TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — We’re just a few days removed from the 2016 NFL Draft and a lot of the contracts haven’t even been signed. But it’s time to move on.
Let’s get an early jump on some of Alabama’s 2017 pro prospects.
Alabama had just one player go in the first round of this year’s draft (center Ryan Kelly), but the Crimson Tide could have anywhere from three to five players hear their names called on Day 1 this time next year.
Right now, Alabama has multiple senior players ranked among the top-5 prospects at their positions, according to CBSSports.com. In his recently released 2017 mock draft, CBSSports.com draft analyst Dane Brugler had six Alabama players going in the first round of next year’s draft, including three in the top-15.
- Tim Williams: Despite only playing in a pass-rushing role last season, there are plenty of people who believe Williams could have tested well enough to be a late first-round pick this year. Williams has elite passing rushing ability (10.5 sacks) with a first step that gives offensive tackles nightmares. He’ll step into a more prominent role this season which should help his stock even more. CBSSports.com ranks Williams as the top senior outside linebacker prospect.
- Jonathan Allen: Allen’s decision to return to Tuscaloosa for his senior season was a bit of a surprise, but Alabama’s coaching staff and fans sure aren’t complaining. Allen is one of those defensive linemen who can both stop the run and rush the passer (12 sacks last season), which makes him a valuable commodity. He’s the top-rated senior defensive end in this class.
- Eddie Jackson: Jackson came into his own last year in his first season at safety. He showed great ball skills (six interceptions) and a knack for the end zone (two interceptions returned for touchdowns). He’s the top-rated senior at the strong safety position.
- Reuben Foster: Alabama has produced some great linebacker prospects over the years, and Foster has the chance to be as good or better as all of them. He can tackle, he can cover and he can blitz. Foster is the top-rated inside linebacker prospect.
- O.J. Howard: Howard’s decision to return was a bit shocking considering how little Alabama used him during his first three years. Maybe that changes this season following his 200-yard, two-touchdown performance in the national championship game. Either way, Howard’s best attributes — size, speed and being a matchup nightmare — won’t really change with another year in college. Howard needs to use this season to show he can be a go-to threat in the passing game which would help him move up from the No. 2 senior tight end to No. 1.
- Dalvin Tomlinson: Injuries and being overshadowed by other teammates have let Tomlinson play under the radar a little bit throughout his career. But he’ll be one of the starters along the defensive line this season, and could have a breakout campaign. He’s the No. 2 senior defensive tackle prospect.
- Ryan Anderson: Anderson is one of the more underrated players on Alabama’s defense. He’s physical enough to set the edge against the run, and rush the passer (six sacks). Anderson is the fifth-best senior outside linebacker prospect.
- Cole Mazza: Mazza has basically been starting for Alabama’s special teams since he stepped on campus. He’s the No. 1 long snapper.
- Adam Griffith: Griffith has had some ups and downs throughout his career, but when he’s on, he’s a really good kicker as he showed down the stretch of Alabama’s national championship run last season. He’s the No. 2 senior kicker.
- Dakota Ball: Ball has played both tight end and defensive line throughout his career. He spent the spring as a defensive lineman. He’s rated as the No. 5 senior fullback prospect.
Underclassman who could make the jump
Cam Robinson: Barring anything unforeseen, Robinson is as good as gone following his junior campaign. He’s started every game over the last two seasons, and there won’t be much more for him to prove after a third year of starting in Tuscaloosa. Injuries slowed Robinson down last season, but if he’s healthy, look for the Louisiana native to be one of the top overall prospects in this class. In his super-early 2017 mock draft, CBSSports.com’s Brugler had Robinson going fourth overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“With the long-term futures of Luke Joeckel and Kelvin Beachum in question, Robinson could be the new cornerstone of this offensive line,” Brugler wrote in his mock.