Alabama football didn't leave much room for its SEC rivals in historic dominance of the NFL Draft | Hurt

Cecil Hurt

To the relief of the rest of the college football world, especially a fatigued SEC, Alabama’s record-setting run at the top of the NFL Draft finally receded early Friday night when the selections of Landon Dickerson (Philadelphia) and Christian Barmore (New England) in the early second round. The six first-round draft picks tied the all-time record and simply overwhelmed some notable stories from the rest of the league.

Kyle Pitts of Florida, the No. 4 pick, edged LSU opt-out Ja’Marr Chase (No. 5j and Jaylen Waddle (No. 6) as the first SEC player chosen. South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn drew such little attention that his dad, former Saints receiver Joe Horn, complained about it on Twitter. 

Horn blamed the attention given to Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, not Alabama, and probably needs to take a deep breath and understand that when the league’s current MVP is talking about walking away from his team, he is going to grab some headlines. The elder Horn’s opinion wasn’t as extreme as that of Danny Kanell, who has drifted away from bashing the entire SEC to bashing the 13 teams other than Alabama, contorting himself into the position that Alabama’s draft choices somehow shouldn’t count. 

It’s not Alabama’s job to share the spotlight. Nick Saban, rightly, wants to use all that coverage to his recruiting advantage. The first two days made a point, and Alabama’s recruiting staff is going to keep hammering it home all summer. 

As far as landing spots go, Alabama’s eight early picks went to just six teams: Miami, Denver, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and, with two new Alabama additions each, Philadelphia and New England, All had Crimson Tide players on their 2020 rosters.

The Raiders are suddenly Tuscaloosa West, minus the casinos but with four offensive players, all meant to complement each other. Alex Leatherwood is meant to open holes for Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake, which in turn gives Henry Ruggs III more real estate on his pass routes. 

“He’s going to start for us at right tackle from Day One," Raiders GM Mike Mayock told reporters Friday. "We’re  going to see if he can hold on to that job. We did an awful lot of homework on this young man. I spoke to Nick at length about a bunch of his players — because they were loaded of course — but we feel like he's a great fit for what we do.  I think we're going to get Josh Jacobs to the second level more cleanly than we did last year.”

The Raiders being the Raiders, their draft choice spurred some controversy among observers who thought they could have traded down, picked up extra assets and still been able to grab Leatherwood anyway. Mayock denied that there was any “friction” among the Raider brass about the choice.

Less verbose, to the surprise of absolutely no one, was the taciturn Bill Belichick, who greeted Mac Jones with his usual funeral-director enthusiasm.

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA;  Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) gives a thumbs up after scoring a touchdown against Ohio State in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

"Mac was available at our pick, and he was a guy we spent a lot of time with,” Belichick told the Providence Journal. “Felt like that was the best pick at that time for us, look forward to working with him. He's a smart kid. He's been in a system that's similar to ours. We've had a lot of good conversations with him. I think he'll be able to process the offense.

“It's obviously going to take a lot of time. See how it goes."

Whether the Alabama draftees received effusive welcomes or faint praise, all were part of history and the rest of the SEC was glad, at least, that the decks were cleared early enough to get a little love for their own guys.

Reach Cecil Hurt at or via Twitter @cecilhurt