NFL Draft

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Nick Saban’s NFL draft yahtzee is complete with Tua Tagovailoa

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It is expected to be a big night for Alabama as the first round of the NFL draft rolls on, but Nick Saban already has one of his most elusive conquests squared away. Tua Tagovailoa became the first quarterback coached by Saban to be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.

Tagovailoa was drafted by the Miami Dolphins with the fifth overall draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night.

For all the success Saban has had at Alabama, including in the NFL draft, a first-round quarterback was more a dream than a reality until now. Prior to Tagovailoa, Alabama had just two quarterbacks drafted by an NFL franchise since Saban took over as head coach of the Crimson Tide. AJ McCarron went in the fifth round in 2014 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Greg McElroy, who now is a college football analyst for ESPN, was a seventh-round selection of the New York Jets.

Saban has now successfully coached a first-round draft pick at every position, with the notable exception of a specialist position (Alabama kickers, am I right?). This makes Saban the first coach to have coached a first-round draft pick at every non-specialist position, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

The last time Alabama had a first-round draft pick at the quarterback position was in 1976 when Richard Todd was taken sixth overall by the New York Jets. Two others have played quarterback for Alabama and gone in the first round. The first was Harry Gilmer in 1948. Gilmer was chosen first overall. Joe Namath was taken 12th overall in 1965. For those curious, Bart Starr, who went on to have a hall of fame career in the NFL, was a 17th round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1956 (take THAT, Tom Brady).

Alabama could potentially tie a draft record with the most first-round draft picks. The record of six first-round draft picks is currently held by the Miami Hurricanes in the 2004 NFL draft.

Joe Burrow follows Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray for Heisman Trophy first in NFL draft

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Former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has helped to make some NFL draft history. By being named the No. 1 overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night, Burrow was the third consecutive Heisman Trophy winner to go No. 1 overall in the following draft. This is the first time in draft and Heisman Trophy history that the No. 1 overall draft pick won the Heisman Trophy the previous season.

Burrow was chosen with the top overall pick one year after 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray of Oklahoma was selected with the top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. The previous year, in 2018, Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma was selected with the first overall pick by the Cleveland Browns. Mayfield took home the Heisman Trophy in 2017.

Burrow is the 23rd Heisman Trophy player to go No. 1 overall in the NFL draft. Another LSU icon, Billy Cannon, pulled off the accomplishment in 1960 after winning the Heisman Trophy in 1959. The only other schools to have multiple Heisman Trophy winners that were chosen first overall in the draft are Oklahoma (4), Notre Dame (3), USC (2), and Auburn (2).

Heisman Trophy Winners Drafted No. 1 Overall in NFL Draft

  • 1935 – Jay Berwanger – Chicago (Philadelphia Eagles)
  • 1940 – Tom Harmon – Michigan (Chicago Bears)
  • 1942 – Frank Sinkwich – Georgia (Detroit Lions)
  • 1943 – Angelo Bertelli – Notre Dame (Boston Yanks)
  • 1949 – Leon Hart – Notre Dame (Detroit Lions)
  • 1956 – Paul Hornung – Notre Dame (Green Bay Packers)
  • 1959 – Billy Cannon – LSU (Los Angeles Rams)
  • 1961 – Ernie Davis – Syracuse (Washington Redskins)
  • 1962 – Terry Baker – Oregon State (Los Angeles Rams)
  • 1969 – O.J. Simpson – USC (Buffalo Bills)
  • 1970 – Jim Plunkett – Stanford (New England Patriots)
  • 1977 – Earl Campbell – Texas (Houston Oilers)
  • 1978 – Billy Sims – Oklahoma (Detroit Lions)
  • 1980 – George Rogers – South Carolina (New Orleans Saints)
  • 1985 – Bo Jackson – Auburn (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
  • 1986 – Vinnie Testaverde – Miami (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
  • 2002 – Carson Palmer – USC (Cincinnati Bengals)
  • 2008Sam Bradford – Oklahoma (St. Louis Rams)
  • 2010Cam Newton – Auburn (Carolina Panthers)
  • 2013Jameis Winston – Florida State (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
  • 2017 – Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma (Cleveland Browns)
  • 2018 – Kyler Murray — Oklahoma (Arizona Cardinals)
  • 2019 – Joe Burrow, LSU (Cincinnati Bengals)

Murray and Mayfield completed a pretty rare feat as the top picks of the draft in back-to-back years. The 2018 and 2019 drafts marked the first time the top overall picks in consecutive seasons had come out of the same school since 1968 and 1969. USC’s Ron Yary and O.J. Simpson went No.1  overall in those years, respectively.

