What order will Alabama football players go in NFL draft? Super Bowl provides clues | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

With the last of the postseason professional bowls, the Senior Bowl and the Super Bowl, in the books, there’s a new exotic bet available for those who can’t be satisfied with wagering on the opening coin toss in Tampa or whether The Weekend ever found his way out of that mirror maze. 

For novel entertainment, try to guess which order Alabama players will be taken in the NFL Draft at the end of April. 

Some players, notably quarterback Mac Jones, elevated their stock at the Senior Bowl. No 2020 Alabama players participated in the Super Bowl, but NFL owners and general managers are famous, if not notorious, for trying to emulate what works in the biggest game. When they watch the fierce up-front pass rush of Tampa Bay’s Vita Vea and Ndomukong Suh, there might be more temptation to gamble on the upside of a Christian Barmore, even though he’s likely to need a couple of years of maturation before he reaches his NFL potential.

If I were a GM, I might draft another position of need and eventually try to pry Quinnen Williams loose from the Jets in free agency in a couple of years. 

When they watch the value the Buccaneers received from midseason acquisition Leonard Fournette, which route do they take? Do you reach for Najee Harris, the best back in this year’s draft, at a higher spot? Or do you gamble that you can find a veteran back for less money and a shorter contract? Is Patrick Surtain Jr. the safest pick at a position (cornerback) where most teams have a chronic need? 

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On the offensive line, did Alex Leatherwood define himself as solely a guard at the next level? Does that lessen his value if teams consider him an emergency option only as a right tackle? Landon Dickerson is still recovering from his December knee surgery but has the ability to play center or guard, which might make him more attractive than Leatherwood to some teams.

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That still doesn’t touch on the two receivers: Both DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle have one big question mark. Smith is under sudden scrutiny for being the same size he has always been. Waddle is rehabbing the ankle he injured last October in Knoxville. The modified combine in early April and the Alabama Pro Day on March 23 could answer those questions, not that Smith is going to get any bigger. His 40-yard dash time will make a difference. Ultimately, a team is going to have to rely on the eye test with Smith.

You might be able to find 100 players that have similar measurables, but there hasn’t been one in 1,000 who has transcended size and speed and reached the level of production Smith did at Alabama. A general manager will have to take the step, possibly risk, of deciding whether that translates to the NFL level. 

Waddle, if healthy, will have an excellent time in the 40, perhaps enough to convince a team that he is a safer bet than Smith. He also has value as a punt returner.

That leaves us to speculate on what the draft trifecta for Alabama will be. Does it go Jones/Surtain/Waddle, leaving the Heisman Trophy winner as the fourth or fifth draft pick off his own team? Will the quarterback fever that seems to strike teams every year push Jones into the top 10? That’s possible, or he could last longer as other quarterbacks go before him. Will Smith’s uncanny ability to get open result in a high pick, perhaps by the draft-rich Dolphins? Will Harris move up into draft territory not usually used on running backs in recent years? Would a Smith/Waddle/Jones or Waddle/Smith/Surtain order be possible? Does Leatherwood go late in the first round?

At this point, the precise possibilities are endless.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt