Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

A comprehensive breakdown of former Alabama stars in the NFL

CW Archive
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) prepares for the snap deep in Alabama territory at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Dec. 31, 2021.

Thursday night’s NFL regular-season opener between the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs marks the return of professional football and autumnal Sunday afternoons spent watching the sport’s finest competing at the highest level.  

Many of these football elites hail from none other than The University of Alabama; as of this opening week, a whopping 69 players find themselves on active rosters or practice squads, the highest alumni representation of any school in the country. 

Who are the best among these prior members of the program? Which teams are home to the most former Alabamians? Here’s an in-depth look at Alabama football’s diverse presence in the NFL.  

The best of the best

10. Quinnen Williams, Alabama DL 2016-2018

After totaling 12 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 28 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and four passes defended in 2022 and earning his first Pro Bowl appearance, it seems New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is poised to reign as one of the league’s supreme pass rushers. If his improvement last season is any indication — he doubled his 2021 sack total and nearly did so with tackle for loss as well — then he’s gearing up for perhaps the best defensive-line season in NFL history. 

Even if he can’t quite conjure that up, his continued success is imminent.

9. DeVonta Smith, Alabama WR 2017-2020

In just two years with the Philadelphia Eagles, Smith has already cemented himself as one of the more dangerous receivers in the NFL. The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner took a significant step forward last season, totaling 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns while also sharing targets with fellow stud A.J. Brown. 

This upcoming season should bring only further development. Given the to-date success and the room Smith has to grow skill-wise, the future looks incredibly bright. 

8. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB (2017-2019)

The former Crimson Tide fan favorite has had an intriguing career. In three seasons with the Miami Dolphins, he has seen highs and lows, at times struggling with efficiency in lethargic offenses. However, last season Tagovailoa’s career trajectory once again moved in the upward direction.  

Under head coach and offensive savant Mike McDaniel, Tagovailoa is the leader of a dynamic and often unstoppable passing attack. In 2022, he improved by nearly 1,000 pass yards, nine touchdowns, 4 yards per attempt, and 20 ESPN quarterback rating points, all while cutting down on interceptions. 

Assuming he can still function as both a football player and human being after a slew of highly concerning injuries, he should go nowhere but up from here. 

7. Jonathan Allen, Alabama DL (2013-2016)

While never becoming a superstar, Allen has been a steady stalwart on Washington’s defensive line. After limited snaps in his rookie season, he burst onto the scene, totaling eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss in his sophomore campaign and never looking back. Aside from a dip in production in 2020 — a bizarre year for everyone — Allen has been invariably great at invading opposing backfields. Last season even saw a career high in tackles for loss as well as, impressively for a defensive tackle, his first interception. 

6. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama DB (2015-2017)

A career of sustained defensive-back mastery at Alabama has carried over into much of the same in the NFL. In five seasons split between the Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Fitzpatrick has amassed 19 interceptions (with four pick sixes, no less), 47 passes defended and 448 total tackles. 

As the last line of support in a Pittsburgh defense that has for years been among the most suffocating in the league, Fitzpatrick has done about as much can be asked of him. Here’s hoping he can improve even further upon a 2022 outing that saw a career-high six interceptions and nearly 100 total tackles. 

5. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama WR (2018-2020)

It’s been a phenomenal couple of years for one of the fastest and most explosive players to ever come through the Alabama program. Two seasons with the Dolphins have brought two 1,000-plus-yard campaigns, including a 1,356-yard outing last season with a ridiculous league-leading 18.1 yards per catch. As mentioned with Tagavailoa, McDaniel’s offensive system works wonders for dynamic players.; alongside Tyreek Hill and an uber-talented quarterback, Waddle should pick up where he left off as a nearly impossible to guard top option. 

4. Josh Jacobs, Alabama RB (2016-2018)

Since joining the Las Vegas Raiders in 2019, Jacobs has always been a monster, falling under 1,000 rush yards only once and never failing to reach 1,300 total yards from scrimmage. Last year in particular thrust him into the elite tier of running backs; he topped 2,000 scrimmage yards while also leading the league in rushing. For what it’s worth, he was also the top-ranked RB in Fantasy Football. 

His team situation is unfortunate — Las Vegas figures as a bottom-dweller in this upcoming season — but at the very least he should continue to dominate the box score as the de facto No. 1 guy.

3. Patrick Surtain II, Alabama DB (2018-2020)

As part of a Denver defense that has performed valiantly in trying to offset a putrid offense, Surtain has quickly become a superstar cornerback. Whether it be CBS Sports, Pro Football Focus or Pro Football Network — all of which list Surtain in the top five CBs in the NFL — the consensus is clear. He isn’t an eye-popping player, but between his All-Pro-level 86.7 PFF coverage grade last year and his double-digit games allowing less than 25 yards through the air, he’s consistently great. 

If new head coach Sean Payton can revitalize what was a less-than-optimal situation in the Mile High City, look for another fantastic year from Surtain and the Bronco D.

2. Jalen Hurts, Alabama QB (2016-2018)

There’s very little to say here that hasn’t already been said. The Alabama beloved (even after his stint in Oklahoma) was already piecing together a solid career, and then came 2022, in which he won the MVP award with 3,700 yards passing, 760 yards rushing, and 35 total touchdowns. His Eagles likewise took a massive leap and were excruciatingly close to taking home the Lombardi Trophy. 

Hurts will enter the 2023 season as one of the MVP favorites, and the Eagles will reside in the sparsely populated echelon of Super Bowl contenders. After Hurts shone so brightly last year, the bar shouldn’t be set any lower. 

1. Derrick Henry, Alabama RB (2013-2015)

It’s debatable whether Henry or Hurts is the hottest commodity right now, but when the total career is considered, there’s no longer a question of superiority. King Henry isn’t just the best current Alabama player in the NFL; he has a case as one of the greatest Crimson Tide alumni of all time.  

Whether it be leading the league in rushing yards and touchdowns multiple times or simply being perhaps the most dominant player in the NFL, Henry has secured for himself a legacy of greatness. It doesn’t seem like he’s slowing down, either. Even as the Tennessee Titans often fail to soar to the heights Henry is worthy of, he continues to pound the ball. After Henry topped 1,500 yards at nearly 30 years old, there’s no telling what’s next. 

Everybody else 

The 69 former Alabama players currently in the NFL are spread across 24 different teams, and 17 more players are currently floating around the free agency pool, yet to have found a home. Below is a team-by-team ranking that shows how the distribution breaks down, according to Ourlads: 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles — six players.
  2. New York Giants, Miami Dolphins — five players.
  3. Washington Commanders, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns — four players.
  4. Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos — three players.
  5. Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans, Las Vegas Raiders — two players.
  6. Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears — one player.

The first game of the 104th NFL season between the Detroit Lions and the Kansas City Chiefs will take place on Thursday, Sept. 7. Kickoff is set for 7:20pm CT and the game will be broadcast on NBC.  

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