There are several difficulties in attempting to guess how the NFL Draft is going to play out, making most Mock Drafts an exercise only in curiosity. To be sure, those who make those predictions do plenty of work, and they have to.
It is one thing to know who are the good players. By the time the draft has arrived — Thursday night from Philadelphia — everyone involved will have the measurables and the intangibles. General managers and scouts of the NFL teams and those who make the Mock Drafts also know the needs of the teams.
But in the draft, one unexpected selection can change the outcome going forward, as can teams making trades for draft choices.
There are college football fans who put those players moving on to the NFL in the rear view mirror, but the draft and future NFL success also has an effect on the alma maters.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban gets plenty of recruiting help from the history of his Crimson Tide players being high draft choices. Every prospect recruited by Bama has a hope to one day to play professionally, and the success of Alabama in the draft plays into the recruiting decisions made by those future college players.
As for those in the NFL pool, there is the widely-recognized benefit of having played for Saban and Alabama when the draft comes up. All things being near equal, a professional team is more likely to take a former Crimson Tide player over one who has played in a less successful program.
Crimson Tide players get plenty of attention leading up to the draft as pro scouts are welcomed at Bama practices and for meetings with Alabama coaches, including the coach at the top.
There is good reason to believe that Alabama will again dominate the first round of the NFL draft.
At least five Alabama players are expected to go in the first round and some may be the first taken at their positions.
Notably, middle linebacker Reuben Foster expected to be the first at his position selected.
Also expected to be a first round draft choice, and possibly the first at his position taken, is offensive tackle Cam Robinson, an early defectee from Alabama to the draft pool.
Jonathan Allen is being listed as either a defensive end (if taken by a team using a 3-4 defense) or tackle (if chosen by a team using a 4-3). The first defensive end to be chosen is Myles Garrett, who played at Texas A&M, but Allen is listed first taken as a tackle.
Also a first round pick and possibly first taken at his position will be tight end O.J. Howard.
The fifth Alabama alum expected to go in the first round is cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who played only two years for the Tide before opting for a possible NFL career.
There is an outside chance that outside linebacker Tim Williams could slip into the first round, but off-the-field issues have most mock drafts putting him in the second round, and possible even the third.
Bama’s other outside linebacker graduate is Ryan Anderson, who helped himself in post-season opportunities. He’s considered a likely second round selection.
Wide receiver ArDarius Stewart, who elected to leave Bama with a year of eligibility remaining, is expected to either late in the second round or early in the third.
Dalvin Tomlinson, who played opposite Allen on Alabama’s defensive line, is expected to be taken, probably in the third or fourth round.
Korren Kirven, who started his Alabama career as a defensive lineman, played a bit at offensive tackle, and finished his career as Bama’s starting right guard, is expected to go the free agent route, but could be picked up in a late round.
Gehrig Dieter was a graduate transfer to Alabama, playing one year as the slot receiver after having played at Bowling Green. He performed well in skill drills for the pros, but nevertheless is expected to be a free agent.
Two Alabama specialists who are not expected to be drafted but have an opportunity in free agent tryouts are placekicker Adam Griffith and deep snapper Cole Mazza.