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STEPHEN’S REPORT: Mock Draft 3.0

Alabama RB prospect Derrick Henry: Marvin Gentry- USA TODAY Sports

The month of April is now upon us.

Three weeks now separate eighteen former Alabama stars from beginning their professional careers. The 2016 NFL Draft will start on April 28-30 at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago.

Coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide is projected to have four of its players taken in the first round, with a possibility of having a fifth one providing a team trades back late.

Yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine now unveils the projections in a third mock draft.

Projections for Draft Picks

Derrick Henry, RB- Seattle Seahawks

Marshawn Lynch leaves the National Football League after nine seasons. At Seattle, he was a fan favorite as Lynch rushed for 1,000 yards in four of six years (2011-14) with the team.

Earning the nickname “beast mode” in 2010, Lynch proved the term accurate by recording 1,257 yards rushing with 12 touchdowns on 301 carries in 2013. His efforts guided Seattle to a NFC Conference championship and a Super Bowl championship, defeating the Denver Broncos 43-8.

Lynch’s career ends with 9,112 yards and 74 touchdowns and despite Russell Wilson’s ability under center, Seattle’s offense is predicated around a strong rushing attack.

Ex-Alabama running back Derrick Henry is one of 30 NFL prospects that will visit the Seahawks. Henry, who stands at 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, achieved a monster year in 2015.

He accounted for 2,219 rushing yards, making him the school’s single-season leader and the Southeastern Conference’s first back to accomplish 2,000 yards. Henry rushed for 28 touchdowns on 395 carries, earning a trip to New York City and winning the Heisman Trophy. Henry, though taller than Lynch, has an aggressive running style.

He hits every hole vigorously and allows both vision and speed to set the course in the open field. The 2015 Doak Walker Award winner told reporters that Lynch and Minnesota Vikings’ back Adrian Peterson are two players that he models his game after. Seattle has the 26th overall pick to start the draft, but will head coach Pete Carroll use it on the Tide standout?

The Seahawks finished in the top five in both rush offense (141.8 ypg) and total offense (378.6 ypg) a year ago, landing at Nos. 3 and 4 respectively. His ability to stick oncoming blitzers is a reason why Seattle drafts Henry. Wilson endured 45 sacks in 2015, tying him for third-most among quarterbacks. Henry stands as one of two “do it all” running backs in this draft class.

Reggie Ragland, LB- Chicago Bears

Chicago helped itself this offseason in acquiring two linebackers—Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan—and a defensive lineman in Akiem Hicks during free agency.

It had a personal work out with Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland, a piece that could be its nucleus on defense.

Ragland is known to be a traditional, thumping force, yet he does carry an ability to attack quarterbacks.

The 6-foot-1, 247-pound linebacker chimes in with 195 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss, four sacks and seven quarterback hurries in two seasons as a starter at Alabama (2014-15).

His speed of 4.72 seconds in the 40-yard dash, enables him to make jaw-dropping tackles with lateral quickness. The Crimson Tide stood among the leaders in college football in run defense (75.7 ypg), pass defense (200.6 ypg), total defense (276.3 ypg) and scoring defense (15.1 ppg) last season.

Chicago was 22nd against the run (120.9 ypg), 14th in total defense (345.4 ypg) and despite having the league’s fourth-best pass defense (225 ypg), it forced only eight interceptions.

The Bears have the 11th pick in the first round.

A’Shawn Robinson, DT- Buffalo Bills

Buffalo improved in year one under head coach Rex Ryan.

The Bills took New England down to the wire, despite suffering loses in Week 2 (40-32) and Week 10 (20-13).

Ryan coached the unit to an 8-8 season, with his revenge coming in Week 16 on a 22-17 win over the New York Jets.

Losing Mario Williams to the Miami Dolphins hurts, as he brings 42.5 sacks from his tenure in Buffalo to its division rival.

Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus enters his sixth season this fall, but he needs help in creating negative plays. With rumors piling on A’Shawn Robinson’s stock dropping, the Bills could lock in a middle first-round steal at the 19th overall pick.

Coach Ryan loves defensive linemen with edge, technique and a nastiness to them.

Robinson compacts all three traits in a 6-foot-4, 307-pound frame. He led Alabama in sacks as a freshman with 5.5 in 2013, while going on to total nine sacks for his career.

He amassed 133 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, five pass breakups, 19 quarterback hurries and three blocked kicks.

Buffalo was a middle-tier team against the run (108.1 ypg) and in total defense (356.4 ypg), finished at Nos. 16 and 19.

Drafting Robinson adds a difference maker.

Jarran Reed, DT- Seattle Seahawks

Don’t be surprised if Seattle pulls two to three Crimson Tide players in the draft.

Marshawn Lynch’s retirement is one thing, but also factor in the loses of Brandon Membane and Bruce Irvin on defense. The Seahawks return defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, but its interior front is young at best in experience.

Defensive tackle Jarran Reed immediately became a catalyst for Alabama upon enrolling in 2014 from East Mississippi Community College. He led all defensive linemen in tackles with 54 and 57, during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Reed accomplished 111 career tackles, including 11 coming for loss of yards.

Seattle finished at Nos. 1 and 2 in rush defense (81.5 ypg) and total defense (291.8 ypg) a year ago; however, it needs to stack up on defensive linemen as the NFC West keeps improving.

D.J. Pettway, DE- Denver Broncos

Denver’s defense, which was captained by linebacker Vonn Miller, took the team on a Super Bowl run in 2015.

The aftermath became bitter-sweet in the offseason as it lost Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan in free agency.

