Wide receiver Amari Cooper was Alabama’s lone player selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but rounds two through seven witnessed safety Landon Collins, running back T.J. Yeldon, fullback Jalston Fowler, offensive guard Arie Kouandjio, offensive tackle Austin Shepherd and outside linebacker Xzavier Dickson all come off the board.
Collins was selected by the New York Giants as the 33rd pick in the second round. The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Yeldon with the 36th pick. Jalston Fowler was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the fourth round (108th pick). Arie Kouandjio was chosen in the fourth round (112th pick) by the Washington Redskins. Austin Shepherd and Xzavier Dickson both were taken in the seventh round. Shepherd to the Minnesota Vikings. Dickson to the New England Patriots.
Landon Collins anchored Alabama’s defense last season. He led the team in tackles (103), and totaled seven pass breakups, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. Collins tallied 190 stops, 13 pass breakups, five interceptions, four fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and a blocked kick in his career. He excels as a secure tackler in run support, and takes solid angles to make plays in space. Collins has exceptional ball skills.
The New York Giants have playmakers in its secondary with cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but the addition of Landon Collins brings a different element. He can cover and tackle exceptionally well. Collins has a strong work ethic, and has displayed leadership skills in his three seasons in Tuscaloosa (2012-14).
He needs to improve his hip movements when positioning his body in coverage, but Collins is a solid pick for the Giants. Collins to New York Giants–Overall [A]
T.J. Yeldon was a workhorse in his tenure at Alabama. He recorded 979 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on five yards per carry in 2014. Yeldon saw action in 13 games last season, despite sustaining knee and ankle injuries. His career ended with 3,322 yards and 37 touchdowns on 5.8 yards per carry. Yeldon displays vision, patience, speed and power as a running back.
Yeldon joins the likes of Fred Taylor (1998-08) and Maurice Jones-Drew (2006-13) as players that were featured at running back for Jacksonville. Yeldon has the capabilities to be productive in the NFL, but needs to stay healthy and improve on ball security. He tends to run upright, which allows the ball and his body to be vulnerable to big hits. Jacksonville is putting talent around second-year quarterback Blake Bortles, and having Yeldon at running back is important. Yeldon to Jacksonville–Overall [B]
Jalston Fowler did some of everything for Alabama as a running back/fullback. He caught 11 passes for 129 yards with two touchdowns in 2014. Fowler is a solid runner, willing blocker and exceptional pass catcher coming out of the backfield (seven career touchdown receptions). He accounted for 738 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 6.5 yards per carry in his career. Fowler battled knee injuries early on, but showed determination and toughness as a team player. He dropped 16 pounds in the offseason to assure NFL scouts that he was fast enough for the pros.
The Tennessee Titans selected Fowler in the fourth round. The move brings relevance to Titans’ running back Bishop Sankey. Sankey now has a fullback to lead him into holes with technique blocking. Sankey is questionable in pass protection, but Fowler does it well. If Marcus Mariota is to start in the fall, he will have a back that can take on blitzing defenders and give him time to throw the ball. Tennessee drafted other weapons, including receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and running back David Cobb, but Fowler brings dependability and a balanced work ethic. Fowler to Tennessee–Overall [A]
Arie Kouandjio was a decent pass blocker, but a dominant run blocker. He guided Alabama’s backs to 206.6 rushing yards per game with 35 touchdowns last season. Kouandjio led the way for two backs that nearly totaled 1,000 yards in 2014 (Yeldon 979, Henry 990). He uses his hands well, and does a nice job of getting to the second level of a defense. Koaundjio’s footwork is an issue. He tends to not explode off the ball consistently. Knee injuries limited him early on at Alabama, but he persevered and was a part of two national championship teams (2011, 2012).
The Washington Redskins rolled the dice and selected Kouandjio in the fourth round. Washington needed a left guard to protect Robert Griffin III, and provide lanes for running back Alfred Morris. The combination of Kouandjio and former Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff should bode well for the Redskins. Kouandjio just needs to improve his footwork. Kouandjio to Washington–Overall [B]
Austin Shepherd was reliable at right tackle in his last two seasons at Alabama. He didn’t allow a sack in 2013, and he anchored an offensive line that allowed an average of 1.14 sack per game last season. Shepherd is a good pass blocker when he is on an island by himself. He strikes well with his hands, and uses his leverage to shield defenders away from the quarterback. Shepherd is rarely talked about, yet he has a workman’s mentality.
The Minnesota Vikings took Shepherd off the board in the seventh round. Vikings’ quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looks to build on a productive rookie season. The addition of Shepherd gives Minnesota a solidified pass protector as well as run blocker. He was a member of an Alabama offensive line that averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2014. Shepherd played right tackle, but saw action at right guard in the 2015 Reese’s Senior Bowl. He won’t be a starter in year one, but Shepherd will make his mark on the Vikings’ organization.
Shepherd to Minnesota–Overall [B]
The relationship between New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban is strong. New England ended its draft by selecting former Alabama outside linebacker Xzavier Dickson in the seventh round (253rd pick). Dickson had a huge senior year for Alabama in 2014. He led the team in tackles for loss (12.5) and sacks (9.0). He struggles with shedding off blocks in his pursuit to the ball. Dickson is quick on the edge, but needs to consistently play with motivation. His at career Alabama ended with 14 sacks.
New England has playmakers at linebacker with Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower, but the addition of Dickson brings a explosive edge rusher. Hightower will push Dickson to play at his full potential, especially if he makes the roster in the fall.
Dickson to New England–Overall [A]
Alabama players in undrafted rookie free agency: QB Blake Sims, WRs DeAndrew White and Christion Jones, TE Brian Vogler, ILB Trey DePriest, DT Brandon Ivory, FS Jarrick Williams, OL Leon Brown and FS Nick Perry
Signed free agents: QB Blake Sims, FS Nick Perry, TE Brian Vogler, WR Christion Jones, WR DeAndrew White, ILB Trey DePriest and DT Brandon Ivory
Nick Perry and Brian Vogler have signed onto teams as free agents. The process doesn’t go into effect until Sunday, but Perry plans to sign with the Baltimore Ravens, while Vogler will go to the Chicago Bears. Perry finished last season with 80 tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions. Vogler is a sound blocking tight end with soft hands. He caught 17 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns in his career at Alabama.
Wide receiver Christion Jones didn’t have the best senior year, but he did enough to attract the Miami Dolphins. Jones totaled 1,030 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 85 receptions in his career. DeAndrew White put in a good senior year, despite injuries in 2014. He caught 40 passes for 540 yards and four touchdowns. White, like Jones, finished his Alabama career as a 1,000-yard (1,294) receiver. White has been signed by the San Francisco 49ers.
Inside linebacker Trey DePriest wasn’t like C.J. Mosley, Dont’a Hightower or Courtney Upshaw, yet he was productive at Alabama. He totaled 88 tackles with 4.5 stops for loss, three pass breakups, a quarterback hurry, a forced fumble and a safety in 2014. DePriest finished his career with 237 tackles, including 17.5 for loss. He’s been signed by the Baltimore Ravens.
Defensive tackle Brandon Ivory doesn’t jump off the page as a fierce pass rusher, but he is a potent run stopper. He recorded 13 tackles last season in 14 games. Ivory’s put in 64 tackles for his career. The Houston Texans have signed him as an undrafted free agent.
Former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims had a stellar year in 2014. He threw for a school-record 3,487 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He totaled 350 rushing yards with seven touchdowns on 83 carries. Sims wasn’t drafted Saturday, but Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson saw enough to intrigue him. Sims signed to the Packers as an undrafted rookie free agent, according to NFL Insider Adam Caplain.