No other college in the country has produced more NFL talent than the University of Alabama has in the past six years. Since 2010, the Crimson Tide have had more players drafted (58) than any other school. Not only that, but the Tide have also produced more first-round picks (18) than any other school.
Obviously, this means that the NFL is riddled with talent from Alabama. However, it is often debated that the Tide generate players that are prone to underperform or become overall busts. In some cases this is true, but under no circumstance does that mean there is a lack of successful Alabama players in the NFL.
So which of the current Alabama draft class will be busts, and which ones will be booms in the NFL?
C Ryan Kelly – 18th Overall Pick – Colts
The Colts picked up Kelly hoping that he may become Andrew Luck’s Jeff Saturday. Kelly is usually the smartest player on the field no matter who is lined up against him. He was a key leader on 2015 National Championship team, being known as one of the primary voices on the Alabama offense.
Kelly is not one to wow people with his physical makeup. At the combine, Kelly was weighed in at 311 pounds and listed as 6-4. The only attribute that might be considered a weakness for the three-year starter at Alabama, is that he needs to add a bit more muscle. Kelly has hand placement on blocks, allowing him to prolong the engagement with his block. He also excels at being able to move from a double-team block to another block downfield. However, the strength that will be needed to be gained in order for him to be extremely effective in the NFL, will allow for him to drive those second blocks downfield and let the running backs to get into open space.
Below are the highlights from, arguably, Kelly’s best performance at Alabama.
ILB Reggie Ragland – 41st Overall Pick – Bills
Ragland was the ultimate workhorse for the Crimson Tide. Saban used Ragland, essentially, as the quarterback for the defense. Ragland learned Saban’s scheme and became the play-caller on the field for the Crimson Tide’s defense. His leadership led for him to be voted the only team captain on the defense.
Ragland comes into the NFL with one of the biggest attributes that is desired, being an every-down player. He can do it all, ranging from stopping the run, pressuring the quarterback, or shutting down the pass game in the middle of the field. Scouts only have two real issues with Ragland. There has been concern as to whether or not Ragland has the closing speed to catch NFL running backs and receivers from sideline to sideline. He has great instinct which allows him to take good angles on the runner, however, he was sometimes slow getting to the sideline while playing at Alabama. The second issue is his health. Ragland struggled with reoccurring shoulder injuries in college, but doctors don’t seem to be too concerned with it at the moment. The real issue was when doctors found that Ragland had an enlarged aorta before the draft. It is not believed that it will affect his football career, but it is something that the Bills will have to keep a close eye on and monitor throughout his career. So, this prediction will be made assuming that he stays healthy for the majority of his career.
Below are some of the many highlights of Ragland’s 2015 season.
Prediction: BOOM (definitely not a bust, but an above average linebacker)
RB Derrick Henry – 45th Overall Pick – Titans
What else can be said about Derrick Henry that hasn’t already been said about him before? The guy is just a monster. Henry is arguably going to be the most physical running back in the NFL and he hasn’t even played a down yet. Coming into the draft, Henry is probably the player that will be the hardest to predict based on his running style. The league hasn’t seen a running back of this physical makeup since Eddie George. The burning question is whether or not this style can translate into the pass happy and spread out offenses in the NFL.
Henry will be taking the field as the backup to the Titans current running back, DeMarco Murray. Murray struggled last year in an Eagles offense that was not designed to have a running back like Murray get a lot of carries. However, in previous years, Murray has been seen as one of the best running backs in the NFL. Henry has a similar run style to Murray. Both are power runners who are deceptively fast and are willing to dish out some hits to any defender who looks to stand in their way. In college, Henry had the ability to run over almost any defender who would get in front of him, but now that he is in the NFL, that will likely be much harder. Henry is going to have to learn to be a more elusive runner if he is wanting to remain productive and healthy for the entirety of his career. One of the primary concerns scouts have toward Henry is that his size does not allow for him to have great lateral quickness. It is much harder for a 250-pound running back to make slight cuts to make the defender miss than the average running back. Not only that, but Henry will be behind a young and below average offensive line. Last year, the Titans gained a mere 92.8 rushing yards per game, which was good enough for 25th in the NFL. However, the Titans have attempted to address this situation by spending their 8th overall pick on a left tackle who is primarily known for his run blocking, Jack Conklin. If Henry can get the blocking that he needs to be successful, he could turn out to be one of the better running backs in the NFL.
Below are Henry’s incredible Heisman season highlights
Prediction: BOOM (assuming he stays healthy)
DT A’Shawn Robinson – 46th Overall Pick – Lions
Coming into the draft, Robinson was considered to be one of the most well known “can’t miss picks.” The former starting defensive tackle for the best run defense in the NCAA, looks like 320 pounds of raw power. His physical presence has been the centerpiece for many memes and other posts having to do with terrifyingly intimidating football players.
