Thursday, Mel Kiper Jr. put out his first mock draft and it was loaded with SEC talent.
But one noticeable absence was skill players from Alabama. Tight end O.J. Howard snuck in at No. 32 to the New England Patriots, but that was it while Ardarius Stewart, the Crimson Tide’s leading receiver, was left out.
Howard received a late-first or early-second round grade from Kiper while Stewart isn’t expected to fall outside of the second round. One reason for that could be that Kiper believes that both guys were “underutilized” in Alabama’s offense with Jalen Hurts at quarterback.
“ArDarius Stewart, you saw him throw the football, that big play in the National Championship Game, another underutilized standout like Howard because of obviously Jalen Hurts wasn’t a prolific passer by any stretch but had a heck of a year quarterbacking as a true freshman,” Kiper said.
Stewart pulled down 54 passes this season but amassed 864 yards, averaging 16 per reception. He also led the team with 8 touchdown catches.
“Right now I have him as the sixth-best receiver,” Kiper said. “He’s got a second-round grade.”
Howard, regardless of his use, is regarded as one of the best tight ends in a very deep tight end draft class. He caught 45 passes for 595 yards and 3 touchdowns this season.
“To me, Howard’s a borderline first,” Kiper said. “I gave him to New England. I could have given David Njoku from Miami to New England, so one of those two tight ends to New England I thought would’ve made sense at that point for the Patriots.”