No NFL team has more former Alabama players than Washington, who have six, and no fan base should pay more attention Saban’s disciples than those here at Hogs Haven.
It should come as no surprise that Alabama enters the 2019 season with a loaded roster. What is notable is that this upcoming Tides’ squad could conceivably see as many as 14 or 15 players drafted during the 2020 NFL Draft, which would obliterate the all-time record.
Just over a year ago, Alabama broke it’s own record of 10, by having 12 players selected during the 2018 NFL Draft.
Additionally, it looks like Alabama has a real shot to break the University of Miami’s single-year NFL Draft record of six overall selections in the first round, a record the Hurricanes set with the 2004 draft class.
The Tide have had at least two first-round picks in every year but two since 2010. They also had four first-rounders in 2011, 2012, 2017 and in 2018.
This past spring, Alabama had 10 of its players drafted overall, including three in the first round.
Recently, ESPN did a feature on which colleges have produced the most talent at each position over the past ten years. Alabama was ranked #1 for running back, and #1 for both the offensive line and defensive lines. They also ranked #2 for linebackers, #3 for defensive backs, #9 for wide receivers.
Click here to read: Position U: Which schools produce the most talent at each position
Alabama returns a loaded squad on both sides of the ball. You can see the highest-graded returning players for the Tide and more teams below. ⬇️https://t.co/AvYsnCYloo pic.twitter.com/eQMwkZvrde— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 23, 2019
PFF’s highest-graded returning players on offense are:
- QB Tua Tagovailoa – 90.8 overall grade
- RB Najee Harris – 90.6
- WR Jaylen Waddle – 89.7
- WR Jerry Jeudy – 86.8
- WR DeVonta Smith – 75.0
- WR Henry Ruggs III – 74.3
- OG Deonte Brown – 70.3
- OT Jedrick Wills Jr. – 68.7
- C Chris Owens – 68.0
- OG Alex Leatherwood – 65.0
PFF’s highest-graded returning players on defense for Alabama:
- CB Shyheim Carter – 88.4
- S Xavier McKinney – 82.0
- DT Raekwon Davis – 81.9
- CB Patrick Surtain II – 79.0
- Edge Labryan Ray – 78.9
- CB Trevon Diggs – 75.5
- Edge Anfernee Jennings – 72.5
- LB Dylan Moses – 67.6
- DT Phidarian Mathis – 67.3
- S Jared Mayden – 65.0
1. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, 6’0/230, Jr. (1st Round)
In 2018, Tagovailoa enjoyed a record-setting season in which he threw for 3,966 passing yards (69%), 43 touchdowns, and just six interceptions while leading an Alabama offense that averaged 45.6 points per game. He finished as the runner-up to Kyler Murray for the Heisman Trophy.
Per PFF’s charting, Tagovailoa was a great downfield passer in 2018, completing 32-of-58 passes with 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions on throws 20-plus yards downfield.
Tua is thickly built, and has a strong arm. While he is not tall, clearly the NFL has finally relinquished it’s outdated notions about a quarterback’s height. Think of him as a taller Russell Wilson.
Described as a great kid and great leader, Tagovailoa throws with good touch, accuracy, and anticipation. He can extend plays with his legs and should test well as an above-average athlete. Tua is one of the favorites to be drafted #1 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.
2. Najee Harris, RB, 6’2/230, Jr. (2nd Round)
Even with the departure of tailbacks Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris to the NFL, Alabama’s running game should be in good hands. PFF states it was Najee Harris who was the best pure runner on the roster last year, averaging 4.38 yards after contact per carry and forcing 37 missed tackles on 117 carries.
Ranked as the No. 1 overall HS recruit in the country by Rivals, Scout and PrepStar, Harris has had to work as part of a rotation with Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs, and Bo Scarbrough.
After rushing for only 1,153 yards and seven touchdowns in his first two seasons at Alabama, Harris wasn’t shy about voicing his displeasure about his lack of carries during those two seasons.
He should be the lead back in 2019, which is expected to be his final season before declaring for the NFL draft.
Harris is a tantalizing blend of size, power, and contact balance. He plows through contact, drags would be tacklers with him, and has good straight line speed. However, he is still developing as a receiver and lacks the lateral agility of the other top backs in the 2020 class.
In what is expected to be an outstanding running back class, Harris currently projects as a second round selection, but I wouldn’t rule out him climbing into the late first.
3. Jerry Jeudy, WR, 6’1/192, Jr. (1st Round)
Last season, Jeudy won the Fred Biletnikoff Award (best college receiver) and was named a consensus All-American. In 2018, he led Alabama in receptions (68), receiving yards (1,315) and touchdowns (14). Jeudy’s 19.3 yards per catch was an Alabama single-season record (minimum 50 catches).