So, the pressure is on for whoever ends up winning the 2020 Heisman Trophy. The bar has certainly been raised.

Record 111 college football underclassmen have declared early for NFL draft

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The deadline for college football underclassmen to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft has expired, and it looks as though a record number of underclassmen will be hoping to turn pro. Although the NFL will confirm an official number in the coming days, the unofficial count currently sits at 111 underclassmen making themselves eligible for this year’s NFL draft. The 111 underclassmen is a new record for the NFL draft.

According to The Sporting News, there are 111 confirmed underclassmen who have made the decision to forgo their senior seasons for a shot at being drafted in the NFL. One of the last players to make his plan clear was Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, who publicly declared for the draft on Saturday. National champion LSU alone has nine players who have declared early for the NFL draft to go along with its graduating seniors.

With 111 confirmed players declaring early, the NFL draft will have at least 100 underclassmen on the board for the third consecutive season. Last year, the NFL reported a total of 103 underclassmen for the 2019 NFL draft. The previous season saw 106 players make themselves eligible for the draft. The 106 players in 2018 was a record number of underclassmen for the NFL draft. A total of 95 underclassmen were reported by the NFL in 2017.

The obvious concern with such a large number of underclassmen declaring for the draft is the growing number of underclassmen who may not be drafted. Last year, 49 players who declared early went undrafted. With only so many draft picks to go around, the more underclassmen that declare makes it more difficult for some players to get drafted. That doesn’t necessarily mean the player made a mistake turning pro, as undrafted players will still find a number of landing spots in undrafted free agency. And for some players, that may end up being the better path than being drafted in the sixth or seventh round because they would then get to choose from potential landing spots.

This year’s total could have been higher, but decisions by players like running backs Chuba Hubbard of Oklahoma State (HERE), Travis Etienne of Clemson (HERE),  and Najee Harris of Alabama held the record number down, relatively speaking.

If you are looking for something to entertain you while checking in on some spring college football games, the 2020 NFL Draft will take place from April 23-25 in Las Vegas.

Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor declares for NFL draft

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The pool of running backs heading off to the NFL just got a little deeper. Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor announced he is declaring for the NFL draft and leaving Wisconsin a year early to do so. Taylor shared his decision with a video message share don his Twitter account Friday evening.

Taylor leaves Wisconsin having left a mark at a program that has been known for running backs. Taylor won back-to-back Doak Walker Awards in 2018 and 2019 and rushed for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, with 2,003 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns this past season. In his three years at Wisconsin, Taylor rushed for 6,274 yards and 50 touchdowns. He will now head off to the NFL as one of the top running back prospects available for any NFL team in search of a running back answer.

Taylor joins a talented running back pool heading off to the NFL that also includes early entrants J.K. Dobbins of Ohio State and D’Andre Swift of Georgia. Swift announced his NFL decision earlier in the day.

Oklahoma could pull off rare feat in 2019 NFL Draft

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On Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee, the NFL Draft will kick off a three-day event that bridges the gap between college football and the NFL on an annual basis. The Arizona Cardinals will have the No. 1 pick in the draft and there is a possibility Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray could be the top pick of the draft. If that proves to be the case, then the Sooners will pull off one of the rarest feats in the NFL Draft by having the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft two years in a row.

Last year saw Baker Mayfield leave Oklahoma to be the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft of the Cleveland Browns. If Murray is selected as the first player overall by the Cardinals (or any other team that moves up to the top spot), it will mark the first time since 1968 and 1969 when the top pick in the draft was selected out of the same school in consecutive seasons. USC’s Ron Yary was the top pick of the 1968 draft by the Minnesota Vikings, and running back O.J. Simpson was the top pick of the draft by the Buffalo Bills the following season. That remains the first and only time the top picks in consecutive drafts have come from the same school.

If Murray does go first overall, some history will also be made that will separate this feat from the one previously accomplished by USC. This would also mark the first time two Heisman Trophy winners from the same school have been selected with the top pick in the draft in consecutive seasons. Granted, it hasn’t been too often the same school had back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners, to begin with, not to mention having two within the same four or five-year period, but it’s been a good couple of years for the Sooners with Mayfield and Murray.

It’s also worth a reminder both Mayfield and Murray were transfer players as well, adding another layer to the improbability of the rare milestone Oklahoma is potentially in line to pull off this week. Naturally, this would be quite a piece of recruiting propaganda for Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, who was named head coach of the Sooners just two years ago following the retirement of Bob Stoops.