RBR regular DarthSaban recently requested a predictions post for who will go and who will stay, and as we aim to please around here, we have obliged. There are no rules here, some made predictions for certain guys and not others, commentary was optional, and some of the predictions were made before yesterday’s announcements.
So, let’s get to it. Here are my predictions, and they are based on nothing more than my own attempt at reading the tea leaves. Yes, this is going to be overly Gumpy.
Staying: Tua Tagovailoa, Henry Ruggs III, Devonta Smith, Xavier McKinney, Dylan Moses
Leaving: Najee Harris, Jerry Jeudy, Jedrick Wills Jr.
As I mentioned above, this isn’t necessarily what I believe should happen. Gun to my head, I think every one of them should go get paid. There just seems to be a special chemistry with this offensive group, though. That 2017 class was ballyhooed with good reason, and while they were major contributors to the comeback win over Georgia as freshmen, they haven’t won a national title as a starting group and the across-the-board snub for every national award nomination has to be motivating. I’ve just heard too many rumblings that Tua is going to stay and that the other guys are sort of tied to his decision. I could be way off, but this is my gut feeling at the moment, and if it comes to fruition they are going to steamroll the league.
The other, more qualified staff picks:
I’m glad we aren’t posting this on Gump Day. Y’all are gonna HATE me.
- Tua - GO; I think Tua was feeling nostalgic, but that feeling often fades over time.
- Najee - GO; His entourage/mama is pressuring him to go get money. Plus, he balled out in the Citrus Bowl.
- Jerry - GO; After a monster Citrus Bowl, his stock probably won’t get much higher.
- Henry - GO; The Citrus Bowl concussion probably tips the scales for him.
- Devonta - Stay; He is already behind his two WR teammates. And then there is CeeDee Lamb, Laviska Shenault, Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins, et al.
- Alex - Stay; He needs another year and I think he knows it. [ED. NOTE: CB Made this pick before Leatherwood announced.]
- Jedrick - GO; UGA’s Andrew Thomas will be the first OL picked. Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs could be the second. Wills will probably be third. That can still get him in the first round, but late.
- Xavier - GO; I get the vibe he is ready to move on. Grant Delpit had an over-hyped mediocre year. X could be the first safety off the board.
Gumping pretty good on this one
- Tua Tagovailoa- By all accounts, Tua himself is still agonizing over the decision. And honestly, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I can’t decide which option i even think would be best for him. So I’m going to say that he’s thinking his hip is doing well and ahead of schedule and that he believes it will not kill his draft stock too much. Tua goes pro.
- Najee Harris- Some rumblings have mentioned that Najee is considering coming back. But with the way the NFL doesn’t value running backs, if he’s projected 3rd round or higher, he should probably go. On top of that, he had a monster second half of the season, so his draft stock will never be higher. In fact, the only part of his game that will be a knock on him is breakaway speed (longest run of 31 yards this year), and I don’t think that’s something he’ll be able to improve with another year of college. Najee goes pro.
- Henry Ruggs III- Ruggs got a lot of 1st round draft love early this season due to his speed, but I honestly don’t think he’s been anywhere near dominant enough with his hands or route-running to get that. Especially not with Al Davis making draft picks anymore. Of all the guys on the team, he could probably benefit the most from coming back. But with so many of his friends from that special 2017 recruiting class likely moving on, might he want to go also? I’m very uncertain on this one, but I’m going to say Ruggs stays.
- Devonta Smith- Smith was a bit of an afterthought to Jeudy and Ruggs in the eyes of national media this season, but he wound up leading the whole group in receptions. He may be slight framed, but he’s much faster than he’s given credit for and has absolutely amazing hands and concentration. I think NFL scouts will value him more than the media does, and he goes pro.
- Alex Leatherwood- Just announced he was coming back as I was typing this up, so he’s a freebie.
- Jedrick Wills- Wills has been favorite in the NFL scouting twitter all season long, and he’s going to absolutely rock the combine. He’s probably a top-20 lineman on tape alone with top-5 athletic potential. He’s absolutely going pro.
- Xavier McKinney- McKinney showed a lot of talent, speed, aggression, and the ability to clean up for an underperforming defense. Safety is a tough position to get drafted in the first round, but he should easily be one of the first guys in the second round. However, if he thinks Alabama’s defense as a whole will improve enough in 2019 to allow him to go from a clean-up guy to a more dominant enforcer and leader, he could very well decide to come back and shoot for that first round lock. But, if I have to pick one, I think he goes pro as well.
- Dylan Moses- With the “Lords of London” kerfluffle being released on Thursday, I’m not sure what to think. But Moses could absolute skyrocket his draft stock with a dominant senior season, so I think that if all the insurance/legal stuff doesn’t force his hand, he returns like he announced he would.
Alex Leatherwood somewhat spoiled this for us with his return, and (seemingly) so did Dylan Moses. The Tide has seven remaining underclassmen (and maybe eight) with draft decisions.
1. Dylan Moses. The weirdness with his father aside, Moses will return. He can play his way back into the first round.
2. Najee Harris. Gone. So gone. And he should. His sole year as a feature back went well, improving his blocking, flashing his hands, and showing that he can handle an RB1 workload.
3. Xavier McKinney. He should go. He’s by most boards the 2nd or 3rd best safety — behind Isaiah Simmons and flip-flopping Grant Delpit. His stock will likely never be higher and this is thin safety class. Call this the anti-Deionte Thompson scenario.
4. DeVonta Smith. Is he gone? Probably not. This is a hella’ deep WR class, and TWO players on his own team are ahead of him. Ruggs speed wows, but No. 6 has shown to me this year that he’s rounded out to be more of the complete package after three seasons. For all that? He’s still getting late first round grades. So, take the money and run. Godspeed No. 6.
5. The fifth or sixth best WR on the board, Henry Ruggs III is also the fastest one, but one that started off the best and never really rounded out to be as good as he could be. With another year, he could be that guy. That said, he will go. But I don’t think he should.
6. Jerry Jeudy. Does literally everything well. Came into the 2017 class doing everything well, and has only improved on that complete package. He was ready to go last year and be an NFL pro-bowler. This season, now that he can, he will. Top 7-8 pick and an instant starter. I’m going to miss this polished, versatiledude. Best ‘Bama wideout since Julio — high praise from WRU. So, yeah. He’s gone.
7. Landon Dickerson. Had a pretty good year, Iron Bowl aside. Versatile, physical, and — importantly, finally healthy. But he does need more polish at center. it’s a deep year for a position of rare need...and I can name at least three better than Landon in the 2020 Draft class. Next year is a potential Rimington year though. He stays.
8. I’m of two minds here. The first is all that damn money Tua forfeits by being the No. 4 or No. 10 pick, versus being the No. 1 pick. And he should be the top pick. If this were a routine knee, there’d be little question about it. But that was a freakish, career-threatening injury in Starkville. One that rightly will scare off NFL franchises. A healthy year and another eye-popping season of accolades should right those concerns...if not the ones about his many injuries the last two seasons. Then again, this is not a family or a person very attached to the material world. And, I think that he took that fluke injury for what it was: a fluke, and “part of God’s plan.” Still, at the end of the day, the cold calculus wins out; the uncertainty of a playing career — that it can all be lost in a moment, will win the day. Whether he’s the 2nd pick or the 4th or the 10th, is it really worth staying another year to try to get back to the first pick...and getting pummeled by linemen for another fifteen games? Nope. Tough call. And he will be sad either way. But Tua is taking his talents to the NFL where he will be the steal of the draft if he is selected anywhere other than the first overall pick.
So, there it is. Give us your thoughts and predictions in the comments.