Former Alabama players Blake Sims, Amari Cooper, Jalston Fowler and Landon Collins arrived in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Saturday to be enshrined into the Denny Chimes Walk of Fame. All four players displayed leadership capabilities and achieved success under head coach Nick Saban.
These men along with others will be at the Chicago Theatre (Chicago, Ill.) on Apr. 28, 2015, as the NFL Draft is now two weeks away. Yours truly of TDAM has a breakdown of possible NFL homes for 13 former Crimson Tide players.
1. WR Amari Cooper
- Size: 6-foot-2, 211 pounds
- 2014 stats: 124 catches, 1,727 yards, 16 touchdowns
- Career stats: 228 catches, 3,463 yards, 31 touchdowns
Summary: Amari Cooper re-wrote Alabama’s history books as a game changing receiver. He was the recipient of the Fred Biletnikoff Award (nation’s best wide receiver), and finished third in the Heisman race in 2014. Cooper was recognized as the Offensive Player of the Year for the Southeastern Conference last season. He doesn’t have world class speed, but he excels at creating space and finishing routes. He’s not afraid to make catches in traffic, and is good with developing confidence in quarterbacks (Blake Sims). Oakland, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis and New Orleans are the organizations that vying for Cooper’s services in the National Football League.
Oakland Raiders– If it drafts Cooper, Oakland could see running back Trent Richardson revive his career. Cooper would help Richardson regain a strong work ethic. Derek Carr, former Fresno State quarterback, had a good rookie season in 2014. He has the physical tools to get it done, but needs a safety valve at receiver.
Atlanta Falcons– Current Falcons’ receiver Julio Jones wants Cooper as a teammate. With Roddy White aging and Harry Douglass gone, Matt Ryan could use another deep threat on the field. Atlanta needs to draft a tight end (Tony Gonzalez, retired), but securing Cooper would give them five receivers: Roddy White, Julio Jones, Devin Hester, Eric Weems and Amari Cooper. The Falcons need pieces on its offensive line and defense. First-year head coach Dan Quinn will have a decision to make on draft day. Will he go after Cooper and built Atlanta’s defense?
Chicago Bears– Chicago suffered a huge blow with star receiver Brandon Marshall signing with the New York Jets. It returns Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett to the fold. The Bears picked up receiver Eddie Royal from San Diego in the offseason. Adding Amari Cooper gives Jay Cutler a huge weapon in the slot. His quickness allows him to get inside cornerbacks.
New Orleans Saints– The bromance between Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham is over, but a new tandem could form if New Orleans was to reel in Amari Cooper. The Saints’ have two physical receivers in Marques Colston (6-foot-4) and Nick Toon (6-foot-4). Brandin Cooks, who stands at 5-foot-10, had a solid year in 2014, but is still learning. Interchanging Cooks and Cooper at slot receiver gives Brees a lot more targets to work with.
2. SS Landon Collins
- Size: 6-foot-0, 228 pounds
- 2014 stats: 103 tackles (4.5 for loss), three interceptions, seven pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble
- Career stats: 190 tackles (8.5 for loss), five interceptions, 13 pass breakups, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one blocked kick
Summary: Landon Collins started his career as a terror on special teams, but developed into an All-American safety. He took on a leadership role in 2014, and was exceptional against the run. Collins was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award (nation’s best defensive back), and was clutch in Alabama’s games against LSU, Mississippi State and Arkansas. His 40-time at 4.53 seconds is good, but dissecting angles is where Collins is most dangerous. He understands the cut-off point for running backs and receivers and has the instincts to make secure tackles in space. Washington, Pittsburgh and Chicago are the three teams that are interested in Collins.
Washington Redskins– Landon Collins idolized the late Sean Taylor as a child. He patterned his game after Taylor’s and watched the Washington Redskins growing up. Washington returns safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback DeAngelo Hall to its secondary, but can use another instinctive, hard-hitting safety. Collins could be the guy for the Redskins.
Pittsburgh Steelers– Troy Polamalu had a great run in Pittsburgh, but his NFL career has come to an end. Landon Collins seems to be the ideal candidate to carry the torch for Pittsburgh as a dominant safety. The Steelers return 32-year-old Will Allen, but it’s time for some new blood in its secondary. Collins would bring stability to Pittsburgh’s secondary.
Chicago Bears– Cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman was a staple in Chicago’s secondary for 11 years (2003-14). He signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers this offseason, after a season-ending triceps injury sidelined him in 2014. The Bears return physical corner Kyle Fuller, but it looks to pair him with a capable safety. It wants Amari Cooper, but Chicago plans to lock up Collins if it can’t select Cooper.
