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Alabama in the Pros

Three Alabama football alums are finalists for Pepsi Rookie of the Year

Mac Jones (#10) gives a thumbs up for Patriots in matchup versus Texans
Troy Taormina - USA TODAY Sports

Alabama football graduated a strong rookie class to the 2021 NFL Draft.

Mac Jones, Najee Harris, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith set rookie records for their respective franchises.

Jones, Harris, and Smith are in the playoffs, while Waddle proved to be a dynamic weapon for the Miami Dolphins. Jones, Harris, and Waddle are finalists for NFL Pepsi Rookie of the Year. All three players got selected in the first round.

Mac Jones in warmups during NFL preseason game for Patriots


Jones surpassed Jim Plunkett (1971, 19 touchdowns) for most touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback in New England Patriots history. He tossed 22 scores in the 2021 season and completed 67.7 percent of his throws for 3,801 yards. Jones totaled a passer rating of 92.5 and recorded a rating of 100 or better in seven games. After it missed the playoffs in 2020, Jones has New England back on the NFL’s biggest stage. He faces Josh Allen on Sunday as the Patriots battle the Buffalo Bills.

Harris is becoming Derrick Henry 2.0 in the league.

Najee Harris (#22) runs the ball for Steelers during 2021 season

Photo of Najee Harris comes from Steelers.com

He ranks in the top-five of the NFL for carries (307) and rushing yards (1,200). Harris has seven touchdowns and three 100+ yard rushing performances. He brought his versatility from high school and college to the pros as a receiver. Harris totals 74 receptions for 467 yards and three touchdowns on 94 targets. Harris broke Steelers’ legend Franco Harris’ rookie mark of 1,055 rushing yards in 1972.

Jaylen Waddle (#17) returns a punt for the Dolphins in second half of 2021 game versus New York Giants

Photo of Jaylen Waddle comes via Jasen Vinlove – USA Today Sports

Waddle has the most receptions of any rookie receiver in league history (104). He ranks eighth in the NFL for catches and has the Dolphins’ rookie record for receiving yards (1,015). 

Miami is searching for a new head coach, and it will be exciting to inherit Waddle.

All three players will have great professional careers.

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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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