A version of this story appears in ESPN The Magazine's April 24 NFL Draft Issue. Subscribe today!
In 2016, Alabama's defense was the definition of suffocating, allowing just 13 points per game, forcing 29 turnovers and scoring 11 defensive touchdowns. It helps, of course, that the unit was stacked with legit NFL talent. Five of Todd McShay's current top-40 defensive players in the 2017 NFL draft played for the Tide. Florida also has five such prospects, but after the Gators, no other school has more than three. Nick Saban's program could be the first since Oklahoma in 1984 to produce five defenders in the top two rounds of the draft.
So, who are these defensive studs? I studied the tape and talked to talent evaluators throughout the league to break down the strengths and weaknesses of Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Marlon Humphrey, Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson.
Jonathan Allen, DL
McShay's ranking: No. 2 defender, No. 2 overall
Best team fits: Bears, Jaguars
NFL comp: Gerald McCoy
Positives: Allen has this natural power to rag-doll blockers. His tremendous footwork and burst off the ball helped him consistently live in the offensive backfield (22.5 sacks and 21 QB hurries in his past 30 games). He had a Superman-like sack against Texas A&M in 2016 where he tossed the offensive guard out of the way and then launched over a cut block to bury Trevor Knight. Rare stuff for such a big man. In a league starved for interior pass-rushers, Allen is a top-10 talent.
Negatives: Allen didn't miss a game over his final three seasons, but he has moderate arthritis in both of his surgically repaired shoulders. That will raise red flags for some teams. And then there are Allen's below-average combine numbers: 5.00 40-yard dash with a 1.74 10-yard split. Those make you question whether Allen can be a pure edge defender in the NFL. In all likelihood, he profiles as an interior pass-rusher who may occasionally struggle versus the run because of his 286-pound frame.