3. RB T.J. Yeldon
- Size: 6-foot-1, 226 pounds
- 2014 stats: 194 carries, 979 yards, 11 touchdowns
- Career Stats: 576 carries, 3,322 yards, 37 touchdowns
Summary: T,J. Yeldon battled injuries last season, but ended his career with 37 rushing touchdowns (third all-time). He totaled 979 yards with 11 scores in 2014, while averaging five yards per carry. Yeldon is a balanced back. He possesses vision, footwork and patience in the hole. His game speed is solid, despite his size. Yeldon excels at catching passes out of the backfield, tallying 46 receptions for 494 yards and two scores in three seasons at Alabama.
Ball security and pass protection are two issues for Yeldon. He tends to throw his shoulders at defenders instead of squaring them in pass protection. Yeldon’s upright running style has resulted in 10 lost fumbles throughout his career. He needs to lower his pad level, while securing the ball. A few NFL teams like what they see in Yeldon, but Dallas wants to draft him.
Dallas Cowboys– DeMarco Murray was a stud at running back last season. He led the NFL in rushing, accounting for 1,845 yards in 2014. His 13 rushing touchdowns tied him for most in the league. Murray was named NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press and Pro Football Writers of America. He signed a five-year contract worth $42 million with the Philadelphia Eagles on Mar. 12, 2015. Dallas is pursuing former Minnesota Vikings running back and native Texian Adrian Peterson, but owner Jerry Jones likes Yeldon.
4. FB Jalston Fowler
- Size: 5-foot-11, 254 pounds
- 2014 stats: 12 carries, 69 yards/11 catches, 129 yards, two touchdowns
- Career stats: 113 carries, 738 yards, five touchdowns/19 catches, 150 yards, seven touchdowns
Summary: Senior executive director Phil Savage (Reese’s Senior Bowl) called Jalston Fowler “a general manager’s dream.” He can do it all at fullback. Fowler is a smooth runner, capable blocker and solid pass catcher. He assured NFL scouts that he would be faster at the next level. Fowler went on a vegetable diet after the season ended and dropped six pounds. He continued his training, and entered the NFL Combine weighing 254 pounds, a 16-pound difference from where he was at the start of the 2014 college football season (270). He battled injuries throughout his career, yet managed to total 738 rushing yards and 150 receiving yards. No specific team has launched an all out pursuit for Foster, but there some organizations that loved his production at Alabama.
5. OG Arie Kouandjio
- Size: 6-foot-5, 310 pounds
- 2014 stats: 1.14 sacks allowed, 206.6 rushing yards, 484.5 total yards
Summary: Left guard Arie Kouandjio was a monster at run blocking for Alabama in 2014. He guided the Crimson Tide’s backs to 206.6 yards per game, netting an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Koaundjio did a nice job of using his hands to seal defensive linemen, allowing the backs to access running lanes. Consistent footwork is an area of concern for Kouandjio. He has a tendency to drag his feet, and not explode off the ball. He’s a capable offensive lineman that’s projected to go in the second or third round, but he needs to improve his footwork.
6. OT Austin Shepherd
- Size: 6-foot-4, 315 pounds
- 2014 stats: 1.14 sacks allowed, 484.5 total yards (206.6 rushing, 277.9 passing), 32 passing touchdowns, 35 rushing touchdowns
Summary: Right tackle Austin Shepherd had a solid career at Alabama. He didn’t allow a sack in the 2013 season, until the 2014 Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. Shepherd anchored an offensive line that allowed 1.31 sacks per game in 2013. He returned as a senior in 2014, an helped the Crimson Tide average 484.5 yards offensively. Shepherd was exceptional at pass protection, as Alabama allowed and average of 1.14 sacks per game last season. He does a good job of striking with his hands and shielding defenders away from the quarterback.Shepherd is a blue-collar offensive lineman that doesn’t mind taking on linebackers at the next level. Footwork is an area where improvement is needed.
Other players looking to be drafted: QB Blake Sims (5th-6th round), WR DeAndrew White (4th-5th round), WR Christion Jones (5th-6th round), OLB Xzavier Dickson (3rd-5th round), FS Nick Perry (6th round), ILB Trey DePriest (4th-5th round), TE Brian Vogler (5th-7th round), FS Jarrick Williams (7th-FA), OL Leon Brown (7th-FA) and DT Brandon Ivory (7th-FA),