How Each Alabama Draft Pick Fits With His New NFL Team

Breaking down analysis by Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit to explain why NFL teams added Crimson Tide players in the 2020 NFL Draft
Author:
Publish date:

So many times have you been watching the NFL draft and think, "Why on earth did they take that guy?"

Probably more times than you can count, especially if you're a die-hard football fan. 

But there is a method to the madness, a plan that's usually in play even though it may not be obvious from afar 

Andy Benoit evaluated each pick of the 2020 NFL Draft for Sports Illustrated and handed out grades for all 32 NFL teams over the weekend. 

The reason why we've broken it down into what he said about each Alabama player is that the analysis is from the NFL perspective. What did each team see in the Crimson Tide player that made him attractive to draft? 

Moreover, it specifies how each player is expected to fit in with his new team. 

The draft is hardly a process of just adding the best available player:

 Tua Tagovailoa, first round (5), QB, Miami Dolphins 

"Tagovailoa represents a perfect outcome for Stephen Ross’s team. 2019’s “Tanking for Tua” slogan proved false, but only because the Dolphins played so much better in the second half of the season and fell in the draft order. Tagovailoa’s late-season hip injury may have been a blessing in disguise, as none of the other QB-needy teams traded up to get him.

"That hip is reportedly healed, and there is time for it to get even stronger as the Dolphins don’t need Tagovailoa to play right away. But it’d be a surprise if he’s not the starter come mid-November. The Dolphins are still in the early phases of a massive rebuild, and stopgap veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick can be counted on for at least a half-dozen of the type of head-scratching interceptions that get a quarterback benched."

Jedrick Wills Jr., first round (10), T, Cleveland Browns 

"The Browns must have been thrilled: The Giants’ surprising selection of Georgia’s Andrew Thomas and the top three quarterbacks getting snatched up in the first six picks left the man they likely had at the top of their board still available at pick No. 10. Jedrick Wills played right tackle at Alabama but has the light feet and athleticism to transition smoothly to the left side. That would allow expensive free agent pickup Jack Conklin to stay at right tackle, where it took him four years to locate a comfortable set of mechanics as a Titan. In today’s NFL, the delineation between left and right tackles means very little (if anything), so the Browns can base these decisions strictly on what’s best for their two players.

"If Wills pans out quickly, this Browns offense could suddenly meet the expectations that were placed on it a year ago. Quarterback Baker Mayfield will have the protection he lacked last season and he’ll be playing in a smart, QB-friendly scheme under new head coach Kevin Stefanski, throwing to a more familiar Odell Beckham Jr. and working with a balanced run game headed by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. That’s a 25-point-per-game type lineup."

Henry Ruggs III, first round (12), WR, Las Vegas Raiders

"We learned last year that the Raiders badly want a stud wide receiver, and now they have one who can actually be counted on. Henry Ruggs III has effortless, jaw-dropping speed, and he can produce at all three levels. That’s notable because few offensive architects are as creative and diverse in three-level passing concepts as Jon Gruden. Ruggs also presents terrifying big-play potential on jet sweeps and quick screens.

"Last season, the Raiders had far fewer 20-plus-yard air throws than most teams. That should change now—though to make the Ruggs pick fully worth it, you can bet Gruden will ride Derek Carr even harder about playing aggressively."

Jerry Jeudy, first round (15), WR, Denver Broncos

"The Broncos have a budding star in “X” receiver Courtland Sutton, who can consistently win one-on-one downfield on the perimeter and hurt teams with in-breaking routes. But for their optimism in 2019 second-round quarterback Drew Lock to be fully realized, they needed a “Z” receiver—that guy who can go in motion, run every route at every level and contribute via yards-after-catch. Some feel that Jerry Jeudy is the best route runner coming out of college in this era. The Broncos addressed a glaring need with a stylistically perfect prospect, and they didn’t have to trade up to do it.

