TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Given the way Alabama football recruits, having players leave after their junior seasons is expected at this point.
This year, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley, Da’Ron Payne, Ronnie Harrison and Bo Scarbrough all decided to forgo their senior seasons to enter the NFL draft.
Alabama has now had 28 players leave early for the NFL during Nick Saban’s tenure, with 14 of the previous 23 being drafted in the first round while four were second-round selections. The 2018 NFL Draft will take place April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
That said, here’s an early look at some rising juniors who could have decisions to make after the 2018 season.
Terrell Lewis, LB
Terrell Lewis remains one of the biggest question marks on Alabama’s entire defense. He has all the makings of an elite pass rusher, but an elbow injury in the season opener against Florida State slowed his development.
Lewis needs to become more technically sound this offseason, but if Alabama turns him loose in 2018, he could put up the big sack numbers NFL teams love.
Mack Wilson, LB
When healthy, Mack Wilson proved to be a playmaking inside linebacker. Wilson finished the year with 40 tackles while managing to play in 12 games despite dealing with a right foot injury.
It was his team-high 4 interceptions that impressed the most. Wilson also returned an interception for a touchdown in Alabama’s semifinal matchup with Clemson.
If he can stay healthy all year, look for Wilson to be Alabama’s next great inside linebacker.
Raekwon Davis, DE
Raekwon Davis exploded on the scene as a sophomore this past season, finishing third on the team with 69 tackles. Davis led the team with 8.5 sacks and finished second with 10.5 tackles for loss. He also added an interception and a fumble recovery.
Another season like that could have Davis being mentioned as a first-round pick. He is both physically imposing and moves incredibly well while towering over people at 6-foot-7.
There were times when Davis flashed as Alabama’s best defensive lineman. If he can continue to improve his technique, look out, college football.
Saivion Smith, DB
Saivion Smith, a junior college transfer who began his career at LSU, worked with the team during some of the College Football Playoff bowl practices, which should be huge for his development.
At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Smith has the measurables to be an elite cornerback. If he can come in and learn the defense, look for him to lock down one side of the field.
Alabama needs Smith to make an immediate impact with both Levi Wallace and Anthony Averett exhausting their eligibility.