Which Alabama Players Will Become Draft Prospects In 2018?
Last week we looked at which players to watch for on one college team that produces a lot of prospects, the Ohio State Buckeyes. This week another program that is a pipeline to the NFL, the Alabama Crimson Tide will be examined.
Since Nick Saban took over at Alabama they have been the most successful team in college football. They have had at least 10 wins in each of the last nine seasons. In addition to the on-field dominance Saban has recruited better than anyone in the nation as well.
The combination of bringing in talent and molding them into winners leads to Alabama pumping out NFL players. Next season will be no different.
Meet the Prospects:
Alabama lost a good amount of key players from last season, particularly from their defense. Because of this there will be players who haven’t produced much yet that will be asked to step up next season.
There are some players who are expected to become major contributors. But with a roster with as much talent as Alabama’s there could be guys no one is paying attention to at this point of the process who become stars.
These are the guys who are expected to lead the Crimson Tide next season:
Defensive Back Minkah Fitzpatrick, 6’1” 201, Junior:
Last season Fitzpatrick split his time between cornerback and safety. He is talented enough to play either position at the next level. Fitzpatrick was a playmaker last season, he had six interceptions and returned two for a touchdown. In addition to his cover skills he is also a solid tackler. He has the potential to become on of the top defensive back prospects for the 2018 draft.
Wide Receiver Calvin Ridley, 6’1” 190, Junior:
Ridley took on the role of number one receiver as a freshmen. That season (2015) he hauled in 89 receptions for 1,045 yards and seven scores. His numbers declined a bit in 2016, he had 76 catches for 769 yards and seven touchdowns. The decline wasn’t Ridley’s fault for the most part. Alabama played a true freshmen quarterback last year who didn’t take many shots down the field. Hopefully for Ridley he takes more shots next season. He has the size and speed that NFL teams look for.
Running Back Bo Scarbrough, 6’2” 232, Junior:
Scarbrough’s size and physical running style have led to comparisons to former Alabama running back Derrick Henry. He also has decent breakaway speed and has shown he can take over a game. In last years College Football Playoff Semifinal against Washington Scarbrough totaled 180 yards and two touchdowns and 19 carries.
Defensive Line Da’Shawn Hand, 6’4” 282, Senior:
After coming to Alabama as one of the highest rated prospects in his class Hand has spent his career as a reserve up to this point. Next season will be his chance to break out. Alabama needs to find replacements for four players who were part of their front seven last season. Hand could fill the void left by Jonathan Allen. It’s unlikely he will be able to perform to Allen’s level but he should still be an excellent player.
Da’Ron Payne, 6’2” 309, Junior:
Payne played a key role for Alabama last season as a nose tackle. He is dropped weight this offseason to gain some athleticism. One thing he has going for him is freakish strength. At the Alabama spring workouts he reportedly squatted 635 lbs and benched 545 even after he lost weight. He is a force in the trenches and will consistently draw double teams.
Safety Ronnie Harrison, 6’3” 214, Junior:
Harrison is a physical safety who loves to deliver punishing hits when the opportunity presents itself. He also has some decent cover skills. Last season, in his first year as a starter, he performed really well. He was second on the team with 86 tackles and also had seven pass break breakups and two interceptions. Another year like that and he would likely be on his way to the NFL.
Cornerback Anthony Averett, 6’0” 185, Redshirt Senior:
Averett is another player who had there first shot to contribute last season. His main asset is speed. He was part of the Alabama track team for a period of time and as a junior in high school he recorded the best long jump in the country among high school athletes. Athleticism isn’t everything but it is important. Last season Averett showed he isn’t just an athlete. He recorded 48 tackles, eight pass breakups and added two forced fumbles.
Running Back Damien Harris, 5’11” 214, Junior:
As talented of a running back as Scarbrough is, it was actually Harris who was the lead back for much of last season. Despite rushing for 1,037 yards on 146 carries last season he isn’t getting talked about nearly as much as his backfield mate. Scarbrough took most of the goal-line work, scoring 11 touchdowns while Harris only scored two rushing touchdowns. Harris was considered by many to be the best running back in his recruiting class. It will be interesting to see how the backfield situation plays out for Alabama next season. If Harris manages to get more carries than Scarbrough again he could take the leap to the NFL after the season.