Robinson is phenomenal when it comes to shedding blocks in order to stop the run. His strongest attribute is stopping the first blocker in his tracks, and being able to sway him in whichever direction is needed for Robinson to stuff up the holes. His strength allows for him to take on double teams along the line without being pushed back to second level. His mentality as a player is as mature as he looks. Robinson is completely team oriented, wanting to do whatever it takes for his team to achieve their goals. However, there are some concerns when it comes to Robinson. In college, there were instances when Robinson was a little slow to jump off the snap. Hesitation after the snap can cause for blocker to gain an advantage by getting his hand position established first. This will hurt Robinson when it comes to pass rushing because that takes away most of the moves he would try and do to get to the quarterback. So in order to further develop, he will need to improve his pass rushing ability.
Below are the career highlights of Robinson’s time at Alabama.
Prediction: BUST (elite at stopping the run, but has to develop in passing game to be BOOM)
DT Jarran Reed – 49th Overall Pick – Seahawks
Similar to Robinson, Reed is very well known for his lower body strength and ability to plug up holes in the line. Reed was part of the defensive tackle dynamic duo at Alabama. Over two years at Alabama, he tallied 108 tackles. For a defensive tackle, that production is extremely good.
Reed has the strength to be an immediate impact in the NFL. He will not be beat by a single blocker. His highlights show that he has the ability to take on a single blocker, push him three yards backwards with one hand, and bring down the running back with the other. His hands are enormous for the position, allowing for him to have the ability to grab the running back before he has the chance to get by Reed’s blocker. Unfortunately for Reed, however, he has struggled in a big way when it come to the passing game. Over two years at Alabama, he only had 2 sacks and 16 hurries. His ability to eliminate the A gaps from being available for as long as he is on the field. If he can begin to generate some sort of bull rush technique to improve his ability to get to the quarterback, his chances of succeeding will be much greater. But for right now, he is too similar to A’Shawn to justify a BOOM.
Below are some of Reed’s career highlights at Alabama
Prediction: BUST (will need to improve pass rush in order to be considered a complete player)
CB Cyrus Jones – 60th Overall Pick – Patriots
Cyrus Jones is perhaps one of the greatest testaments to Nick Saban’s ability to see and develop talent in players. Originally a receiver, Saban decided to switch Jones to a cornerback. In one of his first games as a corner, he was humiliated by Mike Evans and Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M. Seemingly nothing would allow for Cyrus Jones to redeem himself in the eyes of Crimson Tide fan base after such an embarrassing performance. But over the next two years, he became not only a seasoned starter, but the go-to veteran that Saban relied on in the secondary.
Jones was an impact for the Crimson Tide in every game he played. Not only was he the primary corner used to place receivers on an island, but he also became a serious threat on special teams. Throughout the year, Jones tied the school record for punt returns for touchdowns in a single season with four. The Patriots have always been attracted to versatile players. With the departure of Patrick Chung, the Patriots were left thin at the defensive back position group. Now that they have drafted Jones, the Patriots will probably look for him to play the nickel back based on his size and the skill at the position. Jones will be a perfect fit for this system, and will be looking to make an immediate impact on day one.
Below are some of Cyrus Jones’ highlights for the Crimson Tide
RB Kenyan Drake – 73rd Overall Pick – Dolphins
Often overshadowed by Henry, Drake is argued to be one of the biggest steals of the draft. Plagued by injury throughout his career at Alabama, he could never reached the full potential that could have been at Alabama. However, those situations were out of his hands and he made the most out of the hand he was dealt at Alabama. On almost any other team, Drake would have been a starting running back, making headlines and highlights every weekend. But the senior decided to stick out his career at Alabama and turn his situation around.
Drake’s biggest strength is his acceleration. Whenever he touches the ball, everyone seemingly holds their breath. Drake can explode from being still to sprinting in what appears to be no time at all. His speed and hand skills are unquestionable when he touches the ball. Drake, however, did struggle in college holding on to the football. Fumbles and an attitude problem that was later fixed became a big enough problem for him to fall back in the depth chart and lose playing time. The biggest fear for the Dolphins will have to be his health throughout the season. Drake suffered a gruesome broken leg during the 2014 season against Ole Miss, and then broke his arm during the 2015 season. He was able to come back and be effective after both injuries, but it is obvious that it will be hard for him to stay healthy.
Below are some of Drake’s top highlights from his 2015 season Alabama
Prediction: BOOM (if healthy)
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