Can Alabama break the record for most first-rounders in a single draft?
Back in 2004, the University of Miami set a record with six players being selected in the first round of the NFL draft. That day, safety Sean Taylor, tight end Kellen Winslow, linebackers Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams, offensive tackle Vernon Carey and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork made history. Now, 13 years later, does Alabama have a chance to break that record? Seven first-round draft picks from one school is unprecedented, but after some incredible performances this season, they have the players heading to the draft that might make it possible. Let’s take a look at who might go in round one.
Jonathan Allen, defensive interior
Allen’s 2016 season was so impressive that he is unlikely to last longer than the top five selections in the 2017 NFL Draft. After racking up 13 sacks, 13 hits and 41 hurries as a pass-rusher, our second-highest-ranked player on the defensive interior in 2016 has all the tools the NFL that will get NFL teams excited as we head toward the draft. His best fit is likely as a 5-tech, but we saw him find success for Alabama in a variety of positions, including on the edge. With the ability to move him around the defensive front, Allen is a sure-fire lock to be drafted in the first round.
Reuben Foster, linebacker
Linebackers with Foster’s ability don’t come along very often, and we could be looking at a player who will be as good as Patrick Willis and Luke Kuechly have been in the PFF era. Foster does it all, excelling against the run, in coverage and even chipping in with some production as a blitzer. By the end of the 2016 season he had racked up four sacks, 12 hits and six hurries to go along with another 64 tackles resulting in a defensive stop. The best linebacker prospect we have seen since Luke Kuechly, it wouldn’t be a shock to hear Foster’s name called in the top 10 selections.
O.J. Howard, tight end
Howard wasn’t as productive a receiver as you would have hoped at Alabama in 2016, and that might scare some teams away, but it is generally accepted that he was underused. In an offense that catered to the strengths of its true freshman quarterback in Jalen Hurts, Howard’s talents were definitely underutilized. Seeing just four targets in the National Championship game against Clemson, he caught all four for 105 yards and a touchdown. A better receiver than his raw stats suggest, Howard was also the top run blocker among tight ends, and his ability to block in-line and at the second level along with that make him the top tight end in this draft class.
Tim Williams, edge defender
If Williams isn’t drafted in the first round of the draft, it’s likely going to be because of some off-field concerns, or because of the small sample size of his work. When he has been on the field though, Williams has been one of the most dominant edge defenders in the nation, showcasing a rare balance of speed, agility and strength that made life miserable for opposing offensive tackles. Williams has a pass-rushing productivity rating of 16.7, ranking sixth among all edge defenders in college football in 2016, racking up nine sacks, 11 hits and 39 hurries.
Marlon Humphrey, cornerback
Humphrey has the size that NFL teams covet at cornerback, measuring in at 6-feet-1 and around the 200-pound mark. Humphrey wasn’t tested too often in his two seasons as a starter at Alabama, seeing 122 passes thrown into his coverage over that span. He showed the ability to make plays on the ball, picking off five passes and breaking up another 12 but there is one flaw to his game that could scare teams off. As good as Humphrey is, and he’s very good, he allowed an average of 16.9 yards per catch over the past two seasons. He wasn’t beaten often, but when he was, it was often deep.
Cam Robinson, offensive tackle
Robinson is one of the most intriguing players in this draft class, because while he has all the traits that teams are looking for in a top offensive tackle, his play has always lacked the consistency that you would like to see from a top draft pick. A quick dive into his film and you’ll quickly see why he could go very high in a weak tackle class such as this one, but watch a bit longer and you’ll see the inconsistency that will cause teams to worry. As a pass blocker he allowed just 14 total pressures over the course of the year, but did commit 11 penalties, tied for eighth-most of any offensive tackle in the nation.
Ryan Anderson, linebacker
Anderson is an intriguing prospect too, but for very different reasons. He was incredibly productive for Alabama in a much bigger role in 2016, and had some huge plays in the National Championship game around Clemson. The knock on Anderson appears to be his size, and in particular his arm length, but when you look at his production at Alabama, where he ranked 21st among edge defenders in terms of pass-rushing productivity, and 26th in run stop percentage in 2016, it’s easy to see why a team might take a shot later in round one. If they do, they might just get themselves a steal.
(In his latest mock draft, PFF Analyst Steve Palazzolo has five Alabama players going in the first round. Check the full mock here.)
Among others, Alabama also have draftable prospects in defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, wide receiver Ardarius Stewart and safety Eddie Jackson, with Tomlinson and Jackson at least having a shot at going in round one of the draft. It looks like they will comfortably have five players selected in the opening 32 picks, and it’s really not that unlikely that they could break the record and see the seven players listed above standing next to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell come the spring.