With numerous early departures, Alabama poised for another huge NFL draft
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — With the deadline at hand for underclassmen to apply for eligibility for the 2019 NFL Draft, the University of Alabama football program looks like it will reach double digits in selections for the third straight year.
While it’s created havoc on the Crimson Tide depth chart, it’s stunningly impressive nonetheless.
Although it doesn't look like too many players should be making plans to attend the draft in Nashville (April 25-27) as solid first-round selections, there's the potential — if everything falls the right way — to have 10 go in the first three rounds.
The final list of declared players won’t be sent to NFL teams until Friday, and there’s still the Senior Bowl (next week), the NFL combine (Feb. 26-March 4) and individual workouts to go, but here’s an early look at when each Crimson Tide prospect might hear his name called:
Isaiah Buggs, defensive end: Is headed to the Senior Bowl, but is still coming off the hyperextended knee that limited him in the College Football Playoff. It sure doesn’t hurt, though, that a player known for being a run-stopper led the Crimson Tide in sacks this season with 9.5. Second round.
Lester Cotton Sr., guard: Ended up starting 28 games and went from right guard to left guard for his senior season. At 6 foot 4, 325 pounds, he also spent some time at tackle with the Crimson Tide, and every NFL team is looking for versatile linemen. Seventh round.
Damien Harris, running back: He’s the top all-around back in the draft and is destined to be an early-round pick. With Bryce Love recovering from a torn ACL, he’s the most proven player in the draft at running back. Second round.
Hale Hentges, tight end: There’s usually just 10-15 tight ends selected in the draft, and this year it’s a talented group. Teams always say that they’re looking for quality players off the field as well, and playing special teams will help his chances, but the guess here is that he signs as a free agent.
Josh Jacobs, running back: Don’t be surprised if he’s competing with former Damien Harris to be the first running back selected in the draft. He was a diverse threat for the Crimson Tide both on offense and special teams, and has an aggressive style that some NFL officials will love. Second round.
Christian Miller, outside linebacker: Is headed to the Senior Bowl, but wasn’t able to play in the National Championship Game due to a hamstring injury. Durability is a bit of a red flag after he missed most of the 2017 season, yet he had a solid senior season and NFL teams are always looking for pass-rushers. Third round.
Ross Pierschbacher, offensive lineman: Is one of just three Crimson Tide players slated to play in the Senior Bowl, and the other two are coming off injuries. He could play both guard and center at the next level, which will help him land and stay with an NFL team. However, he doesn’t have ideal size for the NFL. Fourth round.
Irv Smith Jr., tight end: It’s a good news, bad news situation for Smith. The bad news is that there’s an abundance of quality tight ends this year. The good news is that Smith might be good enough to compete with Iowa’s Noah Fant to be the top player at his position (Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam is another possibility), and is considered a better blocker. Second round.
Saivion Smith, cornerback: A lot of teams are going to have to speed up their evaluation process on him because he wasn’t expected to come out this season. The junior college transfer played in all 15 games during his lone season at Alabama, starting 12. His 40-yard dash time for scouts will tell a lot about when he gets selected. A good time and he could be an early third-day pick, but with a poor one could have a long wait. Sixth round.
Deionte Thompson, safety: His skillset and range scream first-rounder, but Thompson’s head was spinning a little during the second half of the season and he didn’t have a good postseason for the Crimson Tide. NFL teams will be wondering if the consensus All-American is prone to be fooled or doesn’t have good instincts. Second round.
Jonah Williams, tackle: Alabama listed him at 6-5, 301 pounds, which is actually on the small side for an NFL left tackle. A lot of teams may view him as a right tackle, but he’s a smart player who will be reliable and could have a long career. First round.
Quinnen Williams, defensive lineman: He’s like a combination of Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne, and all a scout will have to do to win over his coaches is put on the game film from LSU. Or Tennessee. Or … well, you get the idea. High first round.
Mack Wilson, interior linebacker: His numbers from this past season weren’t eye-popping, as he was tied for fourth in team tackles with 71, but what NFL teams will love is what he can do in pass coverage. Wilson has a knack for knowing where the call is going, with six interceptions. Second round.
Other players to keep an eye on: Johnny Dwight, defensive lineman; Jamey Mosley, linebacker; Derek Kief, wide receiver
This story will be updated if necessary