Best NFL draft fits for Alabama prospects
By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Jeremy Bryant
The NFL draft hype is beginning to gain traction now that the college football season is over. The draft will start on April 28 through April 30 in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium. NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper produced his first initial 2022 NFL mock Draft this past week, noting where he believes players will land in the first round.
Kiper has only two players from this year’s University of Alabama team going in the first round, with Evan Neal going to the Houston Texans at No. 3 and Jameson Williams at No. 21 to the New England Patriots. While this is just an estimation of where they might land, top prospects will also have the chance to build their draft stock at the NFL combine that will be held starting March 1.
Here’s a list of the best team fits for the top Crimson Tide players who have declared for the draft:
Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle, Jacksonville Jaguars
Many experts aside including Kiper predict Neal will go first in the draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who ended their season with a 3-14 record. They would be right to place him here, as the Jaguars desperately need to improve their offensive line to protect last year’s first overall pick in Trevor Lawrence. Neal would be the first step in the right direction to begin building around Lawrence with talented pieces as he was sacked 32 times in 2021.
Neal is the best offensive lineman in the draft because of his bruising and athletic ability to go along with his massive frame and can be described as a “people mover.” He would also be vital in making running lanes for their running backs, who hopefully will be back next year at full strength in feature back James Robinson and Travis Etienne, whose seasons ended early with foot injuries.
Jameson Williams, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
Williams has been one of the tougher Alabama prospects to project since he tore his ACL in the National Championship Game against Georgia. If that hadn’t happened, he would go higher in the draft, but the best fit at this point in time would be the Philadelphia Eagles, who hold three first-round picks. The Ohio State transfer finished his lone year at Alabama with more than 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns, according to ESPN.com
There, he’d be paired with former Heisman winner Devonta Smith on the other side to make an explosive duo as both have the ability to take short throws and make them into long gains. While Williams is dangerous in space with the ball, he can also stretch the field by blowing past defenders on vertical routes as there are few players that can run with him. He would give the Eagles the chance to see what Jalen Hurts looks like if he had weapons that could take his lack of arm talent and capitalize on more intermediate routes with his explosiveness.
John Metchie III, Wide Receiver, New England Patriots
On the other side of Williams during a stat-stuffing year was Metchie, who also put up over 1,000 yards in 2021. Metchie has slot receiver size at 6 feet and just under 200 pounds, but he would fit into offensive coordinator Josh Mcdaniels’ offense, who has seemingly found the quarterback of the future in Mac Jones. The Patriots have gotten their six Super Bowl rings on the backs of players in the slot such as Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. Metchie has the route running ability to get open across the middle of the field and is probably a little more physical than the other two, which gives him the attitude to finish off catches with extra yards.
Christian Harris, Linebacker, Las Vegas Raiders
Harris is an interesting prospect given he could help the Raiders in a multitude of ways. He would give them a flash player that uses his nimble ability to stuff the run game, but also has fluid hips to be able to cover tight ends in the passing game. The Raiders linebacking corps featured Denzel Perryman who led the team in tackles, but after that, the talent level at that position drops off. Cory Littleton and K.J. Wright are savvy veterans whose best years are most likely behind them, and the Raiders should start thinking about getting younger and healthier in that department.
Josh Jobe, Defensive Back, Kansas City Chiefs
Jobe is one of those cornerbacks who is what many may call a diamond in the ruff. Jobe has exceptional ability to stand up to the best receivers and play man-to-man defense due to physicality in coverage downfield. He is solid in zone defense with great tackling skills in open space, but he is a gambler as well. Jobe will occasionally jump routes to get a step on the pass coming to make up for his lack of top-end speed with faster receivers.
He likely won’t go in the first couple rounds, but if the chiefs have the chance to grab him then they should not hesitate. The chiefs have struggled in recent years of finding a solid solution in coverage aside from safety Tyrann Mathieu as the team ranked 27th in opponent passing yards in the 2021 regular season.
Brian Robinson Jr. Running Back, Miami Dolphins
In a perfect world Robinson may be most utilized by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but with recent retirement rumors surfacing around Tom Brady the best fit at this time would be the Dolphins. The Dolphins ranked a lowly 30th in team rushing yards among the other 31 teams, according to Fox Sports. Robinson would aid in giving Tua Tagovailoa a solid run game to complement his growing confidence as the team searches for a new head coach.
Robinson may not be a lead back coming right out, but could certainly blossom into something special with his running style and decent catching ability. He is a physical specimen at around 225 pounds who fights through tacklers for extra yards, compared to his former running back mate Damien Harris. Robinson has great vision that helps him be explosive through the hole, and in being patient when waiting for blocks. He doesn’t have the top-flight speed that would make him a home run hitter at the second level of the defense, but he keeps defenders anxious as a brute runner that keeps the chains moving for first downs.
Slade Bolden, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions
Bolden is one that likely will go in the later rounds of the draft as there may not be enough tape to evaluate how good he could be at the next level. Bolden has value in playing slot receiver at the pro level but was subject to being in the shadow of better prospects at Alabama. Bolden showed promise in being a quality possession receiver across the middle of the field. He is not your typical speed slot receiver like John Metchie but makes up for it by being a great red-zone threat inside the 20-yard line.
He also may not be the most athletic but just knows how to get himself open in space for easy throws. The Lions need help right away in giving quarterback Jared Goff healthy weapons to work with in the passing game after the Lions only had three receivers and tight ends play over 12 games in 2021.
Phidarian Mathis. Defensive Lineman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mathis is a versatile lineman who could play a couple of positions in the pros. He is looked at as a defensive tackle because of his size of over 300 pounds, but some believe he could move up and down the line to play nose tackle or defensive end with how quick he moves. He has shown the potential of collapsing the pocket and getting to the quarterback but also has exuded patient run technique on tape for short gains.
Mathis is more of a hybrid lineman that could slide right in for a team like the Buccaneers. They like to switch out fresh bodies that can get to the passer, and play in a lot of blitz packages if defensive coordinator Todd Bowles doesn’t take a head coach opportunity in 2022. Poor defensive play ultimately led to a surprising early exit in this year’s playoffs that saw their defense create minimal pressure on the Los Angeles Rams in their game-winning drive.
The senior bowl is also going to be held Feb. 5 for players to begin boosting their draft stock. Mathis and Brian Robinson Jr. have already entered their names as participating in the event in Mobile, Alabama.