College is over. Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban will send 11 players to the 2015 National Football League’s scouting combine on Feb. 17-23, 2015. Alabama is tied with Louisville for the second-most players invited to compete at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.
Blake Sims, Quarterback, (5-11/223)
Blake Sims will be amongst a cast of other quarterbacks, including Jameis Winston, Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley, and Garrett Grayson, in an attempt to impress NFL scouts at the combine with accuracy, tight spirals and footwork.
The Georgia native finished 2014 exceeding all expectations. Sims guided Alabama to a 12-win season, a Southeastern Conference title and an appearance in the inaugural College Football Playoff. He tossed for 3,487 yards, totaled 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Sims engineered game-saving and game-winning drives for Alabama in 2014. He participated in the 2015 Reese’s Senior Bowl. Sims’s leadership got him through a rough week of practice. His interviews were strong, and he was able to showcase some talent.
Sims totaled 73 yards (50 passing, 23 rushing) and averaged 7.7 yards per carry. He possesses a lot of athleticism, but Sims’s accuracy on throws toward the sidelines must improve. He tends to overthink, which results in issues with ball placement. Sims has a tight spiral, yet he struggles on working through progressions. He has to focus more on using check downs wisely.
T.J. Yeldon, Running Back, (6-2/221)
T.J. Yeldon finished his career at Alabama on a high note. He leaves with 3,322 rushing yards (fourth all-time) and 37 touchdowns (third all-time). Yeldon battled injuries in 2014, but had a productive season nonetheless. He totaled 979 yards and 11 touchdowns on 5.0 yards per carry.
Yeldon is a balanced running back. He’s an exceptional pass catcher and pass protector. Yeldon caught 15 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown in 2014. He chimes in with 46 receptions for 494 yards and two touchdowns for his career. He doesn’t mind picking up blitzing defenders.
Yeldon showed more patience as a runner in 2014. He allowed Alabama’s offensive line to set up lanes for him to make huge plays. Yeldon’s vision and cutback abilities improved as well.
Ball security is the lone aspect Yeldon must improve on at the combine. He tends to fumble balls during critical moments in games. NFL teams are reluctant to draft a back that’s known for fumbles.
Jalston Fowler, Fullback, (5-11/264)
Jalston Fowler is a versatile player. He began his career as a running back at Alabama, until knee injuries caused him to take responsibilities as a fullback. Fowler can run, catch and block exceptionally well. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry, totaling 738 yards and 5 touchdowns in his career. Fowler’s collected seven touchdown receptions at Alabama, including two in 2014.
He guided Alabama’s backs to 206.6 yards per game and 35 touchdowns in 2014. Fowler helped T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry both total 900+ yards rushing. He participated in the 2015 Reese’s Senior Bowl, and had a great week of practice leading up to the game.
Size was an issue with Fowler, prior to the senior bowl. He solved the problem by going on a vegetable diet. Fowler dropped six pounds, placing him at 264 pounds. He assured NFL scouts that he’ll be able to run the ball more at the next level. The question is will Fowler be drafting to a system that will use his abilities as a runner?
Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, (6-1/210)
Amari Cooper was everything for Alabama in 2014. He was Blake Sims’s primary target, a successful blocking receiver, and a solid decoy when needed. Cooper averaged at least eight receptions in 12 games this season. He totaled 200+ receiving yards against Florida, Tennessee and Auburn. Cooper finished 2014 with 124 catches for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns.
He exits as Alabama’s all-time leading receiver, posting 228 catches for 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns. Cooper became the Crimson Tide’s first receiver to win the Fred Biletnikoff Award. He was recognized as an All-American and the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Cooper possesses size, speed and hands. He’s become a keen route runner. His success stems from him reading opposing defenses, and either finding holes in the zone or opening up chances for teammates to produce. Cooper abuses man-to-man coverage, but struggles at times against zone coverage. He has to find ways to explode off the line of scrimmage and pick his spots.
DeAndrew White, Wide Receiver, (6-0/192)
DeAndrew White spent the last two seasons (2013, 2014) opposite side the best receiver in college football. He overcame a knee injury in 2012, and other aliments in 2014, yet White remained the best route runner on Alabama’s roster. He put in six solid performances in 2014, including three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown in Alabama’s 20-13 win over LSU.
White finished 2014 as the team’s second leading receiver. He recorded 40 catches for 504 yards and four touchdowns. His career ends with 94 receptions for 1,294 yards and 12 touchdowns.
