After long wait, Alabama nets four first-round selections in NFL Draft
It took some time, but by the wee hours of Thursday night’s NFL Draft, four former Alabama players found a new home. Defensive back Marlon Humphrey, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, tight end O.J. Howard and linebacker Reuben Foster all heard their names called, allowing the Crimson Tide to tie a SEC record four first-round selections in a single year.
Alabama netted four first-round picks for the third time in school history, also accomplishing the feat in 2011 and 2012. The Tide joins Auburn (2005) and LSU (2007) as the only SEC programs to have four players taken in the first round in the same year.
While the night ended sweetly for Alabama, the Tide had to sweat things early on Thursday night. After having as many as three projected first-round selections in several mock drafts, Alabama didn’t have a player drafted until Humphrey went to the Baltimore Ravens with the No. 16 pick overall.
Humphrey’s selection got things rolling for Alabama, which then saw Allen drafted with the following pick, going No. 17 overall to the Washington Redskins. Two picks later, Howard was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the No. 19 pick overall. After a long wait, Foster wrapped up the night as he was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the No. 31 overall pick.
Humphrey, who earned first-team All-America recognition by the Football Writers Association of America, tallied two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, with five pass breakups last season. He recorded a 4.41 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. In Baltimore, he will join up with former Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Allen, a Leesburg, Va., native, landed with his hometown team despite suffering a big slide on the night. Projected as a possible top-five pick heading into the draft, concerns over labral tears in both of his shoulders scared off several NFL teams. Despite the condition, Allen was informed by doctors that effects from the injuries shouldn’t arise until 15-20 years down the road.
If Allen is able to stay healthy, he should develop into a steal for the Redskins. Last season, the 6-foot-3, 286-pound defensive lineman earned the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Ted Hendricks Award and Lombardi Award after leading Alabama in sacks (10.5) and quarterback hurries (15). Allen also finished tied for second on the team with 16 tackles for a loss and recovered three fumbles, two of which he returned for touchdowns. He was voted one of Alabama’s four permanent team captains by his teammates. With Washington, he will play with former Alabama offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio.
Another top-10 projection, Howard was also passed over before being snatched up by the Buccaneers. The 6-foot-6, 251-pound tight end is viewed as the most complete prospect at his position. During the NFL combine, he posted a 4.51 time in the 40-yard dash while recording 22 bench-press reps.
Underutilized at Alabama, Howard tallied 595 yards and three touchdowns on 45 receptions last season. He has been compared to Carolina Panthers Pro-Bowl tight end Greg Olsen and is thought to be one of the steals of the first round by several draft analysts. Howard will be reacquainted with former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims, who serves on Tampa Bay’s scout team.
The most puzzling drop came from Foster, who was projected as a top-10 pick and thought by some to be the most talented Alabama player in the draft. The Butkus Award winner led Alabama with 115 tackles while tallying 13 tackles for a loss, five sacks and eight quarterback hurries last season. He was also voted as one of the Tide’s four permanent team captains by his teammates.
However, the 6-foot, 229-pound linebacker raised several red flags for NFL teams off the field. Foster underwent surgery on a torn right rotator cuff earlier this offseason, preventing him from participating in the NFL combine. He was then sent home from the event after getting into a heated argument with a hospital worker and later admitted to failing a drug test due to a diluted urine sample.
During an interview with ESPN on Tuesday, he said his shoulder is at “100 percent” and claimed he would be ready for training camp. He also explained the failed drug test, blaming it on being sick and drinking an excessive amount of fluids before the combine.
NFL Network reported Thursday night that Foster's medical re-check revealed more serious issues with his shoulder.
The NFL Draft will resume Friday night with the second and third rounds starting at 6 p.m. CT. Offensive lineman Cam Robinson, linebackers Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams, defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson and wide receiver ArDarius Stewart are all Alabama players who could hear their names called.