Seven Tide players depart early for 2019 NFL Draft

Seven Tide players depart early for 2019 NFL Draft
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Every offseason is the same for many high-caliber programs in college football where they experience high turnover in players. The Alabama Crimson Tide are one of the top teams in the nation in terms of accounting for wins and readying players for the NFL Draft. Last year, the Crimson Tide had five players depart early for the 2018 NFL Draft. Three of those players, wide receiver Calvin Ridley, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, and defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne were selected in the 1st round. Within a week of their 44-16 loss to the Clemson Tigers in the national championship game, seven Tide players declared for the 2019 NFL Draft. This is the most early departures in one off-season since after the 2015 season for the 2016 NFL Draft.

Quinnen Williams – defensive tackle

The most notable of the departures is Williams. Not only was he the most explosive defender for Alabama, but he was also one of the strongest in the nation. This past season, Williams accounted for 71 total tackles, 45 solo tackles, 20 tackles for loss, and eight sacks. He was nominated for the Chuck Bednarik Award for the nation’s defender of the year. He also won the 2018 Outland Trophy award. Williams presents a rare blend of explosive speed and agility off the ball and is extremely smart and aggressive in his pass rush. He is currently the second rated prospect and projected to be selected fourth overall to the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are a team that needs a defensive leader and juggernaut after trading defensive end/linebacker Khalil Mack during the season.

Jonah Williams – offensive tackle

Williams has been destined for the NFL since he first started in his freshman year of 2016 against USC. He is one of the most consistent run blockers and pass protectors in the nation and in the draft. Since his very first game at Alabama, he has been the most reliable blocker and a leader of the Tide’s offense. Williams has played many different offensive philosophies under different coordinators from Lane Kiffin, Brian Daboll, and Mike Locksley. Williams possesses strength, power, speed, stamina, a great mind, motor, and reaction. All these attributes make him the potential top offensive tackle in this draft and the seventh overall prospect by CBS Sports. Williams projects to go as high as the sixth overall pick to the New York Giants, a team that needs a more stable and consistent offensive line than a new quarterback.

Irv Smith Jr. – tight end

Much like his father, the Alabama junior tight end is looking to become a first round NFL selection. Smith has been one of the dynamic and productive receivers for the Tide this season. He has accounted for 44 receptions for 710 yards and seven and averages 16.1 yards per reception. While Smith may not have the tall frame that big tight ends usually have, he possesses great speed and power. Smith is one of the best route running tight ends in this 2019 NFL drafts. He can be a part of many NFL offenses as they try to create faster tempos. Smith is regarded by some as the second best tight end prospect in this Draft behind Iowa’s Noah Fant. Smith projects to be selected in the middle of the 2nd round.

Josh Jacobs – running back

There was no shortage of high performance running backs this season for the Alabama Crimson Tide. There was, however, a huge difference between Josh Jacobs and the other two main backs. Jacobs rushed for 640 yards and 11 touchdowns on 120 carries and averaged 5.3 yards per rush. He was also a huge impact player in the passing game as he caught 20 receptions for 247 yards and three touchdowns. While he doesn’t possess the fast speed that many backs possess, he is an explosive breakout player in open space. His favorable traits of great route running, great hands, and elusiveness make a very valuable target in the passing game. With many teams using a running back/extra receiver combo like Alvin Kamara is for the New Orleans Saints, he is a potential high-pick. He could go as high as 25th overall to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Saivion Smith – cornerback

The Tide had to replace eight of their starters from the 2017 college football season including all their defensive backs. It took some growing pains but the Alabama defensive backs eventually found their sync. Of all the new starters in the defensive backs, only safety Deionte Thompson and cornerback Saivion Smith were the most consistent. Smith accounted for 60 total tackles, 36 solo tackles, three interceptions with one returned for a touchdown, and six pass deflections in his only season playing for the Tide. Instead of staying for his senior season and likely be the defensive leader for Alabama next season, he shockingly leaves early. While Smith has great coverage skills and size at 6-1, there isn’t much film for scouts to with. Smith projects to be a late-round selection where he’ll need a strong performance in the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine and in Alabama’s Pro Day.

Mack Wilson – inside linebacker

Going into the 2018 season, Mack Wilson was the most experienced defensive player for the Crimson Tide. Wilson had the ability to develop his raw talent in his senior season with Alabama. Last season, he accounted for 65 total tackles, 33 solo tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, and five pass deflections. Wilson can be used in any package on defense. He possess good range as a run stopper, athletic ability to play in zone coverage, and awareness. Often, Wilson isn’t the most reliable player in zone coverage or pursuing runners in angles. He is currently the second rated inside linebacker and projected as high as 31st overall to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Deionte Thompson – safety

Of all the new starters going into the 2018 season for Alabama, the least concerning player coming in was Thompson. He started through the 2017 playoffs while filling for injured starters. Thompson accounted for 78 total tackles, 47 solo tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, six pass deflections, and three forced fumbles. Thompson is a hard-hitting safety with great size, speed, and length to move well in coverage. He can tackle against stout run offense efficiently. He ranks 12th overall in some mock drafts for this year and could be the top safety prospect. Some analysts have Thompson selected high in the draft to defenses who need overall defensive leadership and talent. One of those teams are as high as 12th overall to the Green Bay Packers.