Takeaways From Alabama Pro Day 2022
Alabama football held its 2022 pro day Wednesday giving several NFL prospects one more opportunity to showcase their talents to NFL coaches and scouts. There's plenty to unpack here, so let's dive right in with how these guys performed.
Alabama's left tackle in 2021, there's strong reason to believe he could be the first first-overall selection for Alabama since 1948. If he is able to convince the Jacksonville Jaguars to spend its first selection of the 2022 NFL Draft, he may have to play right tackle instead of left.
Neal said after his workout that playing another position wouldn't be a problem for him. He played three different positions for the Crimson Tide and said he feels he'd be successful in the NFL at any position except for center.
At 6'7" and 337lbs, it'd be shocking if he weren't successful in some manner in the NFL. He said he's familiar with the Jaguars' current left tackle, former Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson. Neal said the two haven't discussed the possibility of being teammates.
With that in mind, you couldn't look in any direction Wednesday afternoon without seeing a Jacksonville Jaguars logo. They were constantly around Neal, so I asked him how the early portions of that relationship are going.
"It's been cool," Neal said. "The time I spent was just on the field, getting ready for drills. I didn't have a meeting with them, or any other team, since I've been here. They're a great organization. My formal interview with them at the Combine went really well."
On the field, it was business as usual. Neal didn't work out at the Combine, but how he performed was to be expected: clean, technical, powerful and violent.
Now, I was in the interview scrum with linebacker Christian Harris during Neal's drills, but you could hear every punch of the pads during Neal's drills, which of course grabbed my attention a few times.
His athleticism is still ridiculous. You can see how smooth and effortless his feet move his Goliath frame from space to space. Every movement is intentional but also equally comfortable.
Has Neal solidified his spot as the first overall pick? Hard to say. Is he clearly a top-5 pick. No doubt. The Jaguars, Lions, Texans, Jets and Giants are all teams with many, many needs and all would be happy to have him, though the Lions don't have a true need for his services.
I, and many others, were disappointed when Neal didn't line up for a 40-yard dash. Is it the most necessary drill for an offensive tackle? Of course not. But it would have been a conversation booster that could benefit his stock. Still, Wednesday went just as expected and that is a massive win for him.
Wide receiver Slade Bolden is a Day 3 pick, make no mistake. That didn't stop him from having a great day.
He was fast and agile all day. He garnered in my estimation the most praise from the crowd of any athlete who performed.
The big meme around Bolden is the obvious destination to the New England Patriots. Well, after Bolden ran his 20-yard shuttle, he walked over and had a quick word with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Belichick then looked on as Bolden ran a rather impressive three-cone-drill.
Bolden had a great day. He's still a sixth-round pick at the absolute best. It's worth acknowledging that there is clearly a mutual interest between he and the Patriots and he should feel confident that at the very least his name will be called during the NFL Draft.
Interior defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis only ran position drills Wednesday, so his day was rather short. He spent a chunk of his time talking with Jets and Jaguars personnel from what I could see. As always, he was in a jovial mood after the workout talking up Neal, LaBryan Ray and the defensive lineman that will carry the torch in 2022 for Alabama.
His workout was loud just like Neal's, and just like his offensive counterpart, he was precise in his technicality and powerful in his delivery.
Mathis's stock is likely second-round at best. If his conversations with the Jets and Jaguars are any indicators though, he may not be waiting long to hear his name on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. Mathis has made himself plenty of money throughout the process and his leadership skills likely only serve to boost his stock just that much more.
Still, he said he's taking it all in stride and not ramping up his expectations off of his strong performances in Mobile, Indianapolis and Tuscaloosa.
"I don't know what to expect, but we're going to find out," Mathis said of draft night. "I'm preparing for the worst, but I'm blessed to see what happens."
Interior defensive lineman LaBryan Ray showed off his skills for the first time since the Shrine Bowl. He's battled many injuries during his Alabama career, but Wednesday showed a glimpse of that fantastic player that has been forced to lay dormant for the better part of the last five years.
