Freedman: Alabama-LSU Matchup Has Deep Draft Talent
Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs (49).
- Alabama and LSU will meet Saturday night, but the Crimson Tide boast more draft potential than the Tigers.
- Matthew Freedman breaks down the top-tier defensive talent at LSU and the depth of talent at Alabama.
On Saturday at 8 p.m. ET, we will be treated to the game of the regular season as No. 1 Alabama (8-0) travels to Baton Rouge to take on No. 3 Louisiana State (7-1).
Even though LSU is one of the best teams in the country — and playing at home and loaded with top-tier talent — Alabama is currently a -14.5 favorite.
How is that possible?
It’s simple: Even though LSU has some future NFL players, Alabama has way more.
Here’s a first look at the Alabama and LSU draft-eligible prospects with decent odds of being selected with top-100 picks in the 2019 NFL draft.
Note: Alabama quarterback and Heisman favorite Tua Tagovailoa is a true sophomore and thus not eligible for next year’s draft.
If I had to bet now — and I’m glad I don’t have to — here are the rounds and order in which I’d expect players to be drafted.
In the first round, there’s not a huge disparity in talent between the two teams, but the edge goes to Alabama.
Greedy Williams, Cornerback (LSU)
Redshirt Sophomore | 6’3″ and 184 Pounds | Born: Dec. 3, 1997 (Age: 20) | Projection: Top 15
The most recent in a long line of shutdown LSU corners, Williams has the size to match up with any wide receiver, and as a freshman last year he was first in the Southeastern Conference and tied for fourth in the nation with six interceptions.
This year he’s held quarterbacks to a passer rating of just 40.1 on attempts in his coverage (Pro Football Focus).
Williams is one of 20 semifinalists for the 2018 Chuck Bednarik Award, which honors the top defensive player in the nation each year.
If he declares, Williams will leave “DBU” as the preeminent cover corner of the 2019 draft class.
Deionte Thompson, Safety (Alabama)
Redshirt Junior | 6’2″ and 196 Pounds | Projection: Top 15
A rotational player last year, Thompson has replaced departed first-round safety/cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick as the all-around playmaker of the Tide’s secondary.
Playing all over the field as a free safety, strong safety and slot corner, Thompson leads the team with 28 solo and 46 total tackles and has been stellar in coverage with seven passes defended, including five breakups.
With four years at Tuscaloosa under his belt, Thompson seems likely to declare, and the NFL craves versatile defensive backs who can line up across the formation.
Thompson leads all safeties with his 92.0 overall PFF grade. Like Williams, Thompson is a Bednarik semifinalist.
Jonah Williams, Offensive Tackle (Alabama)
Junior | 6’5″ and 301 Pounds | Born: Nov. 17, 1997 (Age: 20) | Projection: Top 20
Depending on the 2019 crop of offensive linemen, Williams could sneak into the top 10 as the No. 1 tackle in the draft, but it’s also possible that throughout the evaluation process Dalton Risner (Kansas State), Greg Little (Mississippi) or Trey Adams (Washington) could supplant Williams atop draft boards.
A five-star recruit, Williams started at right tackle as a true freshman and then replaced second-round tackle Cam Robinson on the left side as a sophomore.
As a junior, he’s allowed just four quarterback pressures and no sacks. He’s all but a lock to be a first-team All-American by the end of the season.
Quinnen Williams, Defensive Tackle (Alabama)
Redshirt Sophomore | 6’4″ and 295 Pounds | Projection: Top 20
What Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne were to the 2017-18 draft classes, Williams will be to the 2019 cohort.
Although it’s often hard to justify spending premium draft capital on an interior defensive lineman, each year there’s at least one team that does it, and Williams has a good shot to be the first defensive tackle off the board.
Unlike most interior defenders, Williams might actually be good enough of as a pass rusher to warrant a high draft pick.
In addition to having a PFF-best 96.4 run-defense grade, Williams also has the nation’s fourth-highest pass-rush grade at 91.1. Unsurprisingly, Williams is a Bednarik semifinalist.
Devin White, Linebacker (LSU)
Junior | 6’1″ and 240 Pounds | Born Feb. 17, 1998 (Age: 20) | Projection: Top 25
Suspended for the first half of the game because of a targeting penalty he drew two weeks ago, White is a talented player with issues. In high school he was arrested multiple times for non-minor offenses and was almost charged as a felon in one instance.
Still, he made his way to LSU and played in every game as a true freshman, which is especially impressive considering that in high school he was a running back first and linebacker second.
As a sophomore he had a breakout All-SEC campaign, finishing tied for 10th in the nation with 133 tackles. This year he once again leads the team in tackles (76).
If not for his off-the-field concerns he could compete for a top-10 spot in the draft, but he could also fall out of the first round altogether if his vetting process proves unsatisfactory.
Like Thompson and the Williamses, White is a Bednarik finalist.
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In the Day 2 rounds, Alabama truly distinguishes itself. As talented as LSU is, I’m not convinced the Fighting Tigers have a draft-eligible player likely to be selected in Rounds 2-3.
Alabama, however, has a number of them. Last year, the Tide had just one player selected on Day 2, but in 2017 there were five such players. In 2016, there were six.
Damien Harris, Running Back (Alabama)
Senior | 5’11″ and 215 Pounds | Born Feb. 11, 1997 (Age: 21) | Projection: Top 50
Harris will likely finish the year with his third straight 1,000-yard campaign. No ‘Bama lead back has been drafted any later than Round 2 for the past decade.
Raekwon Davis, Defensive Tackle (Alabama)
Junior | 6’7″ and 316 Pounds | Projection: Top 50
Davis put himself on the national radar with 15 tackles last year in the SEC Championship and College Football Playoff.
Mack Wilson, Linebacker (Alabama)
Junior | 6’2″ and 239 Pounds | Projection: Top 50
Wilson leads the ‘Bama linebacking unit in his first year as a starter with 34 total tackles. An off-ball Tide linebacker has been taken with a top-50 pick in each of the past three drafts.
Isaiah Buggs, Defensive End (Alabama)
Senior | 6’5″ and 286 Pounds | Projection: Top 75
Buggs arrived at Tuscaloosa as a five-star prospect out of junior college, and he’s lived up to the hype as a run-stopping two-year starter. This season he’s also developed as a pass rusher, leading the team with 8.5 sacks.
Anfernee Jennings, Linebacker (Alabama)
Redshirt Junior | 6’3″ and 266 Pounds | Projection: Top 100
Jennings has done little this year with just 14 tackles, but he has versatility as an inside/outside player and experience as a two-year starter.
With a good second half of the season and pre-draft workout, he could sneak into the bottom of the third round.