In a recent trend, the Washington Redskins have shown an affinity to the boys of Tuscaloosa. Since 2015, the Redskins have added six players from the University of Alabama, including their last two first-rounders in defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne.  Considering that this doubles all other collegiate programs on the team (Oklahoma and Virginia Tech are second with three), it’s clear that our front office loves those ‘Bama boys.   

Nick Saban with quarterback Jalen Hurts. Photo Credit: John Bazemore Associated Press

On paper, what’s not to like? The Crimson Tide regularly compete for National Championships,  and often have their pick of the litter in terms of high school prospects. Not to mention their (soon to be) Hall of Fame Coach who has won six national titles and has accumulated a record of 127-20 over his 11 year tenure with the program. Simply put, you go to Alabama to win.

 

But does that make you a good pro? This leads to today’s argument. Are Alabama players good investments on the professional level? Or have they already met their full potential under the nation’s most premier program?

Pros and Cons

Alabama players are known for being pro-ready. They run complex, professional level schemes (especially on defense) and are known for notoriously hard practices. Our very own Ryan Anderson inadvertently caused a stir when he said that Alabama practices “are definitely a little bit rougher than here” during an interview with NBC sports last summer. At first, twitter debates erupted and fans questioned “what exactly are we doing down in Richmond”? But ultimately this mentality was viewed as a good thing. The more ‘Bama players the better. I mean, if they practice harder and continuously win, they must be doing something right. 

2017 Washington Draft Picks Ryan Anderson (Left) and Jonathan Allen Photo Credit: Doug Kapustin Washington Post

So one would assume that selecting Alabama players would be a no brainer then, right? Not so fast. Critics of the program argue that these prospects have “maxed out” and essentially have a glass ceiling in terms of growth. With the pedigree of Saban, you can assume he clearly is squeezing all the talent he can as he develops these young men to potential pros. And, considering he routinely has a top 10 recruiting class, and in-effect a star studded lineup, would any of these players be good “standalone”?  These are all fair questions.

Since the Redskins have now invested two first rounders on Alabama products (high capital in NFL terms), I wanted to do a little research on if the juice was worth the squeeze in terms of Alabama draft picks.

The Research

I began looking at the Saban era that began when he was first hired in 2007. I learned that over his 11 year stint, he has had 65 players selected in the NFL Draft. Twenty-Two of these players were selected in the first round.

Due to the high volume of players, I wanted to simply focus on first round picks to keep the analysis manageable. I decided to focus on a five year time span, the years 2011-2015. My rationale was the first few draft classes under the Saban era weren’t truly “his” due to the fact that he did not recruit these players and did not have the full four years to develop them. I also excluded the 2016 and 2017 class, since these prospects are still developing and have yet to reach their full potential. I felt it was unfair to deem a player a bust with such a short track record. 

Considering this, there were 14 Alabama draft picks selected in the first round between 2011 and 2015. I evaluated their stats/accomplishments and then categorized their standing in the league in three tiers: “High End Hits”, “Solid Starters” and “Major Misses”.

“Hits” would be considered as players who have reached the Pro Bowl and have shown an elite level of play in the NFL. “Solid Starters” are exactly as they sound, but I put an emphasis on availability. All of the starters mentioned are expected to play when healthy and are therefore solid contributors. “Misses” are simply players who did not reach their potential.

The goal was to determine whether Alabama players reward the team that selects them. Take a look at the data charts and analysis and see if you agree. Feel free to chime in on the comments section, I’m always up for dialogue.

High End Hits

Name: Draft Year and Selection Accomplishments
1. Marcell Dareus 2011, 3rd Pick

2X Pro Bowler (2013 and 2014)

All Pro 2014

36 Sacks, 223 Tackles

2. Julio Jones 2011, 6th Pick

5X Pro Bowler

2X All Pro (2015 and 2016)

585 receptions, 9054 YDs, 43 Tds

3. Mark Ingram 2011, 28th Pick

2X Pro Bowler (2014, 2017)

5362 rushing yards, 44 Tds

207 Rec, 1428 receiving yards, 4 Tds

4. Dont’a Hightower 2012, 25th Pick

2016 Pro Bowl

2016 2nd Team All Pro

386 Tackles, 19 Sacks

Torn Pectoral 2017, Placed on IR Week 5

5.

Ha Ha

Clinton-Dix

2014, 21st

2016 Pro Bowl

2nd Team All Pro

351 Tackles, 4.5 Sacks, 11 INTS

6. CJ Mosley 2014, 17th

3X Pro Bowler

3X Second Team All-Pro ‘14,’16,’17

474 Tackles, 9 Sacks, 8 Ints, 7 FF

7. Amari Cooper 2015, 5th

2X Pro Bowler

203 receptions, 2,903 yds, 18TDs

Two 1000 yd seasons

Solid Starters

Name: Draft Year and Selection Accomplishments
1. Mark Barron 2012, 7th Pick 568 Tackles, 8 Sacks, 8 Interceptions, 4 FF

Regular Starter on Los Angeles Rams

2. Dre Kirkpatrick 2012, 17th Pick 228 Tackles, 2 Sacks, 10 Int’s, 52 Pass deflections

Regular Starter on Cincinnati Bengals 

3. James Carpenter 2011, 25th Pick Started 87 of 93 Games at LG.

Currently the starter for the New York Jets

 

Major Misses

Name: Draft Year and Selection Accomplishments
1. Dee Milliner 2013, 9th Pick 63 Tackles, 3 Int’s

No longer in the NFL

2. Chase Wormack 2013, 10th Pick 58 Games played, 50 Starts

Started 3 games last season

3. D.J. Fluker 2013, 11th Pick Peaked as 2013 All Rookie Team

Started 6 games for the Giants last year

4. Trent Richardson 2012, 3rd Pick Four NFL Teams

2,032 Rushing Yards, 3.3 YPC

Currently plays for Saskatchewan Rough Riders of the CFL

Breakdown

Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley celebrates after returning a fourth-quarter interception for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 26. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)
High-End Hit 7 of 14 Prospects 50%
Major Miss 4 of 14 Prospects 28%
Solid Starter 3 of 14 Prospects 21%

 

Reviewing the data, you find that of the 14 players selected in the first round, seven of the Alabama products have gone on to reward their investors. These players not only start on their respective teams, but have performed at an All-Star level and achieved Pro Bowl status. In addition to producing on the field, their status of an All-Star brings the team legitimacy and notoriety. So that’s a win. 

(Getty Images)

And that’s not even taking into account the gravity of these successful draft picks. One of Alabama’s most famous products, Julio Jones, is arguably one of the top 3 wideouts in the league. Baltimore’s CJ Mosley has also proven to be one of the premier linebackers in the league. He has achieved second-team All Pro on three separate occasions; meaning he was voted as the second best inside linebacker in the league by the Associated Press, Sporting News, and the Pro Football Writers of America. These ‘Bama boys are tearing up the league. 

Strengthening my argument further, you see that in addition to the seven hits mentioned above, you have three more starters that regularly contribute. Mark Barron was the starting inside linebacker on an 11-win Los Angeles Rams team, and was an athletic chess piece for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. He was drafted in 2012. That’s a solid return in investment for an NFL franchise. Considering that 10 of the 14 draft picks (71%) are still playing, producing, and are staples of their team, proves that the Alabama draft pool is a safe one to swim. You can do far worse going in a different direction.

Considering this, the Redskins should have no problem rolling with the tide as first round investments. If past draft classes are any indication, Payne and Allen should prove to be solid staples of the Redskins program for years to come. And there is a high likelihood that at least one makes a pro bowl appearance.  

 

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