Analysis | Where Alabama players will fall in the 2022 NFL Draft

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Contributing Columnist

It’s time for former Alabama football players to get the call of their lives. 

After months of preparation and training, the 2022 NFL draft is finally here. The three-day event will take place at the Caesars Forum in Las Vegas, Nevada, starting Thursday. The Crimson Tide hope to add 11 more players to the big leagues, further cementing the program as an NFL factory. Here’s an outlook on where some of the big names may fall. 

Evan Neal, Offensive Lineman

At the start of the draft process, offensive lineman Evan Neal was the consensus No. 1 overall pick, set to join former Clemson University quarterback Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville. However, his position as the top dog in the draft has slipped. Former Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and former Georgia defensive tackle Travon Walker have impressed scouts and analysts alike, causing them to rise on the draft boards. Reports have also come out that some teams medically failed Neal during team visits. 

Walker is now the projected No. 1 overall pick, leaving fans to wonder where Neal will land. 

Chris Trapasso and Josh Edwards of CBS Sports have Neal taking a bite out of the Big Apple and landing with the New York Giants at No. 5 overall. Todd McShay and Mel Kiper of ESPN have Neal barely staying in the top 10. Kiper and McShay think the Seattle Seahawks will select him ninth overall. 

Wherever the Ockeechbee, Florida, product may land, it’s no question that he will be a day-one contributor to that team.

Jameson Williams, Wide Receiver 

Before his untimely injury in the 2022 National Championship game on Jan. 10, star wide receiver Jameson Williams was a consensus top-10 pick. His speed and smooth route-running allured scouts just like DeVonta Smith’s did a year ago. As most expected, Williams’ stock dropped after that night. 

But since Alabama’s Pro Day, Williams’ stock has been back on the rise. 

Williams didn’t participate in the early March workout, but he made a statement on NFL Network that raised some eyebrows. 

“Oh yeah for sure,” Williams said when asked if he thinks he could be ready for training camp. “That’s what I’m shooting for. What overrules that is making sure I’m 100% before I do anything.” 

Since then, Williams has moved up the draft boards once again. On most boards, he’s projected to be selected anywhere from the 10th pick to the 17th pick. McShay and Kiper have the Philadelphia Eagles selecting him No. 15 overall, which would be the third straight year the Eagles have selected a wide receiver in the first round. 

This would also be the third straight year an Alabama receiver has been selected in the first round. In 2020, the Las Vegas Raiders selected Henry Ruggs and the Denver Broncos selected Jerry Jeudy. Last year, it was Smith and Jaylen Waddle, going to Philadelphia and Miami, respectively.

In 2021, Williams caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also had two kick return touchdowns — both of them coming against Ole Miss in October. 

Christian Harris, Inside Linebacker 

Much of the attention on the defensive side of the ball went to Heisman-hopeful Will Anderson Jr. But right on his tails was junior linebacker Christian Harris. Harris has been a staple in Alabama’s linebacker group since his freshman year in 2019. He excelled during spring and summer camps to earn a starting role at WILL linebacker.

He hasn’t slowed down since. 

In 2021, Harris recorded 79 tackles, good enough for fifth overall on the Crimson Tide defense. Throughout the season, Harris was disruptive in the passing game, adding three quarterback hurries and 5.5 sacks. His efforts on the field earned him semifinalist honors for the Butkus and Lombardi awards. 

There are quite a few NFL teams that are in need of a linebacker. However, this draft class includes a host of talented linebackers, including former Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean and former Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd. With the talent in this class, Harris may not hear his phone ring until day two. 

Several teams have emerged as potential landing spots for Harris. One of those teams is the Buffalo Bills, who hosted Harris for a top-30 visit. Another spot is the Baltimore Ravens, who had several issues on the defensive front last year. 

Phidarian Mathis, Defensive Lineman

Alabama had a host of talent on the defensive side of the ball and defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis is no exception. The redshirt senior from Wisner, Louisiana, became a consistent contributor on the Crimson Tide defense during the 2021 season. His talent in the run game impressed plenty of people. 

“As a run defender, Mathis excels as an anchor, using a large base and excellent wingspan to form an immovable spot on the field,” Natalie Miller of USA Today sports said. 

For Mathis, 2021 was a career season. He recorded 59 tackles, including nine sacks. He was also invited to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl in January. 

Like Harris, Mathis could be waiting until Friday to hear his name called, but there are plenty of teams that need an explosive player on the defensive front. One potential landing spot is the Cincinnati Bengals. Mathis could also reunite with Jeudy, as the Denver Broncos have now emerged as a top spot for him. 

John Metchie III, Wide Receiver 

Once again, the Crimson Tide find themselves in a position where they can send a host of offensive weapons to the NFL. Wide receiver John Metchie III became a college football star during his sophomore season after Waddle hurt his ankle against Tennessee. Metchie only got better in his junior season. He caught 96 passes for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns. His season — like Williams — ended abruptly when he tore his ACL during the 2021 SEC Championship game against Georgia. 

His tape has solidified him as another day two pick for the Crimson Tide. He has flown under the radar during the pre-draft period, but fans and teams are discovering what Metchie can bring to the field. 

“[I] talked to multiple front office executives who believe John Metchie, the other Alabama receiver coming off a torn ACL, won’t make it out of the 2nd round,” Mike Giardi of NFL Network wrote on Twitter. “Saban’s love for Metchie knows no bounds. [The] belief is Metchie will be able to contribute at some point this season.” 

While Giardi may think Metchie will be off the board by round three, some analysts think he may still be around. Trepasso believes the Houston Texans will select Metchie at 68th overall. Edwards believes the Eagles will take him at 83rd overall, but that’s if the Eagles don’t land Williams. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots are also potential landing spots for the Brampton, Ontario, Canada prospect. 

These five players aren’t the only ones looking to make their dream of playing on Sundays come true. Brian Robinson Jr., Jalyn Armour-Davis, Christopher Allen, Josh Jobe, Slade Bolden and Daniel Wright round out Alabama’s large 2022 class. The wait is almost over, and for all, this could be the beginning of a new chapter. 

The 2022 NFL Draft will take place from Thursday, April 28,to Saturday, April 30. Night one from the Caesars Forum in Las Vegas, Nevada, will start at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN, ABC and the NFL Network.