It’s a different kind of NFL combine this year in Indianapolis.
Actually that’s an understatement.
First off, the combine is back after not being held last year due to COVID-19 concerns.
Second, it may not be back again in Indianapolis for a while. Dallas is making a strong push to host next year, with Los Angeles also making a bid. If successful, the combine could start moving around from venue to venue like the NFL draft has recently done.
Third, there are no quarterbacks at the top of everyone’s draft boards. Only one time during the past seven drafts did a player from another position get selected first overall, Myles Garrett by the Browns in 2017.
Finally, Alabama could have a player selected first overall for the first time since Harry Gilmer in 1948 (with Joe Namath the first-ever pick in the AFL Draft in 1965). Left tackle Evan Neal seems like he’d be a good fit for the Jacksonville Jaguars, although Ikem Ekwonu of North Carolina State is sort of the flavor of the month.
However, after having a record-tying six first-round selections last year, only one other player is getting much first-round buzz, wide receiver Jameson Williams.
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“In a world where he doesn’t get hurt, he’s a top-10 pick,” NFL Network Analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “But coming off of an ACL you would think there would be a full recovery there, and that could end up being — man, it could end up being a tremendous value for somebody towards the bottom of the first round if he ends up sliding down there.”
Overall, the Crimson Tide has 11 players invited to Indianapolis, but maybe only half will go through drills due to injuries and other factors. Some will do interviews with teams and then wait to perform during Alabama’s Pro Day on March 30.
The 2022 NFL Draft will be held April 28-30 in Las Vegas.
For the specifics on combine, including the drills and TV information, check out: Everything You Need to Know About the 2022 NFL Combine; How to Watch
This will keep track of what the former Crimson Tide players did and said in Indianapolis:
Alabama Crimson Tide at 2022 NFL Combine
Alabama Crimson Tide at the 2022 NFL Combine
Allen might be among the overlooked players in Indianapolis after missing the 2021 season with a foot injury.
However, he confirmed the rumors that he almost made it make to play in the National Championship Game.
“I was pretty close, but it just didn’t work out,” he said.
In 2020, Allen was a second-team All-SEC selection by league coaches after leading the SEC in tackles for a loss with 13. Overall, he had 41 total tackles, six sacks two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery .
“I felt like my 2020 season was pretty good,” Allen said per 247Sports. “I felt like I would have blew that season up out the water if I would have played this year, and that’s just something that I’ve tried to explain to the teams.
“Although I couldn’t show them physically, I did my best to show them mentally where I was back then and mentally where I am now and why those two seasons would have looked totally different based off of what I know now about schemes, just about pass protections and sets about linemen.”
40-Yard Dash 4.39 (tied for sixth fastest among cornerbacks)
Bench Press 14
Vertical Jump 34.5
The wide receiver told reporters he thinks he can be utilized like Julian Edelman or Wes Welker were with the New England Patriots, as he played a similar role at Alabama.
Granted, he had just 42 catches for 408 receiving yards and three touchdowns last season, but worked under former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
Getting drafted by New England would re-unite him with his former roommate, Mac Jones.
“He’s a different guy, but in a good way,” Bolden said of Jones. “He’s fun, he’s goofy, he’s fun to be around. You all saw him at the Pro Bowl and how he was acting. That’s how he’s always been.”
As for his decision not to return to Alabama, Bolden said: “I got a masters degree in business and was kind of schooled-out, to be honest.”
40 Yard Dash 4.66
Vertical Jump 32
Broad Jump 116
When asked which current NFL player he compared to Harris picked San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner, who many considered to be the best coverage linebacker in the game.
“He plays sideline to sideline, does really well in coverage and he’s a leader of the defense,” Harris said per SteelersNow. “That’s what I’m trying to do myself as well; I really idolize myself after him, because he’s a really great player.”
Although Harris may not have had the season many expected, he finished strong for the Crimson Tide, including the National Championship Game. Overall, he was only fifth in team tackles with 79, but had 12.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
It’s also easy to forget that this was just his third year playing linebacker.
“I was playing corner from ninth grade to 12th grade and in my little league years, I was playing safety, so knowing where to put my eyes and how to play the ball comes naturally to me,” he said. “I think that gives me an advantage over a lot of guys; I just have to transition that into focusing on how read keys and blocks.”
Harris’ athleticism figures to be a real strength at the combine, which in theory should only help his draft grade. So should being a starter for Nick Saban.
