The pre-draft roller coaster ride former Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland has endured was to be expected. Will he be taken in the middle of the first round (some popular mock drafts have him landing with Oakland at 14, Los Angeles at 15 or Atlanta at 17) or late (Washington at 21 or Green Bay at 27) as other mocks have predicted?
Ragland can thank his Senior Bowl experiment at outside linebacker as a contributing factor to the wide range of draft slots. Is he an inside guy or can he play as an NFL three-down linebacker?
The answer to his draft slot will be answered on April 28 (assuming he sticks in the first round), but the kind of player he becomes and how good he’ll be, those are longer-term scenarios.
What shouldn’t factor into Ragland’s draft stock: the notion that Alabama linebackers (or more often heard, its defensive players) fall off in the NFL. Hit any message board or nook on Twitter and warnings will hop off the page.
Teams should avoid Ragland, he’ll be a bust just like recent Alabama linebackers.
NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN gave credence to this idea two years ago.
“It is something you have to look at because there have been a host of players out of that Alabama defense that over the years have come in as high draft choices and, frankly, been major disappointments,” Kiper said during a conference call on April 23, 2014.
“Is it a trend?” Kiper continued. “Is it one or two? No, it’s more than that. You go back to Kareem Jackson, Mark Barron. You look at Dre Kirkpatrick, Rolando McClain and his situation. You look at Terrence Cody. The list goes on and on. There is a concern about that, and it’s probably because they’re coached up so well and they’re in a great system.
“They all complement each other. They come into the league thinking they pretty much are as coached as they can be, and basically they’ve hit the ceiling. They’re good as they’re going to get. So there’s not that upside that you see with some of the other guys. Maybe that’s a factor.”
That kind of sounds like the preposterous notion that Alabama’s defense is better skilled and tuned finer than an NFL unit. That fictional tale leads to too many mentions of a top college program knocking off a lowly NFL team in a scrimmage. Ludicrous … that’d never happen, not in a million scrimmages.
Kiper’s comments also knock future Alabama defensive players without taking into account everyone is different. It’s like a normally intelligent person avoiding the new Star Wars movie because Howard the Duck was such a colossal flop. One bad George Lucas movie means they’re all tainted, right?
Ragland shouldn’t be criticized or marked lower on draft lists because McClain, or any other former Crimson Tide linebacker, hasn’t lived up to his draft slot (McClain was the No. 8 overall pick in 2010). What about inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower?
Hightower was the 25th overall pick in 2012, has started all four seasons and was a Pro Football Focus All-Pro in 2014. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley was taken 17th overall in 2014 and finished second in Defensive Rookie of the Year balloting. He was also a Pro-Bowler and a second-team All-NFL pick by the Associated Press.
Derrick Thomas (1989 draft class), Lee Roy Jordan (1963) and Cornelius Bennett (1987) sit atop the Alabama alumni class of linebackers. Between them they share 19 trips to the Pro Bowl, four first-team All-Pro selections and 38 seasons starting in the NFL.
But just because Thomas, Jordan and Bennett add some historical punch to Hightower and Mosley’s recent success, that doesn’t guarantee success for Ragland. It’s just impossibly silly to gauge future success off how former teammates have performed.
A total of 37 linebackers from Alabama have been drafted into the NFL. Some have succeeded, some have flopped. Eleven of those have been selected in the first round, also to go on to achieve varied levels of success.
Let’s hop off the idea that Ragland can’t possibly succeed in the NFL as a first-rounder because Alabama’s track record for defensive players in the pros is questionable. Not only does the attack not hold water, it’s unfair at best, and foolhardy at its worst.