An extraordinary aspect of analyses of the upcoming NFL draft is the large number of high quality defensive linemen available this year. And among the dozen or so defensive linemen who have earned potential first round grades are two who were members of Alabama’s 2015 national championship football team.
Alabama’s defensive front last year was anchored by junior A’Shawn Robinson (6-4, 312) and senior Jarran Reed (6-4, 313) and there is speculation both could go in the first round.
Robinson isn’t joining in that speculation. “It is what it is,” he said following Alabama’s Pro Day Wednesday. “Whatever a team wants. We don't get to decide where we want to go and everything. All these mock drafts or whatever don't mean anything until a team needs a pick. We don't know where we're going, or what round we're going in. We're just out here trying to play football.”
He also said he and Reed and not in competition. “It's about pushing each, and getting each other better,” he said. “It doesn't matter who goes first. We want the best for each other. It doesn't really matter who goes first or who goes where. We're just trying to make the best of our opportunity, and be the best at our positions.
“We push each other day in, day in. Coach Bo (Davis) took nothing less from us. Us two being side-by-side, we've been the two best players in the country since he (Reed) came in before my sophomore year. We always push each other to be the best in the country. We came out here and the coaches saw that we could do everything. We showed explosiveness, quickness off the ball, great effort. I feel like we did a great job out here.”
Longtime Southeastern Conference defensive coach Pete Jenkins now works with potential NFL players in Baton Rouge, and both Robinson and Reed are working with him. Robinson said he and Reed have worked on their pass rush technique under Jenkins. “I feel like I’ve taken a lot of steps in the right direction,” he said.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban was asked about how Robinson and Reed can separate themselves from this deep class of defensive tackles, perhaps a dozen with a first round grade for the upcoming NFL draft.
Saban said, “I don’t who those guys are. I really don’t. And I can’t compare our guys to other guys. But I know the two players that we have are really, really good players; they played on one of the best defenses in the country; and they were both bellcows and great leaders and affected other guys on the team in a positive way; and I think they have tremendous size, tremendous ability. I think whoever gets them, wherever they get picked, they are going to have a great career.”
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said, “ I love them. They’re both in my top five. It’s the best interior line class I’ve ever seen, and both of those kids are going to play early and often and play for 10 years.”
That deep class has some wondering how defensive linemen can separate themselves from the herd. Mayock said, “They just have to keep doing what they do. That’s kind of the credo around here at Alabama. It’s a process. You take it one day at a time, and that’s what they’re doing. They keep checking boxes. Reed goes to the Senior Bowl and every day, every snap he plays his tail off. You don’t really have to worry about the ups and downs of guys that come out of this process of Nick Saban.”