Alabama set a school record with 12 players drafted into the pros this year— four of which were first rounders. No matter how you slice it, that’s pretty darn impressive. I remember back in the day when, for the most part, I picked who I wanted to win any given NFL game by which team had an Alabama player on it’s roster. Now, pretty much every team in the league has at least one.
I won’t spend too much time spinning yarns, but here’s a quick recap of each Tide player picked:
S/CB - Minkah Fitzpatrick- 1st round, #11 overall to the Miami Dolphins
Fitzpatrick was in pre-draft talk as possibly the top overall defensive player in the draft. Well, it didn’t quite turn out that way as a slew of quarterbacks and running backs took up most of the first 10 picks, and a more pure cover corner got picked ahead of him. In any case, the Miami Dolphins are a team with a very solid front 7 and a nasty pass rush, but are looking for a difference maker in the secondary. Minkah will fit right in, and will probably be a starter from day 1.
DT - Da’Ron Payne- 1st round, #13 overall to the Washington Redskins
Behind only freak-of-nature Vita Vea, Payne was the second highest drafted interior defensive lineman in the draft. I’ve been saying for three years that he’s been the most underrated 5-star elite Alabama defender ever, so it’s good to see him getting some love in the pros.
He’ll be joining his old teammates Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson in making of the front of a Washington defense that’s suddenly looking like it just might give Zeke Elliot a tough time.
LB - Rashaan Evans- 1st round, #22 overall to the Tennessee Titans
Evans has shown tremendous potential, explosive athleticism, and versatility over his four years at Alabama, but a variety of injuries and veterans ahead of him have kept some of the pure production stats from matching just how good he is when he plays. Evans is a difference maker at linebacker that can chase down ball-carriers from sideline to sideline while also being a terror off the edge as a pass rusher.
The Titans run a similar 3-4 defense as Alabama and already have Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan on the outside, but Evans will most likely be a starter at middle linebacker by the time the season rolls around.
WR- Calvin Ridley- 1st round, #26 overall to the Atlanta Falcons
This is a fun pick. Ridley will join former Tide receiver Julio Jones on one of the most prolific passing offenses in the NFL. The #2 man opposite Julio has always racked up some impressive stats in Atlanta over the years as he drew the attention of the opposing defenses. The aging Mohammed Sanu is still occupying that spot as of right now, but Ridley will likely be third in line, replacing Taylor Gabriel. Ridley may end up technically the starter as the slot receiver, but Atlanta tends to use all their receivers in all the spots.
S- Ronnie Harrison- Round 3, pick #29 to the Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags were a historically great defense last year and built a reputation of ferocity and aggressiveness in not only the front 7, but a hard-hitting secondary as well. Harrison will fit right in with his “hair-on-fire” mentality and penchant for decapitating any ball-carrier he can find.
A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey were some of the best in the league in pass coverage at corner last year, but the current safety combo of Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson aren’t quite on that level. They’re both solid players, but Harrison will come in and make a push for one of their jobs.
DE/DT- Da’Shawn Hand- Round 4, pick #14 to the Detroit Lions
Hand never quite lived up to his lofty recruiting status, but he never busted either. He played behind supremely talented defensive linemen his whole career until his senior year, then took a cheap shot from an Ole Miss player that limited his mobility for a solid chunk of the season.
He’s an extremely athletic, strong specimen with a great mind and positional awareness that just never quite turned the corner from a solid player to a legit difference maker. The Lions will be hoping that he can support A’Shawn Robinson, Jeremiah Ledbetter, and Ziggy Ansah while also getting his playmaking ability to catch up with his athleticism and become an absolute steal in the 4th round.
CB-Anthony Averett- Round 4, pick #18 to the Baltimore Ravens
Ozzie Newsome just couldn’t go out without taking one more Alabama player in his last draft with the Ravens. Last year, they took Marlon Humphrey in the first round. Now, they’re taking Humphrey’s starting mate from 2016 and bringing him on the team as well.
Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith both are likely to start ahead of Averett, but both veterans have hit that 30-year-old mark that often times spells the decline of their game coming very soon.
P- JK Scott- Round 5, pick #35 to the Green Bay Packers
Teams don’t draft a punter or kicker unless they expect him to be a starter. JK will be booming his kicks in the frozen north next fall.
LB-Shaun Dion Hamilton- Round 6, pick #23 to the Washington Redskins
The Skins look like they’re just trying to recreate the Alabama defense at this point. Veterans Mason Foster and Zach Brown probably won’t be supplanted immediately, but you can bet Neon Dion is in the plans for a long-term succession.
Hamilton was an instinctual player with all the qualities of a defensive leader and a hard-hitter to boot at Alabama, but had 2 of his 3 starting seasons cut short due to major injury. He’ll likely still be rehabbing well into the summer. That in itself probably dropped him from a 2nd round pick to a 6th. If he heals up to the level he used to play at, then the Skins got a steal.
C- Bradley Bozeman- Round 6, pick #41 to the Baltimore Ravens
Bozeman was a solid starting center for years at Bama, and, while he never got much hype, was always a steady contributor. He’ll join the long line of former Tide players in Baltimore, and will likely be competing for a spot as a utility back-up lineman that can fill in at center or guard.
RB- Bo Scarbrough- Round 7, pick #18 to the Dallas Cowboys
Despite a myriad of injuries every single year since his sophomore year of high school and a lack of consistent production the entire time, Bo has enamored team after team with his size/speed/explosiveness combination that puts him in the upper echelon of athletes in the world.
He’ll be competing to lock down a back up role to Ezekiel Elliot, and will likely be looking to prove his ability as a pass-catcher and blocker to pick up the duties of a 3rd-down back.
DT- Joshua Frazier- Round 7, pick #28 to the Pittsburgh Steelers
Frazier was never a true starter at Alabama, but he was a solid relief role player at nose tackle for years. He always displayed an uncanny quickness off the snap to go along with his girth and strength.
Javon Hargrave has the nose tackle position locked down for the Steelers’ starter, but Frazier will be fighting to make the roster as the backup there, just as he did at Alabama.
In the undrafted free agency, Levi Wallace and Robert Foster have signed on the with Buffalo Bills while Tony Brown signed with the L.A. Chargers. All will be up to their necks in the challenge to make their team’s roster this preseason. Cam Sims had to wait a little longer than those three, but he signed with the Cincinnati Bengals at the end of the day. OL J.C. Hassenauer joins the Falcons.
So, moral of the story: if you want to play in the NFL, just make sure you finish your college career at Alabama. Even the backups get drafted.