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Which Alabama players could increase their NFL Draft stock against Missouri?

Najee Harris stiff arms Missouri defender
John David Mercer - USA TODAY Sports

Football is back in the Southeastern Conference, and most importantly for the University of Alabama.

The Crimson Tide will take on Missouri at Faurot Field inside Memorial Stadium at 6:00 p.m. CT with ESPN airing the game.

Along with its hunger to return to the College Football Playoff and win a national championship, the Tide also has players that intend on creating high draft value for themselves.

After watching four athletes — Tua Tagovailoa, Jedrick Wills, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III — get selected in the first round in April and nine guys taken overall, Alabama is set to build off those numbers.

RELATED: TDA staff unveiling NFL Draft projections on Alabama players for a second straight year

For yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine, there are five players that can increase their value against Missouri.

Najee Harris, RB

Draft selection: First Round

Pick selection: Between Nos. 20 and 32

The campaign for a Heisman Trophy starts now for Najee Harris.

He has worked all summer for this opportunity and while Travis Etienne (Clemson) and Chubba Hubbard (Oklahoma State) provide fierce competition, the California native must make this his moment. Harris will battle Larry Rountree of Missouri, who is also in search to be selected in the draft. Despite finishing 2019 with 1,224 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, he cannot afford a slow start to this season.

If Harris can total between 125 and 150 yards rushing with a couple of scores and contribute in the passing game, he can slide his way into being a top-15 pick.

Jaylen Waddle, WR

Draft selection: First Round

Pick selection: Between Nos. 10 and 15

With the decision of Ja’Marr Chase (LSU) to opt out, DeVonta Smith becomes the best route runner and pure receiver in the SEC and possibly all of college football.

He has proven to be a very reliable target in each of the last three seasons, and NFL Draft pundits have compared him to Marvin Harrison — who played in the National Football League for 13 years (Indianapolis Colts) and is in the Pro Football Fall of Fame.

RELATED: Five Missouri players Alabama will need to keep its eye on today

This is a chance for Jaylen Waddle to showcase what he’s learned. We know what he is as a return specialist, but he needs to become more refined with his route tree. Alabama is making him an every down player this year, which should help with getting him the football more naturally.

Missouri still has to be aware of him on punt returns and kick returns, but the native Texan is more concerned about being a complete player.

He projects as a possible top-15 player, especially with how smaller receivers are dominating the NFL right now, but improvement on getting in and out of breaks could push him into the top-10 range.

Alex Leatherwood, OL

Draft selection: First Round

Pick selection: Top 5

Offensive tackle is arguably the second or third most important position in the NFL.

Six tackles were taken in the first round back in April, including two in the top-10. The duo of Andrew Thomas (Georgia) and Jedrick Wills (Alabama) were selected at Nos. 4 and 10, respectively. Alex Leatherwood started all 13 games at left tackle in 2019 for the Crimson Tide, allowing two sacks and three quarterback pressures.

He will be up against a veteran Missouri defense.

The Tigers will look to blitz and create pressure with Kobie Whiteside, Chris Turner, Nick Bolton and others.

RELATED: Alabama to be without safeties coach Charles Kelly for Missouri game

Leatherwood struggled with the likes of K’Lavon Chaisson of LSU last season. This matchup will provide a first-hand look into how much he has improved with neutralizing edge rushers and giving his quarterback time in the pocket.

A clean performance keeps Leatherwood as a potential top-five pick.

Dylan Moses, LB

Draft selection: First Round

Pick selection: Top 5

He missed all of 2019 with a knee injury; nevertheless, some NFL pundits still had Dylan Moses as a late first-rounder.

A native of Baton Rouge, La., he is back to push Alabama’s defense to a national championship.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder had success in 2018 at middle linebacker — recording 86 tackles (team-high), 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

He was a finalist for the Dick Butkus Award and helped the Crimson Tide win an SEC Championship.

According to Nick Saban, Moses looked like ‘his old self’ and ‘turned it loose’ in the final two weeks of fall practice. His meeting with Missouri will test his lateral quickness, agility, change of direction and overall mobility of his knee.

He has the leadership in putting teammates in areas to be successful, but scouts will be looking at his production too.

This will be the first contest in him trying to maintain a possible top-five draft stock.

Patrick Surtain II, CB

Draft selection: First Round

Pick selection: Between Nos. 25 and 32

Patrick Surtain II has played in 28 career games (25 starts) at Alabama.

The talented cornerback stands with 79 tackles, 15 pass breakups and three interceptions in two years.

RELATED: Mac Jones’ journey to be a starting QB for Alabama is set up for a huge coronation this season

He has been solid, but now it’s time to hit another level. His father, Patrick Surtain Sr., played in the NFL and has taught him the tricks of the trade.

Surtain possesses the size, length and athleticism to be successful, but Missouri has a couple of 6’3″ and taller wide outs that will test him.

The 6-foot-2, 202-pounder has to maintain position and create big plays with the ball in the air.

Currently, he is a late first-round projection.

Huge production from him will push him up.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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