Simply put: Jerry Jeudy was PHENOMENAL last season and another massive year looks to be on the horizon. pic.twitter.com/hRcrODD9Ry— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 21, 2019
Not content with his many accolades, Jeudy apparently trained with Antonio Brown during the off-season, and is already an advanced route runner.
Physically, is more similar to former Alabama wideouts Calvin Ridley and Amari Cooper than Julio Jones, but Jeudy appears to be NEXT in the Tides’ growing list of NFL receivers.
4. Henry Ruggs, WR, 6’0/183, Jr. (1st Round)
However, Jeudy may not even be the best receiver prospect on his own team!
A 4-star HS recruit, ranked as the 11th WR prospect in the nation, Ruggs might be the fastest player in college football. Ruggs set the Alabama state HS record in the 100 meters (10.58) and reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.25 seconds during the Crimson Tide’s junior pro day.
In 2018, he totaled 46 receptions for 741 yards and 11 touchdowns. Despite competition for targets, Ruggs has a chance to approve upon those numbers. He enters the season with a second-round grade from one of the NFL’s scouting services, but many draft analysts are grading and/or mocking him in Round 1.
5. Jedrick Wills, RT, 6’5/315, Jr. (2nd Round)
Last season, Wills started all 15 games at right tackle as a true sophomore, giving up just 1 sack and 1 QB “hit”. Additionally, Wills led the team in knockdown blocks (50).
Keep in mind, as Alabama’s Right Tackle, it is Wills who actually protects the “blindside” for the left handed Tagovailoa. He has the size and tools to make a run at the first round.
6. Alex Leatherwood, LT, 6’6/310, Jr. (1st Round)
Leatherwood started all 15 games at right guard in 2018, but he’s a returning to his more natural position of tackle this season. He will move back to tackle, stepping into the LT spot vacated by Jonah Williams.
Yet another former 5-star recruit, Leatherwood was No. 8 overall on the ESPN 300 recruiting rankings, and has lived up to the billing.
It appears Alabama actually has two offensive tackle prospects that could be among the top-five in their position come April.
7. Matt Womack, RG, 6’7/325, RS-Sr. (4th Round)
Womack won the right tackle in 2017, however a broken foot during fall camp last year caused him to miss the Tide’s first four games of 2018. By the time he returned, the starting lineup was set and Womack was regulated to special teams, clean-up duty, and a few jumbo packages.
Despite having the prototypical frame of an offensive tackle, Womack struggles with SEC speed rushers, making the move inside the right choice for both Alabama and Womack’s draft stock.
Womack is expected to start at RG in 2019, and enters his final season as a fringe top-100 draft prospect.
8. Raekwon Davis, 3-4 DE, 6’7/306, Sr. (1st Round)
This time last year, it was Davis who was projected as a first-round defensive lineman in the 2019 NFL Draft but that was before Quinnen Williams became the best defensive player in college football in 2018. After all, Davis finished his sophomore year with 69 tackles (third on team), 10 tackles for loss (second on team) and a team-high 8.5 sacks. With Williams emergence in 2018, Davis production decreased to 55 tackles with 5.5 for a loss and 1.5 sacks in 2018.
Physically, Davis reminds me of DeForest Buckner (7th pick, 2016). Each have the frame of a classic 3-4 defensive end who can control the point of attack with length and power. Teams just can’t move him at all in the ground game.
He may not have the sack totals that you’d like to see as in a top-10 selection, but his 60 pressures led the nation along the defensive interior since 2017.
It should be noted that Davis accidentally shot himself while watching the Mayweather/McGregor fight back in 2017.
9. Dylan Moses, ILB, 6’3/236, Jr. (1st Round)
A 15 game starter at the Will ILB position lasts season, Moses led the Crimson Tide with 86 total tackles, including 10 for loss, to go along with 3½ sacks last season. Head coach Nick Saban described Moses as “the center of our defense” and the defensive “signal caller” as the team’s new Mike linebacker (after replacing Mack Wilson, who left early for the NFL).
Moses came to Alabama as a unanimous 5-Star linebacker prospect out of the IMG Academy football factory. A freakish athlete, at the NIKE SPARQ (high school combine), Moses finished with the second best score regardless of position, posting a 120.81 SPARQ score. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.57 laser, 4.13 short shuttle, 37.1 vertical and a 36’ power ball toss.
Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower, C.J. Mosley, Reuben Foster, and Rashaan Evans have each been drafted in the first round and Moses has a great chance to be next.
