The Alabama Crimson Tide have made a habit of producing several first-round draft picks every year, and this year is no different. In ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.'s mock draft released today, five former Tide players - Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, O.J. Howard, Marlon Humphrey and Cam Robinson - were among the top 32 picks.
Kiper has Allen as the first Alabama player off the board, going No. 3 overall to the Chicago Bears.
I've heard a lot of people discuss whether this pick is worth, say, acquiring a player like Jimmy Garoppolo. I think it's worth remembering that Chicago doesn't have to be in the "Garoppolo or bust" camp. They could try to acquire Tony Romo. They could look to sign Tyrod Taylor, Mike Glennon or another free agent. In any event, I see them as more likely to find a veteran QB and go with a great defensive player here. Allen qualifies as a defensive lineman who can be moved around and create disruption.
Foster also makes the top 10 in Kiper's mock, with the Cincinnati Bengals taking him with the No. 9 overall pick.
Age is starting to catch up to the Bengals in spots on defense, and speed at linebacker has been an issue for a couple of years. At about 240 pounds, Foster isn't a lightweight at linebacker but has the range of a speedy hybrid type. He can fly to the sidelines, and he's an explosive tackler. The Bengals get younger at linebacker and an immediate starter.
The only other prospect Kiper has going in the top 20 is Howard, going No. 18 overall to the Tennessee Titans.
I was between Howard and the next guy off the board (Corey Davis) for this pick, but ended up with Howard for two reasons: One, they need pass-catchers, and Howard is a weapon who doesn't have to take away from Delanie Walker. Put them both on the field; it's just provides Marcus Mariota with more weapons. Two, Walker is 32, and if he gets injured, Howard would provide immediate insurance. Get Howard now and another wide receiver later (or in free agency).
Humphrey went just a few picks later, with Kiper having the Detroit Lions selecting him with the No. 21 pick.
By the time we're done at the combine, I suspect most everyone will see Humphrey as a first-rounder. He has length, strength, speed and bloodlines, and pretty much everyone could use another good cornerback or two in 2017. Detroit certainly qualifies; it's a pretty weak group beyond Darius Slay, and Slay battled some injuries in 2016. The Lions have some good things going, but they need to add some help on defense.
Then Robinson, once projected to be the top overall prospect in this class, went No. 25 to the Houston Texans.
Quarterback play was a problem in 2016, but the offensive line could use some help as well. Robinson, while by no means a lock to be an NFL left tackle, certainly adds to the talent level. He's a powerful run-blocker who needs to clean up some things to reach his potential as a pass-blocker. Regardless of who takes the snaps next year, improved O-line play will help.
There is a chance that pass rusher Tim Williams also goes in the first round, but he dropped out of it in Kiper's mock.
The 2017 NFL Draft will be held April 27-29 in Philadelphia.Back to the Alabama Crimson Tide Newsfeed