2019 NFL Draft: Six players who could be in the next wave of first-round picks from Alabama
Let's examine the 2019 iteration of prospects from the first-round factory that is Alabama football
During Nick Saban's reign as the pope of the Crimson Tide football religion, a ridiculous 26 Alabama players have been selected in the first round. And the initial Saban Round 1 pick was Andre Smith in 2009, ample time for the defensive and recruiting wizard to have a full control of the Alabama roster. (He was hired in 2007.) So, in the last decade, Saban's averaged nearly three first-round picks per draft.
For perspective on just the last five years, here are the number of first-round picks from some of college football's power programs:
- Ohio State: 11
- Florida: 7
- Clemson: 6
- Washington: 5
- Notre Dame: 5
- Georgia: 5
- Florida State: 4
- LSU: 4
- USC: 4
- Michigan: 3
- Michigan State: 3
And consider this too: Before Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, the last Alabama first-round picks were offensive lineman Chris Samuels and Shaun Alexander in ... 2000. Goodness. No wonder Saban gets write-in votes for the Alabama Senate.
Let's break down the potential first-round selections from Alabama next year.
(Players ranked in order of likelihood of being a first-round pick in 2019)
Raekwon Davis, DL
A colossal defensive lineman, the 6-foot-7 Davis has shades of Calais Campbell to his game. He doesn't win the center-of-gravity battle often yet thrived in his first season as a full-time contributor with 69 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks because of quickness off the snap and immense upper-body strength, which allows him to explode through the line of scrimmage as a towering wrecking ball.
Like Campbell, Davis projects to a defensive end/defensive tackle hybrid role in the NFL, and after what should be another monster season in Tuscaloosa, he's a prime candidate to be the Crimson Tide's third-straight first-round pick on the defensive line.
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Jonah Williams, OT
As a true freshman in 2016, Williams absolutely locked down the right side of Alabama's line thanks to a combination of controlled athleticism and deceptive anchoring power. He jumped to the left tackle position in 2017 and was far from a liability but wasn't as reliable as the previous season. Some of his strikes to the inside of defensive linemen were late, and his foot quickness was tested to the maximum at times.
Already with 29 games of experience on his résumé, Williams has one of the most mature skill sets among offensive linemen in the country, and he possesses the measureables to be a first-round pick in 2019 with another strong campaign for the Crimson Tide.
Mack Wilson, LB
Wilson impressively led the team with four interceptions from his linebacker spot despite playing just 376 snaps on defense last season. He represents the new wave of smaller, speedier linebackers starting to come through Nick Saban's sophisticated but throwback system at Alabama.
He erupted in the national title game against Georgia's loaded offensive front with 12 tackles and two tackles for loss. A sure tackler with above-average speed and good size -- 6-2 and 235 pounds -- Wilson is primed for a more prominent role on the Crimson Tide defense in 2018, and I think he could have a Reuben Foster type of impact this season. Alabama has had an off-ball linebacker selected in the first round in the last two drafts, and three of past five. The coverage-savvy and speedy Wilson is on track to be the next.
Damien Harris, RB
Harris doesn't have the juice or the innate vision through tiny cracks in the line of Ezekiel Elliott, but the rest of his game is eerily similar to the former Ohio State star and former top-five selection. Like Elliott, Harris is a bowling ball of a back with thick, forceful legs, a low center of gravity, and loose hips that give him dynamic cutting skills. He's not only capable of making slower defenders miss but can power through haphazard tackle attempts.
NFL coaches will love Harris' pass-protection prowess too, another aspect that resembles Zeke in Columbus. He's compiled back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for Alabama and will be in a classic timeshare this season. But he has feature back written all over him and certainly could land in the middle to back end of the 2019 first round.
Alabama's had five first-round offensive linemen in the last 10 years under Nick Saban, and Pierschbacer probably could've entered the 2018 draft and landed somewhere on Day Two or early Day Three.
He possesses the requisite combination of low-center-of-gravity power and light feet to work effectively at the second level, and he rarely appeared to get overpowered by wide defensive tackles in the SEC a season ago.
After 42 career starts, Pierschbacher is moving inside to center to replace former All-American Bradley Bozeman, which will diversify his resume as a draft prospect. If he showcases better lateral movement skills, he should find himself somewhere in the late-first or early-second-round range.
The NFL's pass-happy era hurts Jennings' chances of going within the first 32 picks because he's much further ahead as a run-defender than a pass-rusher at this point in his football career. At 6-3 and upwards of 260 pounds with NFL-caliber strength for a stand-up edge-rusher, Jennings, like most Alabama defenders, will be more physically ready -- especially up top -- than his draft-class counterparts.
If he takes a clear step forward pressuring the quarterback by way of an improvement in his burst and bend to the quarterback, he could sneak into the first round. More defined pass-rushing moves would greatly benefit his production and chance to go in Round 1 too.
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