The 2021 NFL Draft felt like a return to normal with a live crowd and the hugs from the commissioner. One aspect of the NFL Draft that has been normal is the Alabama Crimson Tide dominated the Draft. There were several surprises for most of the picks of the Draft that includes the Tide players. Alabama had six players selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft as projected. This ties the 2004 NFL Draft when the Miami Hurricanes had six players drafted in the first round. The way these players were drafted tells a unique story as they go to their new team.
Six Alabama Players Selected in First Round of 2021 NFL Draft
Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith Playing With a Familiar Quarterback
It wasn’t a surprise that wide receiver was the position to go to the first round. Tide wide receivers Waddle and Smith are two elite receivers that were going to be selected high. The Miami Dolphins selected Waddle with the sixth overall pick to be reunited with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Waddle and Tagovailoa were teammates during the 2018 and 2019 College Football seasons. The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Smith with the 10th overall pick to be reunited with quarterback Jalen Hurts. There is deep chemistry between the wide receivers and the quarterbacks on their respective NFL teams. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see these receivers as the number one targets in the 2021 NFL season.
Patrick Surtain II Becomes a Steal for Denver
With so much attention paid on the offensive side of the ball in the first round of the NFL Draft, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see excellent defensive players slip. The actual surprise was that Alabama cornerback Surtain II was not the first defensive player selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. Surtain was drafted by the Denver Broncos with the ninth overall pick, just one spot behind the Carolina Panthers selected South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn. The Panthers definitely selected Horn because of the local connection. The Broncos, on the other hand, get the best man coverage cornerback in this rookie draft class. Surtain is the eighth defensive backs selected in the first round under head coach Nick Saban at Alabama. He is also the highest-drafted Alabama defensive back since Dee Milliner with the ninth overall pick by the New York Jets in 2013.
Mac Jones Gets Selected by New England in the End
Throughout the pre-Draft process, there were many rumors that the San Francisco 49ers traded from the 12th overall pick to third overall to select quarterback Jones. This rumor was met with much criticism that Jones’ traditional style of play and lack of superior athleticism would be difficult to beat more aggressive and faster defenses. Jones slipped in the Draft until he was selected by the New England Patriots with the 15th overall pick. Jones said that the Patriots were the team he wanted to be drafted by all along. The Patriots have now drafted seven Alabama players since 2010. Alabama has had a quarterback drafted in the first round two years in a row. Only Alabama (2020 & 2021) and Oklahoma (2018 with Baker Mayfield & 2019 with Kyler Murray) as the only teams to do in the common draft era.
Raiders Overreached for Alex Leatherwood
There have many surprises in the first round but one of the least surprising was the Las Vegas Raiders overreaching for a prospect. The Raiders drafted offensive tackle/guard Leatherwood with the 17th overall pick. Leatherwood is an outstanding blocker with raw potential and attributes that need to be built. He is the 2020 Outland Award Winner, but he is a project for an NFL team. Within the past couple of Drafts, the Raiders have overreached for a prospect based on raw potential. ESPN’s Matt Miller has Leatherwood ranked as the 69th overall player in the Draft. Leatherwood doesn’t get much love because he isn’t as athletic as the other top offensive linemen in the draft class. The Raiders selected a prospect with a second-or-third round grade in the first round for three consecutive seasons.
Najee Harris Destined for Pittsburgh
One of the least surprising picks was the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting running back Harris with the 24th overall pick. Harris projected to go to the Steelers by many analysts in their mock drafts. He was regarded as the best running back in this entire draft class. Many players on the Steelers and some players in the league have campaigned for Pittsburgh to get Harris. The Steelers’ offense had the least productive rushing offense this past season. Harris is the highest-drafted running back since Alabama’s Josh Jacobs was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the 24th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Harris became the sixth and final Alabama player selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. If healthy and consistent, Harris could have one of the most productive careers in Steelers’ franchise history.
Surprising Tide Snubs
There are always snubs in the first round every year. There was potential for Alabama to have one or two more players selected in the first round that would have surpassed Miami’s six players in 2004. Defensive tackle Christian Barmore is one of the most consistent pass rushers from the interior of the defensive line. Barmore is ranked fifth by ESPN as the best available prospect after round one. There have been recent reports that Barmore is hard to coach or contain within the program, which may be an indication of why he slipped to the second round.
Center Landon Dickerson has been rising due to the efficiency he brings in the interior of the offensive line. This is the first time since 2017 where a center has not been selected in the first round. Dickerson is the eighth-best overall prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft while ESPN has him as the 17th best remaining prospect in this Draft. Look for Dickerson to be likely picked early in the second round to a team needing help in the interior offensive line like the Cincinnati Bengals.