, three pass-breakups, and one forced fumble.
Offensive lineman Chris Owens also announced that he will also be returning for his final season with the Crimson Tide.
Owens was clutch for Alabama in the 2020 College Football Playoff, starting at center in both games after starting center Landon Dickerson went down with an ACL injury in the final minutes of the SEC Championship Game. Owens also has experience at tackle and will bring a lot of veteran experience to a young offensive line in 2021.
Joseph Bulovas, kicker
This story will be frequently updated as necessary