TUSCALOOSA — Suffice it to say, there’s been no school that has dominated the NFL Draft moreso than Alabama over the last decade or so.
And while reigning national champion LSU usurped the Crimson Tide’s crown with 14 total selections in this weekend’s 2020 NFL Draft, it doesn’t hold up to the sheer supremacy maintained by an Alabama program that has produced 92 total draft picks since 2010, 16 more than those same Tigers (76) and 20 more than Big Ten power Ohio State (72) during that same time frame.
With nine more picks this past weekend — including tying a program-record with another four first-round selections Thursday evening — the Crimson Tide has had at least seven players drafted into the NFL every year since 2012, all coming under head coach Nick Saban’s purview.
Over the past four years alone, Alabama has had 41 players drafted, eight more than its next closest competitor — the Buckeyes (33) — and nine more than SEC West rival LSU (32).
It’s been especially prominent on the draft’s opening day, with the Tide tallying at least three first-round picks each of the past four NFL Drafts for 15 total Day 1 selections during that span. LSU, meanwhile, has just nine in that time, even with its program-record five first-round picks Thursday evening.
Beginning with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa going to the Miami Dolphins at No. 5 overall, Alabama added four more first-round picks to that lofty list with offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. picked at No. 10 by the Cleveland Browns and followed closely thereafter by receivers Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy getting selected at No. 12 and 15, respectively, by the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos.
Since 2010, 11 Crimson Tide players have been selected in the Top-10: Rolando McClain (No. 8, 2010), Marcell Dareus (No. 3, 2010), Julio Jones (No. 6, 2010), Trent Richardson (No. 3, 2012), Mark Barron (No. 7, 2012), Dee Milliner (No. 9, 2013), Chance Warmack (No. 10, 2013), Amari Cooper (No. 4, 2015), Quinnen Williams (No. 3, 2019), Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5, 2020), and Jedrick Wills (No. 10, 2020).
And given the wealth of talent still propagating in Tuscaloosa, including a handful of returners that are already being projected as first-round picks a year from now, don’t expect the Tide’s draft dominance to fade any time soon.
Based on some way-too-early mock drafts spreading online, Alabama could once again challenge its own program standard for Round 1 selections with at least five players — offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, linebacker Dylan Moses, cornerback Patrick Surtain II, and receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle — all widely expected to be among the top players at their respective positions in 2021.
Leatherwood, Moses and Smith each elected to return to Alabama for their fourth seasons in Tuscaloosa, while Surtain II and Waddle are expected to be three-and-done juniors after having already proven themselves on the collegiate level.
Leatherwood looks to continue the train of Tide offensive linemen to find their way into the Top-50 selections of the NFL Draft, following in the footsteps of predecessors like Wills Jr. (2020), Jonah Williams (2019), Cam Robinson (2017), and Ryan Kelly (2016), as well as Cyrus Kouandjio (2014), D.J. Fluker (2013), Chance Warmack (2013), James Carpenter (2011) and Andre Smith (2009).
Moses and Smith are two others that could’ve heard their names called Thursday night should they have taken their chances in the draft rather than return to school. But since neither was certain to get anything more than low first-round consideration, they decided another year in Crimson could do wonders for their draft stock (and bank accounts given the difference between a Top-15 pick and one in the back-end of the first round).
Of course, there are other Crimson Tide players that could certainly hear their names called early in the 2021 NFL Draft, including senior running back Najee Harris and senior offensive lineman Landon Dickerson (a former Florida State transfer). Meanwhile, there are a handful of juniors such outside linebacker Chris Allen, cornerback Josh Jobe, defensive ends Phidarian Mathis and LaBryan Ray and redshirt sophomore nose guard Christian Barmore have the talent to ride a breakout season into an NFL opportunity, much the like former defensive tackle Quinnen Williams did when he went from backup to No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft.
However the 2021 NFL Draft shapes out, there’s little denying the simple expectation that Alabama will once again play a prominent role in that development, and may even challenge some records along the way.