TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football is used to having multiple players leave school early for the NFL draft.
Next season, Alabama could have as many as six players enter the draft after three years in Tuscaloosa. Here’s a look at which players will be faced with that decision a year from now:
DB Minkah Fitzpatrick
Minkah Fitzpatrick has the versatility NFL coaches love. He’s a player who can line up at cornerback, nickel defensive back and safety and not lose a step.
It’s a credit to Fitzpatrick’s football IQ that he was able to juggle all of those positions as a sophomore.
That IQ along with his natural ability has Fitzpatrick on the verge of becoming the best defensive back during Nick Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa.
Fitzpatrick also is a ballhawk with a nose for the end zone. In two years, Fitzpatrick has intercepted eight passes and returned four for touchdowns.
WR Calvin Ridley
Calvin Ridley was severely underused this season, but expect his production to rise in his junior year (Julio Jones and Amari Cooper had “sophomore slumps” as well).
Ridley is one of the most electric playmakers when the ball is in his hands. Through two years, Ridley has 1,814 receiving yards and 14 reception touchdowns.
With ArDarius Stewart leaving early, we should see more of the passing offense run through Ridley next season.
RB Damien Harris
Given the shelf-life for running backs, it wouldn’t be a shock if Harris made the jump to the league after three years in Tuscaloosa.
Harris had a strong sophomore season, rushing for 1,040 yards and 2 touchdowns while averaging 7.2 yards per carry. Harris is a complete running back who runs hard, catches the ball well and is a good blocker. It’s a big reason why he earned the starting spot this season.
When healthy, Harris also had big-play ability as he showed with at least one run of 20-plus yards in seven of Alabama’s games.
RB Bo Scarbrough
Bo Scarbrough technically could have gone pro after this season. He’s three years removed from high school, and was putting together a great run in the playoff before getting hurt (leg fracture vs. Clemson). But that’s Scarbrough’s biggest knock to this point of his career: durability.
Scarbrough has had some type of injury each year dating back to his school days. Scarbrough has two years of eligibility left, but given his injury history, it may make sense to enter the draft after next season if he finishes the year healthy.
DL Da’Ron Payne
Da’Ron Payne is an animal in the middle of Alabama’s run defense. You won’t see the flashy stats, but he’s in the trenches taking on double teams so the linebackers and other lineman can make the plays.
Even as the NFL has become more focused on up-tempo offenses, a lot of teams still want a run stuffer in the middle.
If Payne continues improving on his pass-rush ability, he could develop into a high draft pick.
Safety Ronnie Harrison
In his first season as a starter, Ronnie Harrison finished second on the team with 86 total tackles. Harrison also added 1.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions (1 returned for touchdown), 2 fumble recoveries (1 returned for touchdown) and 7 pass breakups.
Harrison is an immensely talented player who plays with a lot of passion. At times, he needs to do a better job of channeling that energy and passion to avoid getting mixed up in trash talk from opponents.
Heading into his junior season, Harrison will need to improve in pass coverage when matched up against tight ends or running backs. If he can show growth against the pass, Harrison could become a top pick.