Five Alabama juniors have announced their intentions to enter the 2023 NFL Draft. There is still time for more to declare early, with the deadline being Jan. 16, but for now, we take a look at the positions affected by the decisions and the players that benefit the most from them.
Departing junior: Will Anderson
Alabama played three outside ‘backers this past season, and two of them are returning in Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell. Turner should continue to start at Sam, while Braswell steps into the starting Jack role with Anderson turning pro. But beyond the obvious, at least one more ‘backer will need to emerge, as well. Quandarrius Robinson seems like the top candidate entering Year 4 with the Tide. But don’t count out Jeremiah Alexander, who played in four games this year. UA also signed Keon Keeley and Yhonzae Pierre who should compete.
“Dallas Turner, Chris Braswell, Keon – the dude that they just recruited – Quandarrius, Jeremiah, all of those guys are super talented, super good,” said Anderson after declaring for the draft on Monday. “I’m super excited to see what the future holds for them. They’re all gonna be really good, and I can’t wait to see what they do next year.”
Departing junior: Jahmyr Gibbs
Alabama’s leading rusher is leaving, but there is still plenty of experience returning, as well as promising young talent joining the program. Jase McClellan was second on the team in every rushing category and tied Gibbs for the team lead in touchdowns. He should be the Tide’s No. 1 tailback in 2023. Roydell Williams and Jamarion Miller, who both rushed for over 200 yards, are also back and will compete for the No. 2 spot out of the backfield. They will have to hold off the pair of backs UA signed this cycle in Justice Haynes and Richard Young, however.
“It might be better, to be honest, because they’ll have a chance to grow,” said Gibbs when asked about the state of the running back position after his departure. “And Jam, he’ll have more experience. You see what he’s done since he’s getting into games. He’s scored almost every time he touches the ball. I’m gonna be coming back and watching them, for sure.
“Justice Haynes, he’s a done great job since he’s been here. He’s listened to us. He’s asking questions. We’ve helped him. He’s broke off big runs in practice. He’s just doing everything the right way. And I know Richard Young by recruitment. He’s a great kid. I’ve seen him in high school. A very good player.”
Departing junior: Bryce Young
This will be the most-discussed position battle of the offseason. With Young moving on, UA will have a new starting quarterback for the first time in two years, which is sure to garner a lot of attention. The top two challengers are Jalen Milroe, who started once in place of Young, and Ty Simpson. The Tide signed two quarterbacks this cycle in Eli Holstein and Dylan Lonergan, but the race will start with the returners. UA could use Milroe’s athleticism and create problems for defenses, but he will be pushed by Simpson, who now has a full year in the program.
Departing junior: Brian Branch
Malachi Moore makes the most sense to replace Branch at Star because the former filled that role in his first 1.5 seasons at Alabama. But if Moore fills one of the two vacancies at safety, the other options will come into play. We have seen Jahquez Robinson work at Star in the past, and a young guy like Earl Little II could be an interesting option, too. Don’t count out 5-star freshman Caleb Downs, either. Minkah Fitzpatrick stepped into the starting Star position in his first year with the Crimson Tide. Could Downs follow suit and begin his career in the slot?
Departing junior: Eli Ricks
The fifth and final junior to declare for the draft was Ricks, who played in nine games and made five starts before turning pro. Kool-Aid McKinstry will be back, but the starting spot opposite him will be fascinating to see how it plays out. Terrion Arnold is the most experienced returner other than McKinstry with seven starts in 11 appearances, but Alabama has other options, like Little, who tweeted “my turn” after Ricks declared. There’s also Robinson, Antonio Kite and Tre’Quon Fegans, as well as recent signees in Desmond Ricks and Jahlil Hurley.
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Contact Charlie Potter by personal message or on Twitter (@Charlie_Potter).
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