2015 Alabama Draft Class // Cooper Leads Tide’s Solid Class

The Alabama Crimson Tide have had a player drafted in the first round of every NFL draft since 2009, coincidentally the start of their most recent stretch of dominance in which they won three national titles in four years. In 2011 alone the Tide had an unprecedented four first-round selections with three of them making the Pro Bowl in 2015. Alabama followed up their historic 2011 draft with three more first-round picks in 2012. The Tide only had one player selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft but had another drafted as the first pick in the second round after most analysts graded him a first-round talent. A total of seven Tide players went in this year’s draft.

Here’s a breakdown of the seven Tide players selected in the 2015 NFL Draft:

Round 1, Pick 4 – WR Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders

Oakland used the fourth pick in the draft on what many considered the most NFL ready player in the draft, Amari Cooper. This follows suit with Oakland’s 2014 pick when they took Khalil Mack who was also considered that draft’s most NFL ready player. Cooper racked up 1700+ yards and 16 touchdowns in his last year in Tuscaloosa facing some of the best corners in the nation while playing in the SEC. Cooper is fantastic after the catch, runs crisp routes and will most likely become second-year veteran QB David Carr’s go-to option. The Raiders beefed up their receiving corps this off season adding veteran Michael Crabtree and getting Rod Streater back from injury so Cooper should be able to avoid constant double teams. If Cooper can continue his level of production in the Oakland as he did at Alabama, the Raiders have a can’t-miss prospect on their hands.

Round 2, Pick 33 – DB Landon Collins – New York Giants

Many analysts feel the Giants reached in the first round selecting Miami’s offensive tackle, Ereck Flowers with the 9th overall pick. Fortunately for New York, most analysts agree the Giants got a steal moving up to the first pick of the second round and taking Alabama’s Landon Collins. Collins was considered the number one safety in the draft class but surprisingly slipped out of the first round. Collins was knocked for only being an in-the-box safety with the size and tackling ability of a linebacker but looking back at Collins’ career in its entirety might suggest that analysis is too limiting. Obviously Collins is excellent in the box racking up 103 tackles last year on his way to first-team All-American honors but his versatility while flying around the field for the Tide is understated. While donning the crimson for Alabama, Collins played strong safety, free safety, nickelback, cornerback and weakside linebacker yet somehow he got stuck with the in-the-box stigma. With the departure of Pro-Bowler Antrel Rolle who signed with Chicago this offseason, Collins should step-in and immediately contribute in New York.

Round 2, Pick 36 – RB T. J. Yeldon – Jacksonville Jaguars

Surprisingly, the Jacksonville Jaguars are being praised for their presumed success in this year’s NFL draft after using their first three picks on SEC stars. Jacksonville usually finds themselves surrounded in criticism after a draft but the 2015 draft and their stellar offseason has experts believing the Jaguars are on the rise. Jacksonville used their second round pick on one of the most consistent running-backs in the SEC over the last three years, T.J. Yeldon. The Tide’s highly recruited running-back rushed for almost a thousand yards and at least 12 touchdowns in every season in Tuscaloosa with only last year missing the thousand-yard mark by 21 yards despite sharing time in the backfield with equally talents backs. The Jags desperately needed a feature running-back after missing on the Toby Gerhart signing and having to convert former Michigan quarterback, Denard Robinson, to running-back. Yeldon will compete with the two previously mentioned backs as well as newly signed Bernard Pierce but should earn significant playing time in his rookie campaign.

Round 4, Pick 108 – RB Jalston Fowler – Tennessee Titans

Fowler’s impact for the Crimson Tide can’t be seen in a stat-book but his talent and importance were evident to any and all who watched the Tide play the past five seasons. Fowler led the way for what seemed like endless amounts of first-round running-backs while playing fullback for the Tide. He blocked for the likes of Heisman-winner Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. Fowler not only thrusts his enormous body into any defender coming his way but has soft hands and can tot the rock more effectively than most fullbacks. Fowler should see immediate time at the valuable fullback position in Tennessee and could find himself getting carries and receptions as well.

Round 4, Pick 112 – OL Arie Kouandjio – Washington Redskins

Arie is the second Kouandjio drafted to the NFL out of Alabama in as many years. Arie’s younger brother, Cyrus, was taken in the second round by the Buffalo Bills in the 2014 NFL Draft. The older Arie wasn’t considered to be as talented as his younger brother but was awarded All-American honors this past year after a solid year in Tuscaloosa. Some had him graded as high as a second-round talent like his younger brother but he slipped to the 112th pick. Arie is considered an above average run-blocker but struggles in the pass game. Regardless of where he went in the draft, Arie has a chance to be a solid starter in the NFL once he improves his pass protection.

Round 7, Pick 228 – OL Austin Shepherd – Minnesota Vikings

Shepard earned 30 starts on one of the most effective offensive lines over the past few years. He can certainly run-block but struggles with a narrow frame at time. Shepard should be able to find a spot on an NFL team as a backup with potential to start in the right situation.

Round 7, Pick 253 – LB Xzavier Dickson – New England Patriots

Dickson finished the 2014 season in Tuscaloosa with 9.0 sacks and 42 tackles. Unfortunately he doesn’t tout a body most coaches are accustomed to seeing at the outside linebacker position and film shows he doesn’t dominate tight-ends like edge rushers are supposed to. Dickson will certainly get his shot in the league but the Super Bowl 50 favorites, as predicted by Gambling.com bookmakers, aren’t expecting Dickson to heavily contribute in New England.

Tide players signed as 2015 rookie free-agents:

QB Blake Sims – Green Bay Packers, WR Christion Jones – Miami Dolphins, WR DeAndrew White – San Francisco 49ers, LB Trey DePriest – Baltimore Ravens, DB Nick Perry – Baltimore Ravens, DL Brandon Ivory – Houston Texans, TE Brian Vogler – Chicago Bears

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