Stuart McNair

Alabama led the way in having high picks in this year’s NFL draft

Alabama will always have more good players coming along to fill vacancies

A one-armed man can’t be an attorney because of the lawyer’s legendary penchant for preparing his client with the disclaimer, “on the one hand... and on the other hand...”

So what about this deal of having 10 players taken in the 2017 NFL draft? What does it mean for Alabama football? There are ramifications, mostly good for the long term success of the Crimson Tide.

But, on the one hand, it leaves a big hole for the 2018 Crimson Tide, particularly on defense where seven of the 10 losses to the NFL occurred. On the other hand, this has been part of the Bama formula for attracting top prospects in recruiting. “Come to Alabama and we’ll develop you into an NFL player.” Who could argue against results?

Over the past nine drafts, the Bama teams of Coach Nick Saban have seen 65 Tide players drafted, including 22 in the first round.

The 2017 draft was one of the most impressive with the 10 players selected the most in the Saban era and tied for most in Alabama history. (The other 10-player draft from Bama came in a 32-round draft in 1945. Alabama’s 10 players were all taken in the first four rounds this year.) The most previous from Saban teams was nine in the 2013 draft.

The 10 players taken this year are:

Marlon Humphrey (Baltimore, Round 1), Jonathan Allen (Washington, Round 1), O.J. Howard (Tampa Bay, Round 1), Reuben Foster (San Francisco, Round 1), Cam Robinson (Jacksonville, Round 2), Ryan Anderson (Washington, Round 2), Dalvin Tomlinson (New York Giants, Round 2), Tim Williams (Baltimore, Round 3), ArDarius Stewart (New York Jets, Round 3), and Eddie Jackson (Chicago, Round 4).

No team equaled Bama’s four selections in the first round this year, and Alabama’s nine selections in the first three rounds was the most of any school. The seven Crimson Tide players chosen in in the first 55 picks on Thursday and Friday is a new draft record. The nine Alabama selections in the first 80 picks is also a first in NFL draft history.

Undrafted and signed as free agents to date are wide receiver Gehrig Dieter by Kansas City, offensive lineman Korren Kirven by Tampa Bay, and long snapper Cole Mazza by New York Jets. Others listed as possibilities are placekicker Adam Griffith, defensive lineman Dakota Ball, and offensive linemen Alphonse Taylor and Brandon Greene.

"I think it's wonderful," Saban said, "and speaks volumes of our ability to help players develop and play at a high level and to be able to recruit some talented players that have an opportunity to develop and be someone that has a career as a football player in the NFL. It excites me and it's great for our program that every one of these guys get drafted as high as possible because they've done a fantastic job for us. They've won a lot of games.

"We certainly didn't finish the season like we'd like, and I think if you talked to any one of them, they'd be disappointed in that because it would have put an explanation mark on their career at The University. But our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families so that they get the best opportunity possible."

With Alabama in the lead, the Southeastern Conference had 53 players drafted, making it the 11th consecutive year the SEC led all conferences in players picked. The SEC had 11 more selections than runner-up ACC.

Among other SEC teams, Florida and LSU had 8 drafted, Tennessee 6, Texas A&M 5, Auburn and Ole Miss 4 each, Arkansas 3, Vanderbilt 2, and Georgia, Missouri, and Mississippi State 1 each. Neither Kentucky nor South Carolina had a player selected.

As for replacing the lost performers, it’s part of college football. Players move on, whether to the NFL or to other careers. Saban is not caught off guard when he loses players to the draft. His recruiting has been established as best in the nation over the past decade, and there will be players with excellent credentials who have been in the development program to move in for the departed Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, O.J. Howard, etc.

Alabama has put itself in a position of not only being able to recruit top players, but also demonstrating to them the importance of patience, waiting their time to move into those slots before becoming part of the next wave of NFL draftees.

Although Alabama doesn’t have to limit its recruiting to competing against SEC teams, the obvious advantage Saban and his recruiting staff have is this ongoing superiority in getting players into the NFL. Regardless of all the reasons players select a college, there is no player recruited by the Tide who doesn’t hope to one day play professional football. No college team can guarantee that result, but it is obvious the NFL likes the way Alabama prepares the players – both in the pro style of play and in the development.

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