If you are looking for a reason why Alabama won its sixth national championship in 12 years while the Pac-12 failed to get a team into the College Football Playoffs for the fourth straight year, you need only look at Thursday’s first round of the 2021 NFL draft.
Alabama had six players taken in the first round Thursday, while the entire Pac-12 had three players selected on the first day of the draft, and one of the three was the last selection in the round. The first two Pac-12 first-round picks were offensive linemen, not the position that launches college teams into national prominence.
This is the third straight year the Pac-12 had three first-round picks.
Here are the three Pac-12 players taken among the 32 picks of the first round Thursday, although there is a fourth player that deserves an asterisk on the Pac-12 scorecard:
No. 7 draft pick overall – Penei Sewell, Oregon, offensive tackle, selected by the Detroit Lions.
The 6-foot-6, 330-pound Sewell was the first offensive lineman taken even though he opted out of the 2020 season. He will be asked to protect former Cal quarterback Jared Goff, who was acquired by the Lions in an offseason trade with the Rams that sent Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles. This is the second straight year Oregon has had a player taken among the top seven draft picks. Justin Herbert was the No. 6 selection last year. Sewell, the Outland Trophy winner in 2019 as a sophomore, is expected get a four-year contract, with a fifth-year club option, that will be worth $24.1 million, including a $14.9 million signing bonus.
No. 14 draft pick overall – Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC, offensive tackle, selected by the New York Jets
Vera-Tucker becomes the sixth USC player in the past seven years to be taken in the first round. Although he was a tackle this past season for the Trojans, Vera-Tucker is expected to be a guard for the Jets. The Jets made a trade with the Vikings to move up to the No. 14 slot, giving Minnesota the No. 23, No. 66 and No. 86 selections. Vera-Tucker presumably will protect the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft, BYU quarterback Zach Wilson. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said he thinks Vera-Tucker could be a Pro Bowler.
No. 32 draft pick overall – Joe Tryon, Washington, outside linebacker, selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tryon opted out of the 2020 season, which would have been his junior year. As a sophomore in 2019, Tryon had 12.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
*No. 18 draft pick overall – Jaelen Phillips, Miami, defensive end, selected by the Miami Dolphins.
This is the asterisk draft pick, because Phillips played his first two college seasons at UCLA. He retired from football following the 2018 season after suffering several concussions and other injuries. But after sitting out 2019, he made another attempt at college football at Miami and became a star for the Hurricanes this past season.
Cover photo of USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker by Kirby Lee, USA TODAY sports
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