The countdown of the 10 college football programs that have ‘fed’ the NFL in recent seasons comes to a rather predictable conclusion with Alabama finishing first.
There were multiple former Alabama stars selected in the first round in each of the last half-dozen drafts. During that time, 23 Crimson Tide products heard their names in the opening round, five in the top 10 overall.
The challenge here is limiting the number of former Alabama stars mentioned in the alumni report, as well as deciding positional rankings above all the others.
The NFL predictions list running back Derrick Henry as the current leader in the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award odds. He won’t be the only Alabama product in line for individual honors in 2022.
Here’s a breakdown of the storylines involving Alabama products currently in the NFL.
Best position – running back
When the discussion includes four players who could each run for more than 1,000 yards this season, it’s clear this is the position deserving of the top.
Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans was on pace for a historic season that would have made him one of the favored MVP candidates before injury cost him the second half of 2021. It wouldn’t be a shock is he’s there again.
Second-year back Najee Harris could become the next great lead back for the Pittsburgh Steelers after some mixed results as a rookie.
It is always hard to predict what New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick does with his running backs. However, it is a good guess that Damien Harris is the back that the offense is built around in 2022.
Josh Jacobs has a lot of tread on his tires with the Las Vegas Raiders. Some think that might start in the near future, perhaps this season. Kenyan Drake, also from ‘Bama, is another back who could lessen Jacobs’ workload.
Mark Ingram, back with the New Orleans Saints, might be more of a situational runner these days, but still can compile the yards.
The latest former Alabama back to be drafted is ’22 third-round pick Brian Robinson. However, he is joining a crowded backfield with the Washington Commanders.
‘Bama wideouts catching on
It has been quite the eventful off-season for former Alabama wide receivers.
Amari Cooper was traded by the Dallas Cowboys to the Cleveland Browns, Julio Jones landed in Tampa Bay as another weapon for quarterback Tom Brady. Jones’ former Atlanta Falcons teammate, Calvin Ridley, has been suspended (gambling). Rookie John Metchie was diagnosed with leukemia.
Even with all these changes, the list of ex-Tide receivers projected to do impressive things in the NFL this season is not short.
Jaylen Waddle of the Miami Dolphins and DeVonta Smith of the Philadelphia Eagles were among the leading rookie receivers in 2021, and they could each just be scratching the surface.
Jerry Jeudy could thrive as Russell Wilson is now his quarterback with the Denver Broncos, while the sportsbook has Jameson Williams of the Detroit Lions tied for ninth in NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds.
All the Tide, all the time
Here are other starters consisting entirely of players out of Alabama.
- Quarterback: Mac Jones of the New England Patriots had more passing yards and a better passing rating than Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa last season. However, with the addition of Tyreek Hill to go with Waddle, it is hard to go against Tua.
- Running back: Henry. Next.
- Receivers: Waddle and Smith are easy choices. Jeudy and Williams have tremendous potential to be included, but the veteran Cooper gets the nod for the final spot.
- Tight end: Irv Smith could be destined for a breakout season with the Minnesota Vikings, while O.J. Howard seems to be off to a slow start since joining the Buffalo Bills.
- Offensive line: It is hard to pick just five players. Landon Dickerson, Jonah Williams, and Ryan Kelly would man the interior, with Jedrick Wills and Cam Robinson at the tackles. First-round pick Evan Neal could break into the top five sooner rather than later.
- Defensive line: Front four of Christian Barmore (New England), Quinnen Williams (New York Jets), and the Washington Commanders’ duo of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne could be unblockable as a unit.
Take a Look at Other 2 Predictions for This Upcoming NFL Season
LIVE: Daron Payne speaks to the media following practice https://t.co/V8SgWfGSHC
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) July 29, 2022
- Linebackers: This isn’t the strongest position on the field. Rashaan Evans, now with the Atlanta Falcons, would be joined by Dont’a Hightower (New England) and C.J. Mosley (New York Jets).
- Cornerbacks: Try to complete passes against Trevon Diggs (Dallas), Marlon Humphrey (Baltimore) and Patrick Surtain (Denver).
The NFL betting lines have +6000 odds for both Diggs and Surtain in NFL Defensive Player of the Year projections.
- Safeties: The duo of Minkah Fitzpatrick (Pittsburgh) and Xavier McKinney (New york Giants) would be one of the best in the NFL.
Looking into the future
Picking the five Alabama players with the brightest NFL futures is no easy task so here we go.
- Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans RB: An injury was the only thing to slow Henry down a season ago. He has speed, power and the instincts that make him elite.
- Patrick Surtain, Denver Broncos CB: Others might intercept more passes than him, but when it comes to getting the job done in coverage, he is already one of the best in the league.
- Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers RB: Harris was fourth in the NFL with 1,200 rushing yards as a rookie. He also caught 74 passes, and figures to be even busier in 2022.
- Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers S: Fitzpatrick has found a home in the secondary for the Steelers, leasing the team with 124 tackles (plus two interceptions) last season.
- Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins WR: With the addition of Tyreek Hill, Waddle should have even more room to operate, so watch out, defenses.
In some mock drafts, quarterback Bryce Young and linebacker Will Anderson are the top two players off the board in 2023. Why not, given Young is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, while Anderson led all FBS players in sacks and tackles for loss last season.
Those who bet online might be interested to know that Young (+185) and Anderson (+325) currently are second and third in the odds to be the No. 1 overall pick in the ’23 draft.
Cornerback Eli Ricks, a transfer from LSU, could also be a first-round selection, along with defensive backs Malachi Moore and Jordan Battle.