Regardless of defensive prospect D.J. Pettway being a day three pick, his upside is good and under Wade Phillips, Pettway can be a special player.

The Broncos would have to weed out his character issues, but underneath is a guy with a high motor. He tallied 48 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in his career at Alabama.

Denver led the league in total defense (283.1 ypg) and finished third in run defense (83.6 ypg) in run defense, but head coach Gary Kubiak needs a few more pieces. Oakland, Kansas City and San Diego all look to be better in the AFC West next season.

Jacob Coker, QB- Dallas Cowboys

It is time for the Jones’ duo, Jerry and Stephen, to draft Tony Romo’s successor.

He has encountered back and shoulder surgeries and age 35, Romo has maybe two to three solid years left in him.

Dallas has a underrated offensive line of whom can make a Pro Bowl selection out of any running back, but when Romo went down last year everyone at AT&T Stadium felt it.

Some of the bigger names at quarterback include Paxton Lynch (Memphis), Jared Goff (California) and Carson Wentz (North Dakota State), but the Cowboys could roll the dice on Coker as a day three pick. The 6-foot-6, 236-pound signal-caller is projected a late round value.

Coker’s size, arm talent, deceptive athleticism and knowledge of a pro-style offense all give him an advantage at the professional level. He became the third quarterback under Nick Saban to throw for 3,000 yards in a season.

Coker ended 2015 with 3,110 passing yards and 21 touchdowns to eight interceptions. He guided the Crimson Tide to a conference title and a national championship.

Dallas has two others quarterbacks on its roster after Romo.

Kellen Moore, who was once the toast of college football at Boise State, struggled with six interceptions to four scores.

Jameill Showers, a former UTEP standout, is still on the practice squad.

Cyrus Jones, CB- Arizona Cardinals

Bruce Arians did not want to lose anything on defense, yet the Arizona coach will be without cornerback Jerraud Powers and free safety Rashad Johnson. Patrick Peterson, Justin Bethel and Tyrann Mathieu all return, nevertheless, another having textbook defensive back couldn’t hurt.

The cornerback role is highlighted as one of the “other needs” for Arizona. It may not be address during the first two to three rounds, but ideas will fly upon day three of the draft. Alabama prospect Cyrus Jones can be a fit for the Cardinals.

It would give Arians a third SEC defender in the secondary, and one who has 4.49 (s) speed in the 40-yard dash.

He neither has the size of Seattle’s Richard Sherman (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) nor the bite of Carolina’s Josh Norman, but Jones is a great competitor, secure tackler and sound play maker.

He put in 106 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 25 pass breakups, four forced fumbles and seven interceptions in three seasons at Alabama. His dynamic on special teams is what may bring a good one, two punch from him and Peterson.

Jones had 530 punt return yards with four touchdowns.

He became the first player FBS history to score a punt return touchdown and register an interception in a bowl game in 20 years. Arizona cracked the top-10 in pass defense (230 ypg), run defense (91.3 ypg) and total defense (321.7 ypg), landing at Nos. 8, 6 and 5 respectively.

Ryan Kelly, C- Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore’s offensive line needs talent, depth and continuity.

Offensive tackles Marshal Yanda and Eugene Moore along with guard Jeremy Zuttah have experience, yet its production on the ground and on total offense could be a lot better.

Alabama’s Ryan Kelly is regarded as one of the best center prospects in the upcoming draft, though he can line up in other positions. He blocked for ten 100-yard rushers last season, with all coming from Derrick Henry. Kelly guided him to nine 100-yard performances and four 200-yard games.

The 2015 Remington Trophy winner did not allow a sack in 2014 and 2015, while providing three Crimson Tide quarterbacks—AJ McCarron, Blake Sims and Jacob Coker—an opportunity to toss for 3,000 passing yards.

Baltimore managed to finished eighth in passing (267 ypg), despite an equal touchdown to interception ratio (21-21).

Run blocking was its weakness, averaging 92.4 yards a game.

Kelly, who also took home the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, excels in man, zone and gap blocking assignments.

The Ravens have the sixth overall pick in the first round.

Kenyan Drake, RB- Oakland Raiders

After a few successful outings in the NFL Draft, Oakland is starting to become a competitive team. Having young talent like Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Latavius Murray is good for head coach Jack Del Rio to build around.

The Raiders finished 7-9 in 2015, marking its best stand since the 2002 season. Inside linebacker, cornerback and safety are among other needs Oakland anticipates filling, but it cannot go wrong with taking another running back.

Former Crimson Tide star Kenyan Drake would bring a different dynamic offensively to the Raiders.

His speed and vision in the hole helps Murray in the run game, while his hands and elusiveness should benefit Carr in the passing game. Drake’s shot in the NFL will ultimately come down to special teams, an area that made him great during the national title game. He returned a 95-yard kickoff for a score against Clemson, securing a 45-40 victory for the Tide.

His tenure at Alabama ended with 1,189 all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder was clocked at 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

Oakland was 28th in rush offense (91.9 ypg) and 24th in total offense (333.5 ypg) last season. Drake projects as a third-to-fourth round value on day two of the draft.

Projections for undrafted free agent prospects

  • Dillon Lee, LB- Kansas City Chiefs
  • Denzel Devall, LB- New Orleans Saints
  • Geno Matias-Smith, S- Indianapolis Colts
  • Jabriel Washington, S- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Dominick Jackson, OG- New York Giants
  • Darren Lake, DT- Cleveland Browns
  • Richard Mullaney, WR- Cincinnati Bengals
  • Michael Nysewander, TE- San Diego Chargers
  • Ty Flournoy-Smith, TE- Green Bay Packers

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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