Sure, the 2019 draft has come and gone, and we’re all tired of hearing about it. Many of you will now go on about your lives and do summer yard work and the sort for a few months before you think about football again. Others of us, though, actually have to write about it year-round for those of you diehard crazies that demand constant #content.
So, today we will take a very early look at Alabama’s potential draft targets on offense for 2020, and I’ll give my prediction on where they get selected next year. The most spiteful of you can bookmark this page and then throw it in my face when I’m totally wrong— at which time I will point out that I was not only trying to predict a proven unpredictable event, but I was doing it without a full season’s worth of relevant information. Which of course won’t matter, so you can flame away, and I will ignore it. The cycle continues.
In any case, here are my thoughts:
Tua Tagovailoa shattered all kinds of records in 2018, and is already being listed by gambling services as the odds on favorite to be the #1 overall pick. With Steve Sarkisian at the helm of the Tide offense, expect Tua to put up just as good of numbers as he did in 2018, albeit with some regression on explosiveness. He’ll be a top 5 pick for sure, barring a total collapse, and has a very real shot at #1 overall unless some other 6’6” QB comes out with amazing stats in 2019.
A former #1 recruit, Najee Harris has boded his time as a backup to Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs for the last two seasons, and looks to be a full time starter in 2019. He’s the clear-cut favorite ahead of Brian Robinson, so I expect him to get probably north of 60% of the Tide’s carries, unless freshman Trey Sanders comes in this fall and is so good as to not be kept off the field.
Harris will be exceptionally efficient and tough to tackle while contributing in the passing game, but he doesn’t have the game breaking stats and huge plays to be a first round selection. I think he goes about where T.J. Yeldon did: at the top of the second round.
Though Brian Robinson has impressive size and speed, I don’t expect he’ll get enough carries to warrant declaring for the draft early.
2018’s best receiver in college football, Jerry Jeudy, returns for what is sure to be his final season. Jeudy has prototypical size, speed, hands, route-running, and the jukes to fit into any position on any offense. As long as he continues his production from 2018 (and no 6’6” Megatron-like receivers emerge from college football with 4.3 speed), Jeudy will be a top-10 pick and the first WR off the board. I’ve even already seen some projecting him at #2 overall, behind Tua... though I see him more in the 5-10 range.
Henry Ruggs III and Devonta Smith
Jeudy’s two running mates will also be juniors and could very likely turn pro after this year. Ruggs is an incredibly physical player with ridiculous speed. Smith is a little smaller, but a reliable catcher and dangerous deep threat. With Sarkisian’s penchant for more lateral playcalling designed to highlight receiver’s YAC ability, I think Ruggs winds up with a better year, statistically, and declares for the draft early. He gets picked in the mid-to-late second round.
Like most others are predicting, I think Smith will be the one to stay an extra year. If not, he’d probably be a third round pick. He’s got the speed and hands, but a small frame and injury history might scare off the teams from taking him with a really high pick.
Alabama has some juniors on the roster, but I think only Miller Forristall has a real shot at having a breakout season and going pro. If he does, I could see him going as high as the 4th round due to his size and athleticism, but I think he stays for his senior year.
Kedrick James might have some potential, but being suspended for the first third of the season will have him fighting an uphill climb to work his way onto the field, despite his size and prowess in both blocking and breaking tackles.
Alex Leatherwood is a former 5-star recruit and a left tackle, so he’ll probably turn pro at the end of the season. If he has a good season, he’ll be a lock for a first round pick. If not, he probably won’t drop past the 3rd round based on measureables and recruiting rankings alone. I think he winds up somewhere in between, and is selected mid 2nd round.
Jedrick Wills, Jr. will be the starting right tackle for the second year in a row, and I think NFL teams are already starting to take notice. He’s explosive and ferocious, and, like I said when I was evaluating him as a recruit: carnage always follows in the wake of wherever Wills is blocking. I expect him to have a phenomenal season and be a top-20 pick next year.
Matt Womack will be a senior, and he may or may not ever be a starter again. He’s a massive run blocker with limited effectiveness blocking pass rushers on the edge. I expect him to wind up being a 6th round pick.
Deonte Brown is a 4th year junior in a similar spot to Womack. If he gets his starting job back after the suspension, I expect him to play well enough to turn pro and get selected in the 4th round. If not, he transfers at the end of the season (I’m predicting this route).
Chris Owens is also a 4th year junior and slated to be the starting center. I expect he plays well enough to warrant a 4th-5th round pick, but decides to come back for his senior year.