10 former Alabama football players selected in the NFL draft

Nick Robbins, Contributing Writer

It was a busy weekend in Kansas City for Nick Saban and his former Alabama players as 10 Crimson Tide alumni were selected across the seven rounds of the NFL Draft, with an additional five signing as undrafted free agents. The 2023 class included three first-round picks headlined by first overall pick quarterback Bryce Young. Saban has now produced 44 first-round picks during his tenure at Alabama. Here is a list of who went where and how the fit looks at the next level.  

Round 1, Pick 1: Quarterback Bryce Young — Carolina Panthers  

For the first time in the modern draft era, Alabama produced a number one overall pick. Harry Gilmer was selected first overall in 1948 by the then Washington Redskins prior to the NFL/AFL Merger. The former Heisman Trophy winner looks to become the Panthers franchise quarterback for years to come with the Panthers trading two first round picks, two second round picks and wide receiver D.J. Moore for the right to select Young. Young, with a 23-4 career record as a starter at Alabama, threw for 8,356 passing yards and 80 touchdowns during his two years as a starter. Young and Carolina look to be a match made in heaven.  

Round 1, Pick 3: Linebacker Will Anderson — Houston Texans  

Houston and new head coach and Alabama alum DeMeco Ryans made a splash, trading up to draft second and third overall and grabbing Anderson with the third pick. Houston sent a first, second and third round pick to select Anderson. Anderson, the two-time SEC Defensive Player of the year, recorded 204 total tackles, 58.5 tackles for loss and 34.5 sacks during his three years in Tuscaloosa. Anderson looks to anchor the Texans’ defense for years to come, lining up in Ryans’ defense. Anderson should dominate the front seven for years to come in Houston.  

Round 1, Pick 12: Running Back Jahmyr Gibbs — Detroit Lions  

Gibbs became the third Alabama player taken in the first 15 picks, landing with the Lions. Gibbs, who played one season in Tuscaloosa after transferring from Georgia Tech, was the heartbeat of the Crimson Tide running game. Gibbs rushed for 926 yards and seven scores while also catching 44 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns. The Lions hope to turn Gibbs into a dual threat out of the backfield, using his blend of speed and power in both the passing and rushing game. Detroit moved running back DeAndre Swift during the draft weekend, opening potential opportunities for Gibbs in Motown.  

Round 1, Pick 45: Safety Brian Branch — Detroit Lions  

From one new Lion to another, Branch will be joining his former teammate Gibbs in Detroit. Branch, a three-year starter and defensive leader, heads to the Lions after posting 172 total tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks during his Alabama career. Branch was selected to first team All-American and second team All-SEC in 2022. The Lions will look to play the versatile defensive player in a variety of roles, most likely playing most snaps at safety.  

Round 3, Pick 65: Offensive Tackle Tyler Steen — Philadelphia Eagles  

Another one of Nick Saban’s major portal additions prior to the 2022 season, Steen played one year in Tuscaloosa after three productive seasons with Vanderbilt. The 6-foot-6-inch, 321-pound offensive tackle was named second team All-SEC after starting all of Alabama’s 2022 games. Steen also started during the 2023 Senior Bowl in Mobile. The Eagles will look to plug Steen in on their offensive line, hoping he becomes a reliable starter protecting former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts.  

Round 3, Pick 70: Defensive Tackle Byron Young — Las Vegas Raiders  

Just five picks later, another Alabama player flew off the board, with Young landing in Vegas. Young, a four-year mainstay on the Alabama defensive line, heads to Vegas looking to produce similar numbers. Young was a 2022 second team All-SEC selection who recorded 130 total tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks over his four seasons. Young looks set to be a major presence on the Raiders defensive line for years to come.  

Round 3, Pick 95: Safety Jordan Battle — Cincinnati Bengals  

Another defensive weapon found himself selected, as Battle was drafted towards the end of the third round. Battle was a four-year starter who was selected to back-to-back first team All-SEC in 2021 and 2022. He heads to Cincinnati looking to be a reliable member of their secondary. Battle recorded 252 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack during his four seasons in Tuscaloosa. Battle should be an exciting option to rely on in the Bengals’ secondary.  

Round 3, Pick 101: Tight End Cameron Latu — San Francisco 49ers 

Tight end Latu will head out west to join a talented 49ers offense. Latu originally committed to Alabama as linebacker playing one game there before being converted to a tight end by Nick Saban. Latu started two seasons at tight end, recording 56 catches for 787 yards and 12 scores. Latu is a versatile piece that could fight greatly in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. 

Round 5, Pick 167: Linebacker Henry To’oTo’o — Houston Texans  

DeMeco Ryans and the Texans pick up another defensive leader, grabbing To’oTo’o in the fifth round. To’oTo’o was a four-year starter with two SEC programs, first with Tennessee before transferring to Alabama for his last two years of eligibility. During his two years in Tuscaloosa, To’oTo’o recorded 205 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. To’oTo’o is a natural leader who will fit great in Ryans’ system.  

Round 7, Pick 224: Safety DeMarcco Hellams — Atlanta Falcons  

The final Alabama player taken in the draft was safety Hellams. Hellams was a three-year starter and regular fixture in the Alabama secondary. Hellams recorded 255 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also recorded 13 pass breakups in his career. Hellams joins a struggling Falcons defense looking to make an impact.  

In addition to those picked, five former UA players who were not drafted signed undrafted free agent contracts. Offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor Jr. signed with the Indianapolis Colts, defensive linemen D.J. Dale signed with the Buffalo Bills, former LSU and Alabama defensive back Eli Ricks signed with the NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles, tight end Kendall Randolph signed with the Seattle Seahawks and linebacker Jaylen Moody joins Jordan Battle, signing with the Cincinnati Bengals.  

Alabama tied with fellow SEC powerhouse Georgia for most draft picks from a single school, with both schools producing 10. The SEC also led all conferences in draft selections for the 17th straight year. 

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