If Sports Illustrated‘s latest projection is anywhere close to accurate, the first half of the first round in April’s NFL draft will be open season on Alabama stars.
The magazine’s Big Board draft projection includes four Alabama players in the top 17, a list that underscores the talent that Nick Saban assembled on his national championship squad.
The Alabama players featured: Minkah Fitzpatrick (third overall, and listed as a safety), wide receiver Calvin Ridley (11th), defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne (13th) and linebacker Rashaan Evans (17th).
Fitzpatrick and Georgia’s Butkus Award-winning linebacker Roquan Smith (seventh) are the only SEC players listed in the top 10. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley tops the list.
Those top four aren’t the only Alabama players earning a spot on the Big Board. Safety Ronnie Harrison is listed at No. 25, which means the Crimson Tide could have five first-rounders.
Georgia and LSU each have three players on the 50-member Big Board. For the Bulldogs, guard Isaiah Wynn (No. 28) and running back Sony Michel (No. 47) join Smith on the list. The Tigers’ trio consists of running back Derrius Guice (No. 27), edge rusher Arden Key (No. 35) and cornerback Donte Jackson (No. 37).
In a noticeable decline from last year’s loaded Florida class, the Gators have just one player, defensive tackle Taven Bryan (No. 26), on the Big Board.
Auburn had two players: cornerback Carlton Davis (No. 33) and running back Kerryon Johnson (No. 41).
Also making the list are South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst (No. 40), Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk (No. 43) and Mississippi State offensive tackle Martinas Rankin (No. 49).
In all, 17 of the 50 players on the Big Board (34 percent) come from the SEC, which leads all conferences. The SEC is followed by the ACC (eight players), Big Ten (seven), Pac-12 (six), Big 12 (four), American Athletic, Conference USA and independents (two each) and MAC and Mountain West (one each).
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