TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — In a surprising turn of events, only one Alabama player was drafted in the first round of Thursday’s NFL draft, and it likely wasn’t the one many pundits and fans expected.
Former Crimson Tide center Ryan Kelly was the first and only Alabama player selected in the opening round as the Indianapolis Colts took him with the 18th overall pick. Kelly joins a Colts team in desperate need of offensive line help. Many analysts believe Kelly could be the starter from Day 1 in Indianapolis. Kelly became the 18th Alabama player selected in the first round during Nick Saban’s tenure.
But as Kelly celebrated with his family members, three other former Alabama players — Reggie Ragland, A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed — waited as other players at their positions were selected ahead of them.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Ragland was considered one of the top linebacker prospects, and a first-round lock in most mock drafts. That all changed when NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that teams had pushed Ragland down their draft boards after he was “flagged for an enlarged aorta.”
The aorta is the largest artery in the body and it carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The condition requires monitoring and could lead to aneurysms. Surgery could be required.
Ragland’s fall was predictable once the news broke. Teams generally look for any reason to separate players they rate closely. One place many considered a landing spot for Ragland — the Atlanta Falcons — ended up taking safety Keanu Neal out of Florida. Ohio State’s Darron Lee was the lone inside linebacker taken in the first round (No. 20, New York Jets).
Proud of my boys tonight!!! Gotta work harder now!!!
— ReggieRagland(bama) (@reggieragland) April 29, 2016
While Ragland reportedly has a legitimate medical issue, Robinson and Reed falling out of the first round are likely products of this being one of the deepest draft classes for defensive linemen in recent memory. There were seven defensive linemen drafted in the first round with four of those being defensive tackles.
Robinson was projected as a top-15 selection in some mock drafts with Reed showing up in the top-25 range.
There’s a chance teams could have passed on one of the defensive linemen early in hopes of getting them at an even better value later. Also, the knock on Robinson and Reed is that they offer little in terms of pass rushing along the interior of the defensive line. That’s something the duo must fight against once they begin playing in the league.
Turning the page to today’s Day 2 of the draft, we could see a flurry of Alabama guys fly off the board. Along with Ragland, Reed and Robinson, Kenyan Drake, Cyrus Jones and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry are all in play for the second day of the draft.
The Cleveland Browns have the first pick of the second round (No. 32), and ClevelandBrowns.com senior staff writer Andrew Gribble listed three Crimson Tide players as names to watch with the Browns on the clock.
ESPN’s Todd McShay tabbed Ragland and Reed as two of the top three best prospects available while Robinson checked in at No. 9 on the list.
In a second-round mock draft posted Friday morning, CBSSports.com draft analyst Dane Brugler predicted that four Alabama players would go in the second round — Robinson, Henry, Ragland and Reed.
While things didn’t go Alabama’s way on day one, expect to see a lot of former Alabama players be drafted on day two.