Last season, the Alabama Crimson Tide had one of the most dominating defenses at the college level in recent memory. It led them all the way to a NCAA Championship and now there are plenty of players expecting to go early in the draft.
Not only are a good chunk of them expected to go early, but a lot of them are also expected to go in the first or second rounds.
Alabama held its pro day on March 9 and all 32 teams had representatives present to see the players workout, once again. Two of the biggest names on the defensive side of the ball were the team’s defensive tackles, Jarran Reed and A'Shawn Robinson. These two players are both expected to be first-round picks and are atop one of the deepest defensive tackle classes that has been seen in a long time, possibly ever.
It has been noted that the Minnesota Vikings could target a defensive tackle in this year’s draft because of the depth, but both of these players will likely be off the board by the time the Vikings pick at No. 23 overall. Even if they were still on the board there are bigger needs on the roster than defensive tackle, so it’s hard to believe they would take one in the first round.
There is another Alabama defender in this draft that is expected to go in the first round that the Vikings could select, though, and that is middle linebacker Reggie Ragland. Now, the Vikings already have a middle linebacker in Eric Kendricks, but it is important to remember that head coach Mike Zimmer originally said that the long-term plan could be to move Kendricks to the weak side.
Kendricks is undersized for a middle linebacker and he excels in pass coverage, making him perfect for the weak side. Also, with Chad Greenway still not re-signed and expected to retire in the next year, Ragland could be the perfect replacement.
Ragland is the prototypical middle linebacker that is able to step up into a hole, shed the lead blocker and bring down the ball carrier. That is the type of player that the Vikings need in the middle of their defense because when they struggled it usually seemed to come against the bigger, stronger running backs they would face.
The 6-foot-1, 248-pound linebacker was asked to redo the three-cone drill at his pro day and recorded a time of 7.55 seconds. He also participated in positional drills, which were run by New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, and it was reported he looked good. Ragland appeared to be very comfortable during the drills and was able to move around and make transitions on the field with ease.
It would be a little surprising if the Vikings took a middle linebacker in the first round of the draft, but if they want to address that position Ragland would be the player to take. The biggest question, though, is whether or not he will still be available when the Vikings are on the clock.
Another Alabama defender that the Vikings could target in this year’s draft is cornerback Cyrus Jones. He did not have the best year last season as he got beat deep too many times, but there would not be any rush to have him start, because of all the depth the Vikings have at cornerback. Instead, he is a player that could sit for a season or two, learn from Zimmer and then compete for a spot when one opens up.
Jones is expected to go in one of the middle to late rounds and could be a great value pick for the team that drafts him. He proved to be a quick defender with great ball skills during his pro day workout. He also has the ability to contribute on special teams, especially the return game.
Alabama seems to consistently produce NFL talent on the defensive side of the ball and this past season was no different. There are multiple players expected to go early and the Vikings could be a team in the mix for selecting them.