Four Alabama standouts, including Mac Jones, announce departure to NFL

Brett Hudson

Four Alabama football players announced Thursday that they will be passing on remaining years of eligibility to enter the 2021 NFL draft: quarterback Mac Jones, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, defensive lineman Christian Barmore and cornerback Patrick Surtain II. All of them have recently been projected as first-round picks

Jones worked for three years to become Alabama’s starting quarterback and only needed one season in the job to launch a professional career. He passed Jones threw for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns, finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Those numbers were good enough to for finish first in school history in single-season passing yards and second in single-season touchdown passes.

Jones’ departure opens the door for five-star freshman Bryce Young to take over as the starting quarterback. He was Jones’ backup in 2020, completing 13 of his 22 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown, ahead of redshirt freshman Paul Tyson. Alabama is also adding four-star recruit Jalen Milroe to its quarterback room, which includes Paul Tyson, a redshirt freshman in the 2020 season.

Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle breaks free for a touchdown after catching a pass against Texas A&M at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Through injury and preexisting depth, Waddle never got to experience the full breakout season that was easy to projected for him. Playing behind Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith for his first two seasons, he averaged just 2.7 receptions per game. Waddle was on his way to that breakout as a junior before the ankle injury.

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Waddle should be a highly-sought after draft prospect with help from his kick and punt returning expertise. Most of Waddle's value came from the slot. Slade Bolden is the heir apparent, but Alabama will have other options, including Xavier Williams and incoming freshman Christian Leary.

In Barmore, the Crimson Tide are losing a redshirt sophomore defensive lineman to the NFL draft for the second time in three years. He produced 9½ tackles for a loss and eight sacks, most of that came in the final six games of the season. 

Barmore’s departure opens the pathway to more playing time for freshmen Tim Smith and Jamil Burroughs, who saw varying degrees of rotational work in the 2020 season. Freshman Jah’Marien Latham is also an option, in addition to incoming signees Anquin Barnes, Tim Keenan, Monkell Goodwine and Damon Payne.

Surtain leaves Alabama in the top 10 in career pass breakups with 27, having been a consistent starter for nearly his entire career. In his absence, Alabama will need a second corner to start alongside Josh Jobe.

A pair of sophomores, Jalyn Armour-Davis and Marcus Banks, were the backup cornerbacks this season, but that was with junior college cornerback Ronald Williams Jr. suffering a broken arm in the preseason. Those three will be factors in the competition, in addition to five-star freshman Ga’Quincy McKinstry, an early enrollee.