The NFL Network finished up its countdown of the Top 100 players in the league for 2018, and as one can imagine, the list featured a heavy contingent of players who spent their college days at the Capstone. Since Nick Saban arrived on campus in 2007, Alabama has been a pipeline for talented players with pro dreams, and the most recent list displayed that those former Tide players in the NFL ranks are performing well, at least in the eyes of their fellow players.
While the methodology is less than scientific, the NFL Network asked current players to name the best players against whom they compete on Sundays in the fall. This year, five former Tide players (all but one of them former first-round picks) made their way onto that list, led by former Bama phenom and current Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who was the highest ranking Tider on the list at number four. Joining him were Saints running back and Heisman winner Mark Ingram (43), Giants safety Landon Collins (92), Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley (98), and Packers safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (100).
#4 Julio Jones
Julio has been as spectacular as a pro as he was at the center of the Alabama offense. After a dramatic showing in the NFL Combine the year he was drafted, Jones has lived up to every expectation as a dynamic Pro Bowl-caliber receiver. In fact, the former first-round draft pick has likely exceeded those expectations by honing his craft and remaining an athletic freak of nature with off-the-chart measurables and instincts that simply can’t be taught. He started 16 games for the Falcons last season as quarterback Matt Ryan’s primary target, and he had a stellar year with 88 receptions for 1,444 yards and three touchdowns.
Last year marked Jones’ fourth-straight season with at least 1,400 yards receiving, tying him with former Indianapolis Colt (and Peyton Manning target) Marvin Harrison for the longest streak in NFL history. He will have a chance to own that record wholly with another great season in 2018. Jones also entered the elite company of Jerry Rice and Randy Moss in 2017, becoming one of only three players in NFL history with multiple seasons of more than 1,400 yards on fewer than 90 catches.
While Jones did drop one spot from his ranking as the third-best player in the pro ranks in 2017, there is no drop-off in Julio’s game expected in 2018. He may have been eclipsed on the list by Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, but it’s hard to imagine many GMs shunning Jones to take Brown if given the chance. And things look promising for Jones in 2018. The addition of another former Alabama first-rounder at receiver, Calvin Ridley, should open things up for the oft-smothered Jones, providing him with more room to put his enormous physical talents to good use.
#43 Mark Ingram
Alabama fans always knew what Mark Ingram was capable of doing in the right offense (remember the South Carolina game during his Heisman campaign?). But in 2017, Ingram proved to the world his worth in a Saints offense that leaned more on the run while maintaining its explosiveness. Ingram earned his second Pro Bowl selection as a result while gaining 1.124 yards on 230 carries with 12 touchdowns. The former Bama back is a physical banger with rare athleticism and speed, and he gives his coaching staff a versatile tool that takes some pressure off of quarterback Drew Brees.
Sean Payton also found another way to use the running back’s skill set as part of a multiple offense by using Ingram as a receiver. Fans of Ingram in his college days remember fondly his ability as a receiver out of the backfield, and he relived that glory in 2017 by reeling in 58 receptions for 416 yards.
This year’s inclusion marks Ingram’s first appearance in the NFL Top 100 Players list, but if he continues to build on a stellar performance in the coming season, it won’t be his last.
#92 Landon Collins
Former second-round draft pick Landon Collins brings to the proverbial table everything a coach could want in a pro safety: he’s big, he’s fast, he’s instinctive, and as a product of Saban’s secondary system, he’s extremely well-schooled. In 2016, Collins opened the eyes of many across the NFL landscape with an exceptional year in which he led or almost led his team in many of the pertinent defensive quantifiers. That said, while 2017 was still a strong season for Collins, he dropped precipitously from the top 30 to 92nd in the 2018 Top 100 list.
In 2017, Collins earned his second Pro Bowl selection and finished the season with a gaudy stat line: 78 solo tackles, 26 assists, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions, and six passes defensed. Since 2015, Collins leads all safeties in tackles (332) and is second in passes defensed (28). He has led the Giants in tackles for three years and shows no signs of letting up in the upcoming season.
#98 C.J. Mosley
One of the greatest linebackers to ever suit up at Alabama (a school known for its penchant for turning out historically-good linebackers), C.J. Mosley was a first-round pick of the Ravens, and in his fifth season, he has only become more effective in the heart of the always-salty Baltimore defense. Coming off his third Pro Bowl selection in 2017, Mosley worked his way into the top 100 with a combination of speed, athleticism, and controlled violence, thus carrying the torch of a defensive unit with names like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs in its illustrious past.
Mosley, who was also named second-team All-Pro by the AP, recorded 96 tackles, 36 assists, a sack, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and two interceptions (one of which was returned 94 yards for a touchdown). Given his lengthy and effective career at Alabama, there’s no reason to think the heady linebacker won’t have another Pro Bowl caliber season with the Ravens in 2018.
#100 Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix
Opposing offenses do anything but laugh when they see Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix across the line of scrimmage, as he has become one of the most dynamic safeties in the pro game today. A stalwart of some of Saban’s best defenses at Alabama, the former first-round selection of the Green Bay Packers has lived up to the expectations of many who knew he could transfer his explosive skill set from the college to pro arena.
Clinton-Dix recorded 65 tackles, 14 assists, and three interceptions in 2017. He is one of only two safeties in the NFL with 70+ tackles, three+ interceptions, and fewer than five missed tackles. He is one of only seven safeties in the game with multiple interceptions in three straight seasons. While Clinton-Dix did see his ranking fall from 77th in 2017, with the Packers once again expected to contend, Ha-Ha may just have the last laugh this season.
Alabama’s five former players in the Top 100 was only bested by Ohio State, which placed eight players on the list. Alabama was tied at five with three other schools (Georgia, LSU, and Cal). To read the entire list, visit http://www.nfl.com/network/top100.