From a pure talent perspective, Ray should be discussed as a second-round pick. Unfortunately, production and health play a massive role in draft stock for the NFL, both of which have eluded him.
You can scroll back to the Mathis tweets to see some of Ray's drill work, but here he is running the 40-yard dash.
Yeah, that's an unofficial time, but that is a very impressive time for an interior defensive lineman nonetheless. If he can find a path to stay healthy, he could be a real steal for an NFL team on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.
Running back Brian Robinson didn't run a 40-yard dash, and who could blame him. His 4.53 was a solid time for a back of his style.
Unfortunately, Robinson and the turf didn't make friends Wednesday during agility drills. He slipped on several occasions while trying to cut during his 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drill. While it could be his cleats just not aggreeing with the turf or him over-extending his body in ways it just can't support will be up for scouts to decide.
Regardless, Robinson appeared to have corrected those issues before running routes with Slade Bolden and quarterback Bryce Young.
Robinson is likely looking at a fourth-round selection for almost no reason outside of his position's overall free-fall in value. His rushing style and age play into it a bit, but make no mistake, odds are he'll contribute to whatever team calls his name as a rookie.
He's done a marvelous job, whether at the Combine, the Senior Bowl or at the Pro Day of showing that he has useful vision and athleticism and is a solid blocker in pass protection.
Wednesday wasn't his best day, but folks shouldn't worry about his stock too much.
Cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis also allowed his Combine 40-yard dash time of 4.39 to speak for itself and only took part in a few agility drills and position drills.
Armour-Davis's stock is all over the place regardless of the source. Personally, I'd take him as early as the third round, but others won't touch him until the fifth.
Still, for a guy that finished the season with lower-body injuries, he looks great and has tested incredibly well during the draft process. Tack on that he was the only other cornerback in college football next to potential top-10 pick Sauce Gardner to not allow a touchdown, there's plenty for NFL clubs to like.
As for his day, I didn't see much because of the interview timing with Evan Neal. He killed the agility drills I did see. Here's his three-cone, which I believe was the fastest of the day.
Here he drops an interception, but with a team-tying lead of three interceptions in 2021, his hands aren't really something that should be questioned.
Overall, Armour-Davis is one of those players that if you love him, you liked what you saw today. If you have a basket of questions though, most weren't answered firmly. There's plenty to love about him, either way in my book.
No one was faster than safety Daniel Wright in Tuscaloosa Wednesday. I timed his 40-yard dashes at 4.37 and 4.41. He was blazing in the agility drills as well.
Wright did let out the most screams of frustration throughout the day too. He wasn't as crisp as he'd obviously liked to have been during position drills.
While his agility times were impressive, that speed didn't always flash on film which raises more questions than it answers. He's a Day 3 pick, but he should have at the very least garnered some interest for special teams work to begin his career with his speed.
Edge linebacker Christopher Allen didn't work today, though there's a strong chance he'll participate in the second pro day down the road. Still, of the players that didn't participate, he stayed in the middle of the field and communicated with scouts and coaches.
He had a long conversation with Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and also had a long conversation with what appeared to be a Jaguars staff member.
Allen missed nearly the entire 2021 season with a foot injury and is just now getting back to health. If he can showcase himself as a healthy option, he'll hear his name called late on Day 3, but establishing relationships with league personnel was a wise move and it shouldn't go unnoticed.
Those are the main standouts of Wednesday's events. Offensive lineman Chris Owens participated, but there wasn't much to take away from what I was able to see. He's a fringe Day 3 prospect at best based on his 2021 performance. His leadership qualities and football IQ should land him with a team where he can continue to develop.
Cornerback Josh Jobe was in attendance, but I didn't notice him talking up anyone in particular, though that certainly doesn't mean he didn't do so. He's also a Day 3 prospect that has a laundry list of question marks surrounding him. His physicality and overall athleticism will still play to his benefit at the next level.