10. Trevon Diggs, CB, 6’2/207, Sr. (1st Round)
Diggs is the younger brother of Vikings’ wide receiver Stefon Diggs. In fact, Trevon came to Alabama as a wide receiver and split time between WR and CB, before moving full-time to defense in 2017. I had saw Diggs as a first round prospect early last season, but Injuries (broken foot) limited him to just six games in 2018. He was able to shutout DK Metcalf when they were matched up.
At 6’2 Diggs has the type of size and athleticism you can’t teach, and as a former receiver, he has better ball skills than the average corner. He adds additional value as an experienced and productive punt returner.
If Diggs has a healthy final season, he should contend to be one of the first corners selected in next April’s draft.
11. Xavier McKinney, Safety, 6’1/200, Jr. (2nd Round)
Last season, McKinney ranked third on the team with 73 tackles, including six tackles for loss, with three sacks (led all defensive backs). Additionally, he tied for second on the team with 10 pass breakups and recorded two interceptions.
Pro Football Focus graded him as the top safety in the Southeastern Conference for passer rating allowed last year.
Xavier McKinney allowed very little in coverage. pic.twitter.com/mrWeAXeiHQ— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 27, 2019
Good against the pass and the run, McKinney outplayed FS Deionte Thompson (Rd5, 2019) last season. In addition to his work at strong safety, he’s also worked at Bama’s dime back position.
A unanimous four-star prospect who was tabbed a top-10 safety nationally by all major recruiting outlets, McKinney’s HS recruiting profile states he runs in the 4.5s.
It will be interesting to see if scouts grade him higher than Ronnie Harrison (Rd3, 2018).
12. Shyheim Carter, Nickel, 6’1/191, Sr. (2nd Round)
Per PFF, Carter is Alabama’s highest graded returning player on defense, and allowed just 49% of the throws into his coverage to be caught in 2018. From 24 receptions allowed, he surrendered just 222 yards and one touchdown, while pulling in two interceptions and breaking up another nine passes.
In somewhat of a surprise move, Carter decided to return for his senior season, even though he likely won’t be starting in Alabama’s base 3-4. However, Carter has carved out a role for himself at the critical Star position (think Minkah Fitzpatrick), and his proven ability to cover slot receivers will serve him well in the NFL.
13. LaBryan Ray, 3-4 DE, 6’5/292, Jr. (2nd Round)
If anybody will come from non-starter to draft prospect in one season, it will likely be Ray. Rotating behind and Quinnen Williams, Raekwon Davis, and Isaiah Buggs, Ray still managed 39 tackles, including 6 TFL, with 2.5 sacks.
He was a consensus 5-star prospect and most scouting agencies rated him as either the first or second-best DE in the 2017 class. College football expert Phil Steele ranked Ray as his 10th best DE in his list for best draft eligible defenders for the 2019 season.
14. Anfernee Jennings, OLB, 6’3/259, RS-Sr. (3rd Round)
Jennings became a starter as a red-shirt sophomore, but suffered a season-ending knee injury near the end of Alabama’s College Football Playoff Semifinal in 2017. He rehabbed and made it back for the season opener last year, but was noticeably slower than he was in the past. Despite that, he still finished with 51 tackles, including 14 TFL, with 6.5 sacks, and six quarterback hurries. He also added added a team-high 11 pass breakups.
As a fifth-year senior, Jennings profiles more along the lines of Ryan Anderson, better against the run than the pass, and a likely day-two selection if his medicals check-out.
15. Terrell Lewis, OLB, 6’5/252, RS-Jr. (3rd Round)
A Washington DC native, Lewis was hampered with essentially two season-ending injuries in back-to-back seasons. He was sidelined for the 2018 campaign after tearing his right ACL last summer and missed 10 games in 2017 due to a torn elbow ligament.
Despite the injuries, in his first “much too early” 2020 mock draft, ESPN’s Todd McShay projected the Buffalo Bills to draft Lewis with the tenth pick overall.
If 100% healthy, the former 5-star recruit will likely be Alabama’s best pass-rusher, and has the frame/athletic traits desired for a NFL edge rusher.
The medical evaluations at the NFL Combine will be huge for this guy.
16. Jared Mayden, Safety, 6’0/205, Sr. (6th Round)
A consensus four-star recruit, Mayden totaled 18 tackles, including one sack, and two pass breakups in 13 games of action as a junior. While he may not have the high upside of many of his Alabama teammates, he is expected to become a full time starter in 2019.
TDALABAMAMAG.com is a great source for all things Alabama football.