"After rounding out the outside spots in their receiving corps, the Broncos added a prototypical super-shifty weapon inside, in slot receiver KJ Hamler. It won’t be hard to predict where Denver’s wide receivers will line up on any given play, but with three players so perfectly suited for their roles, it will be hard to stop them."

Xavier McKinney, second rond (36), S, New York Giants

"Defensively, consider Xavier McKinney a catch-all solution for a Giants secondary that is quietly better inside than people realize. Or, potentially better, since they’re counting on last year’s fourth-round free safety, Julian Love, to build on his intriguing rookie season, and on former Browns first-round strong safety Jabrill Peppers to perform at a star level. In today’s NFL you need three quality safeties, and it really helps if one of those safeties can play the slot, as that provides answers inside against both three-receiver and two-tight end personnel. McKinney offers diverse value."

Trevon Diggs, second round (51), CB, Dallas Cowboys 

"Right corner Byron Jones departed in free agency this year, and next year the Cowboys face losing left corner Chidobe Awuzie and/or slot/utility corner Jourdan Lewis, as both are finishing up their rookie deals. Don’t be surprised if Awuzie is retained and Lewis walks. But even if both return, an immediate and direct replacement for Jones is prudent, since it would allow Lewis to keep providing valuable, versatile depth on the back end. Trevon Diggs is a long-armed, physical corner and is stepping into a Mike Nolan-led scheme that, thanks to its expected emphasis on blitzing, will feature press-man on the outside. Dallas hit another home run in this draft, filling an important, specific need with a top-level talent at a later-than-expected draft slot. And in case they wind up losing both Awuzie and Lewis, they got a jump on replenishing their depth by also drafting Reggie Robinson in Round 4."

Jalen Hurts, second round (53), QB, Philadelphia Eagles

"Knowing that a lack of receiving speed was their downfall in 2019, the Eagles compensated very thoroughly by also drafting burner John Hightower in Round 5. With the two rookies aboard and veteran DeSean Jackson (hopefully) back healthy this year, Philly’s offense has simply gone from slow to fast. 

"It might also go from static to multiple if second-round quarterback Jalen Hurts was brought in to be a dynamic gadget weapon. And almost certainly, that’s the case. Carson Wentz has obviously been injury prone, but it’s highly unlikely that Philadelphia would spend a second-round pick on an insurance policy here, and it is inconceivable that they’d even contemplate replacing a 27-year-old QB who has superstar traits. But even if Hurts’s gadgetry role is clearly defined, don’t make any Taysom Hill comparisons; Hurts is a dual-threat QB but not a blocker or receiver on top of that."

Raekwon Davis, second round (56) DT, Miami Dolphins

"Raekwon Davis is a somewhat less-heralded prospect, but he has potentially explosive trench-fighting traits and is built for the gritty, two-gap plugging tactics that Miami’s scheme often calls for on first and second down. Before the draft, the only real scheme fits in this sense on Miami’s roster were last year’s first-rounder Christian Wilkins and space-clogging nose tackle Davon Godchaux."

Terrell Lewis, third round (84), LB, Los Angeles Rams

"Defensively, there were plenty of spots to fill, starting up front, where they need a pass rushing boost. Terrell Lewis has a long body and the desired traits to be a quality NFL pass rusher. Injuries were a concern at Alabama, which is why the Rams are finding the talented specimen so late in the draft."

Anfernee Jennings, third round (87), LB, New England Patriots

"The Patriots have a sound front seven given the context of their scheme, but it could stand to have more athleticism on the edges. They made a similar pick to Josh Uche last year, taking his former teammate, Chase Winovich, in Round 3. Don’t be surprised if those two are both on the field in obvious passing situations down the stretch this season.

"Just in [case] Uche doesn’t deliver, there’s Jennings. You can afford to draft for depth when you have over a dozen picks. This particular pick is an excellent scheme fit; Anfernee Jennings’s sound technique has earned him comparisons to Kyle Van Noy."