Scouting the SEC: Alabama

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

As we move towards the 2017 season, the Crimson Tide are once again the favorites to win the national title. And once again defense will lead Alabama on the field and in NFL war rooms.

Defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shows himself to be an overwhelming force in the middle of the line, disrupting the action or creating opportunities for teammates as opponents focus on him. Powerful, he bullrushes opponents off the line and can be impossible to stop.

Payne is also a little one-dimensional in his game, as he’s a small area defender who isn't much of a pass rusher. He doesn't consistently play with proper pad level and must improve his hand technique.

Some scouts grade him as the top prospect in the nation regardless of class­­, but I disagree.

I like Payne as a potential top-12 pick but feel he really needs to improve the nuances of his position before I stamp him as a top-five choice.

Conversely I believe Da'Shawn Hand, graded as a middle-round pick by scouts, is underrated and has a great upside.

Though Hand does not possess the size or power of his teammate, he’s decidedly more athletic and a much better pass rusher. Hand fires off the snap, plays with excellent pad level and gets a lot of momentum going up the field. He must improve his playing strength and, based on recent news, he must also mature as a person.

As is usually the case, Alabama has numbers in the secondary.

Versatile Minkah Fitzpatrick is an athletic prospect with a developing game.

Aggressive, he fires up the field, willingly throws his pads into the pile and gives effort defending the run or screen passes. He’s fluid, stays on the receiver's hip out of breaks and shows next-level ball skills.

I expect Fitzpatrick to enter next April’s draft and end up as a mid-first round choice.

The same will likely be the case with safety Ronnie Harrison, who isn't as athletic as Fitzpatrick but is a much more developed defensive back in my opinion.

Harrison is an instinctive defender who does a great job recognizing and anticipating plays. Against the pass he possesses solid ball skills and effectively plays over the slot receiver on occasion. Defending the run, Harrison is tough as nails and is a secure open-field tackler.

And on top of all this, Harrison is a terrific special-teams player on coverage units.

While Harrison plays athletic football, I don’t especially expect blazing 40 times from him during the combine or private workouts. I do believe he can start in a variety of systems at the next level, and he grades as a top half of Round 1 pick.

Anthony Averett has been stamped as a second-day pick in some areas of the scouting community, a grade I agree with.

Averett offers decent size and speed numbers and solid ball skills and competes in all areas of the game. He’s a strong open-field tackler who is best facing the action. I’ve pegged him as a third-round choice and feel Averett is best in a zone system.

On offense I like what I see from junior receiver Calvin Ridley.

Ridley is quick and elusive and has a nice burst. He possesses soft hands, snatches the ball from the air and is very effective running after the catch. Ridley has decent size but is not a true deep threat. He has enough ability to grow into a No. 2 receiver at the next level.

I also like junior offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher.

The Tide's starting guard is a nice-sized blocker with growth potential. Fundamentally sound, he sets with a wide base and blocks with good knee bend, exploding off the snap then annihilating opponents. Pierschbacher is marginally effective blocking in motion but offers starting potential at the next level.

Unlike some I don’t rate running back Bo Scarbrough as an early-round pick.

Scarbrough is a powerful downhill runner who easily breaks tackles. That being the case, he’s a straight-line ball carrier who cannot cut back against the grain and loses a lot of momentum changing direction. He also has a long injury history including a pair of torn ACLs and two broken legs, the most recent of which occurred in January’s title contest against Clemson.

Alabama

Grade

Rnd

Full Name

Pos

#

Yr

4.13

1st

Da'Ron Payne

DT

94

3Jr

4.04

1st

Minkah Fitzpatrick

CB

29

3Jr

4.03

1st

Ronnie Harrison

S

15

3Jr

3.88

2nd

Da'Shawn Hand

DE

9

4Sr

3.86

2nd

Calvin Ridley

WR

3

3Jr

3.69

3rd

Ross Pierschbacher

G

71

4Jr

3.66

3rd

Anthony Averett

CB

28

5Sr

3.57

4th

Alan Evans

ILB

32

4Sr

3.49

4-5

Tony Brown

CB

2

4Sr

3.48

4-5

Shaun Hamilton

ILB

20

4Sr

3.46

5th

Bo Scarbrough

RB

9

4Jr

3.45

5th

John Scott

P

15

4Sr

3.44

5th

Damien Harris

RB

34

3Jr

3.32

6-7

Hootie Jones

S

6

4Sr

3.28

7th

Robert Foster

WR

1

5Sr

3.15

FA

Hale Hentges

TE

84

3Jr

2.99

FA

Bradley Bozeman

C

75

5Sr

2.73

FA

Joshua Frazier

DT

69

4Sr