Alabama continues to produce first-round NFL talent at an absurdly high rate.
As Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft came to an end late on Thursday night, the Tide had added three more players to its impressive total (44) under head coach Nick Saban, who’s been with the program since 2007. Those three guys include quarterback Bryce Young, edge rusher Will Anderson and running back Jahmyr Gibbs.
The recruiting success hasn’t slowed down in recent years, and Alabama still has Saban at the helm. At this point, there’s no reason to believe that Tuscaloosa won’t continue to be a first-round NFL factory. That’s why we’re trying to predict every first-round pick on the Crimson Tide’s 2023 roster. This isn’t easy to do, but we’re going to give it the old college try.
Keep in mind that positional value matters in this exercise. Safeties, running backs and off-ball linebackers usually aren’t as valued as other positions such as offensive tackles, pass rushers and cornerbacks. That certainly affects the perception of certainly players, but it’s also not crippling. So let’s get started, shall we?
2024 NFL Draft
OT JC Latham: There’s a lot to like about Latham. Despite not getting much postseason recognition as one of Alabama’s starting tackles, he’s still viewed as a probable Day 1 draft pick for 2024. His size (6-foot-6, 335 pounds) is best suited on the right side, which I believe is his best position for the next level. If that’s true, will being viewed exclusively as a right tackle negatively affect his draft ceiling? Either way, he’s got the look of a future first-round pick. It just might not be in the top 10.
CB Kool-Aid McKinstry: McKinstry’s draft status could hinge on how well he tests in an NFL Combine-like setting. The first-round size and length (6-1, 195) are already there. I also don’t think his straight-line speed will be an issue. I do, however, wonder how he’ll look going through agility drills and an on-field workout. Don’t get me wrong, McKinstry is easily one of the best cornerbacks in college football. But NFL teams can sometimes overthink production. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen in this case.
EDGE Dallas Turner: Turner had a down season statistically (only four sacks, 37 pressures), but I still think he’ll be viewed favorably by NFL scouts. Pass rushers are at a premium in the NFL, and there’s tremendous upside here. At 6-4, 242 pounds, Turner is better suited to play edge in an odd-man front. It’s a scheme that would better utilize his effectiveness dropping into coverage. With that said, he’ll be drafted in the first round because of his ability to get after the quarterback. Expect a bounce-back season.
WR Malik Benson: This pick might currently feel like a stretch with as loaded as Alabama’s wide receiver room looks heading into this summer. There are currently 6-7 different guys vying for playing time, and we’re still not sure what to even expect from the quarterback position. I believe in Benson’s game-breaking ability though. He’s put together like a first-round wide receiver, and I think he’ll emerge as such at some point in 2023. If that happens, don’t be surprised if he’s a one-and-done player.
2025 NFL Draft
OL Tyler Booker: I feel really good about Booker’s chances of emerging as a first-round draft pick in 2025. After playing 429 snaps with one start as a freshman, he’s slated to be one of Alabama’s two starting guards this season. His value could benefit if NFL teams think he can also play tackle, but either way, he’s got the look of a future Day 1 pick. He’s big (6-5, 335), athletic, physical and mean. He’ll already be one of the top interior linemen in college football as a sophomore.
IDL Jaheim Oatis: Oatis had a successful first season at Alabama. Not only did he lose 100 pounds, but he also played 295 snaps while starting 10 of a possible 12 games. Georgia’s Jordan Davis had a similar blend of size and athleticism, and he went in the top 15 of the 2022 draft. NFL teams love these freakishly big defensive linemen who can also move and be disruptive. If he continues on his current path, he’ll be a first-round pick in two years.
WR Isaiah Bond: I considered putting Law here instead, but the NFL rarely applies first-round value to those thick, muscular receivers who play more like running backs. I mean, just look at AJ Brown and Deebo Samuel, both of whom fell to Day 2. I can see Bond getting drafted higher, but Law outperforming him on the next level. They’ll both be good though. I know Bond didn’t have his best A-Day performance, but I remain sky high on his potential. Plus, he’s got two years to figure it all out.
2026 NFL Draft
DB Caleb Downs: Of all of these predictions, this feels like the easiest one. And if it’s not, it’s close. Yes, the NFL doesn’t value safeties as much as other positions, but Downs is an exception to that rule. I mean, we just saw the league draft two running backs — including Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs — amongst the top-12 picks on Thursday night. That’s normally not a valued position either, but the talents available were the exceptions to the rule. I don’t see 32 teams passing on what all Downs can provide a defense.
RB Justice Haynes: Once again, this isn’t a valued position by the NFL, but that doesn’t mean running backs can’t get drafted in the first round. There’s usually at least one, and Haynes has as good of a chance as any runner to be that guy. The buzz he’s created this spring has been nothing short of spectacular. Plus, his ability to be a three-down guy — without any issues as a runner, receiver or pass protector — will only help his chances of hearing his name called on Thursday night.
EDGE Keon Keeley: Keeley isn’t even on campus, and yet, I still feel good about his chances of eventually being a first-round pick. As we’ve already mentioned, you won’t find a more coveted position on the defensive side of the football than guys who can get after the quarterback. Well, maybe there’s an argument to be made for corners, but I digress. Keeley already has great size (245 pounds) and elite length (6-5 1/2). Plus, he’s explosive and violent. There’s a reason he was rated the No. 2 overall player in the 2023 On3 Industry Rankings.
OT Kadyn Proctor: Proctor is a rare breed of offensive lineman. First off, there aren’t many guys out there who can match his sheer size (6-7, 354). He’s obviously a “first guy off the bus” type of player, but don’t worry, the five-star offensive tackle plays like Tarzan, too. I think he could benefit from dropping 10-15 pounds, but he still looks like someone who’s going to be playing on Sundays. I’m sure some teams will view him as a right tackle or interior lineman, but I also think he can survive on the blindside.
DL James Smith: Like several of the other guys being projected as first-round picks for 2026, Smith probably won’t be a starter for Alabama this season. I’ll be shocked if he’s not a part of that defensive line rotation though. There could be questions about his length later on down the road, but he can be a disruptive presence against the run and the pass. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen Alabama field a true five-star interior defensive lineman. I’m excited to find out just how good Smith can be. There’s first-round talent here.
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