He’s a proven deep ball target, but White’s route running abilities could place him more so in the slot in NFL. He dropped some passes this season, but it’s a result of him not being on the field as much as he would like to. White can have a successful pro career as long as he stays healthy.
Christion Jones, Wide Receiver, (5-11/187)
2014 wasn’t the best year for Christion Jones. He wasn’t target much as a receiver, and struggled on special teams until late in the season. He totaled 1,267 all-purpose yards (264 receiving, 152 punt return, 851 kick return) and a touchdown. Jones’s lone touchdown came against Missouri.
He caught three passes for 38 yards in Alabama’s 20-13 victory over LSU. Jones’s career at Alabama ends with 1,000 yards, despite inconsistencies. He’s accounted for 1,030 yards and seven touchdowns on 85 catches. Jones has recorded four touchdowns on special teams. His size makes him a capable slot receiver, but Jones has to be more consistent as a return man.
Austin Shepherd, Offensive Tackle, (6-5/320)
Austin Shepherd put in two solid seasons at right tackle for Alabama. He started all 13 games in 2013 and didn’t allow a sack until the 2014 Sugar Bowl. Shepherd anchored a balanced offensive attack for Alabama in 2013, posting 454.1 yards per game.
He excelled at pass protection in 2014, allowing an average of 0.9 sacks per game. Blake Sims completed at least 70 percent of his passes in five games, including an 85.2 percent completion rating against Missouri in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
Shepherd got reps in at both guard and tackle during the senior bowl. He’s stellar on the outside, but struggles to create leverage at guard. Shepherd’s best suited as an offensive tackle, but he must be well-rounded with every position on the offensive line.
Arie Kouandjio, Offensive Guard, (6-5/315)
Arie Kouandjio was productive at left guard in the last two seasons. Like Shepherd, Kouandjio was a part of Alabama’s offensive line in 2013 that allowed an average of 1.31 sacks per game.
Shepherd’s strength is in pass protection, but Kouandjio’s lies in run blocking. Kouandjio guided Alabama backs to 205.6 yards per game (fourth in the SEC) in 2013. He helped the team achieve 206.6 rushing yards per game and 35 touchdowns in 2014.
Alertness is an area of improvement for Kouandjio. He needs to time a quarterback’s cadence (snap count) and not commit false start penalties. His pass blocking skills need more work too.
Trey DePriest, Inside Linebacker, (6-2/250)
Trey DePriest emerged in the absence of C.J. Mosley. He improved as a leader and a coverage linebacker. DePriest finished third on the team in tackles (88). He totaled 4.5 tackles for loss, three pass breakups, a forced fumble and a safety in 2014. His career at Alabama ends with 237 tackles, two sacks, six pass breakups, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
DePriest is solid against the run, but can improve his pass rushing techniques. He did a good job of tackling in space, but DePriest needs to increase his speed when it comes to defending running backs in the flat.
Xzavier Dickson, Outside Linebacker, (6-3/268)
Xzavier Dickson had a bounce back season in 2014 at outside/jack linebacker. He lead the team in sacks (9.0), and totaled 42 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hurries.
Dickson recorded 91 tackles and 14.0 sacks in his tenure at Alabama. He is exceptional in run support, yet Dickson is deadly coming off the edge. He has an array of pass rush moves, but a question mark lies in the area of motivation. Dickson tends to take plays off, and not put in a full effort. He can’t afford that happen at the combine or in the NFL.
Landon Collins, Defensive Back, (6-0/222)
Landon Collins was a model of consistency in his three seasons at Alabama. He’s solidified himself as a secure tackler on special teams. Collins was Alabama’s anchor on defense in 2014.
He led the team in tackles (103) and put in seven pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, three interceptions and a forced fumble. Collins accounted for 190 tackles, 13 pass breakups, five interceptions, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in his career.
He is a hard hitting safety in pass coverage, but Collins role in run support helped his draft stock in 2014. His ability to step in the box and take on physical running backs is a rare trait for a defensive back at his size. Collins’s speed may need improvement, but the intangibles are there.
|Alabama in the 2015 NFL scouting combine|
|Blake Sims||Quarterback||6th– 7th|
|T.J. Yeldon||Running Back||1st-2nd|
|Amari Cooper||Wide Receiver||1st (3rd overall pick)|
|DeAndrew White||Wide Receiver||3rd-5th|
|Christion Jones||Wide Receiver||4th-5th|
|Austin Shepherd||Offensive Tackle||3rd-5th|
|Arie Kouandjio||Offensive Guard||3rd-4th|
|Landon Collins||Safety||1st (10th overall pick)|