“I treat it like a business, because that’s what it is at the end of the day,” Harris said. “You expect it to be hard, and that competitive nature has to come naturally, because it’s so hard to coach that.”
40-Yard Dash: 4.44 (second-fastest among linebackers)
Vertical Jump 34.5
Broad Jump 132
Vertical Jump 23.5
Broad Jump 109
20 Yd Shuttle 4.91
John Metchie III
It didn’t take long for the wide receiver to be asked by NFL media if things may have been different in the CFP Championship Game had Metchie been healthy and Jameson Williams not been injured against Georgia.
“I definitely think if we were healthy for that game, things could be different, of course,” Metchie said. “It was tough seeing (Williams) go down, especially having just gone through it myself.”
Two other things he said turned heads during his interview session with reporters:
1) Metchie said he expects to be medically cleared by June from his ACL tear suffered in the SEC Championship Game.
2) He talked up his blocking.
“I think I’m the best blocker too in this class. But no, I think it’s the pride we all have at Alabama. Not just me when I was there, but if you watch all the guys, even Smitty (Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith) was going out there and getting some nice blocks.
“It’s something we take pride in and something we talk about in the room a lot. It’s all about pride and not only playing with the ball, but also playing just as well without the ball and having a big impact without the ball as well.”
So what would it mean for Evan Neal to be the first player selected in the NFL Draft?
“It would mean everything,” he said. “You have a whole lot of Alabama players that were worthy of having the No. 1 spot, and for that to be me, that’d be extremely special. I feel like the whole state of Alabama would be proud. The University of Alabama would definitely be proud for sure.”
The Crimson Tide hasn’t had a played selected first overall since Harry Gilmer in 1948. Joe Namath was taken first overall in the initial AFL draft in 1965.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have the first overall selection and could certainly use some offensive line help. However, North Carolina State’s Ickey Ekwonu is one of a couple of other players the Jaguars are likely considering.
“I bring versatility,” Neal said. “You can pretty much plug me in anyplace other than center. I had 39 starts at Alabama, started as a true freshman, and I have a lot of game experience for sure. I learned to be versatile. Sometimes not everything is the way you want it but you do what is best for the team. I feel like it all helped me out in the long run for sure.
“I was recruited as the number one offensive tackle coming out of high school but immediately got moved to left guard and I just embraced it. I did my best. I anticipated playing left tackle my sophomore year but I moved to the right side. It had its own challenges but I embraced it. Junior year, left tackle. I’ll play wherever I’m asked. I see myself as a tackle for sure but like I said I’ll do whatever my team needs me to do.”
If he doesn’t go first, the Houston Texans would make a lot of sense at No. 3 overall.
The first-overall selection is slated to make $41.5 million, including a signing bonus of $27.3 million. The second pick will land $39.6 million ($26 million bonus), and third will get a $38.4 million deal ($25.1 million).
“Wherever I get drafted I’ll be extremely happy,” Neal said. “What prospect would’t want to go number one? That would be a dream come true for sure. But whatever team calls my name I will be extremely happy and extremely grateful.
“I feel like I’ll be able to come in and make an impact immediately like I did at Alabama. Everything will present its challenges and I’m going to have my growing pains, but as I get acclimated to the speed of the game I feel like for sure I’ll be able to make that adjustment.”
Brian Robinson Jr.
Brian Robinson Discusses What He Brings to the NFL: ‘I Can Pretty Much Do Anything’
40-Yard Dash: 4.53
Vertical Jump: 30
Broad Jump: 119
The wide receiver has watched the play he suffered a torn ACL in the National Championship Game numerous times, but still isn’t sure what caused his injury.
“I just couldn’t believe it happened to me,” he said. “It was something I never thought could happen to me.”
Ironically, the combine is being held at the same site in Indianapolis. Williams downplayed being back, but did say: “I felt like we would’ve won the game,” had he not gotten hurt. “Just … things happen, you know?”
Williams said he’s six weeks out of surgery and has been walking without a brace or crutches since mid-February. The initial timetable for a return to football was five to seven months, which makes him iffy for training camp, but so far he’s ahead of schedule.
“Hopefully things keep going on this track and we’ll be back as soon as possible,” Williams said.
This story will be regularly updated until the combine concludes
SEE ALSO: Five Alabama Questions Heading into the NFL Combine
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