In case anybody doubts whether or not the Alabama Crimson Tide is an NFL factory, look no further than the first round of the NFL Draft. Alabama sent six players to the NFL last night, tying the record for the most players selected in the first round by one school in draft history.
The wave of Alabama players started early. Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle went with the No. 6 overall pick to the Miami Dolphins, pairing him with his former quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was excited by the pick.
Waddle missed nearly all of the 2020 season with an ankle injury, but now is healthy and ready to go. He was expected to be sidelined for the rest of the season to recover and start preparing for the draft, but his work ethic and determination wouldn’t let him stay away. After going ahead of his teammate DeVonta Smith, Waddle said “I love him like my mom had him.” Minutes later, as he was virtually meeting with the media, The Athletic beat reporter Josh Tolentino was able to inform Waddle that Smith was drafted at No. 10. As Tolentino started asking a follow up question, Waddle interrupted excitedly.
“Where’d he end up going?” Waddle asked.
Waddle lit up hearing about his teammate and brother. “He went to Philly?”
When asked about what it meant to him, Waddle was on the verge of tears.
“Ah man, it’s just a moment you get to share with your brother. It’s just, tremendous. It’s a lot of emotion. I almost feel like I’m tearing up, and Smitty’s not a real emotional guy, but it’s a special moment to share with your brother.”
One pick before Smith, cornerback Patrick Surtain II went at No. 9 to Denver, despite the perceived rumors of Denver needing a quarterback. According NFL Network’s Michael Silver, the Broncos “loved Justin Fields, but loved Patrick Surtain even more, so they took him.”
At No. 15, Michael McCorkle Jones became the fifth quarterback selected in the draft, landing in New England. He has an opportunity to be the new franchise quarterback for the winningest NFL franchise of the last two decades.
Two picks later at No. 17, the Las Vegas Raiders addressed their offensive line needs by taking polarizing offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood. By most, he was considered a Day 2 pick, but the Raiders took their gamble on the physical lineman.
Finally, at No. 24, running back Najee Harris went to the black and gold in Pittsburgh as the first running back taken. At a beastly 230 pounds, this is not just a “big running back.” This is a nimble, athletic, pass-catching back that is also big enough and fast enough to run people over.
Alabama continues to do what they do, which is operate as a magnet for top recruits, and as a direct pipeline of top-tier prospects to the NFL. Love them or hate them, but they are the chief supplier of NFL talent.