Four prime talents from Alabama's national championship team -- QB Mac Jones, WR Jaylen Waddle, CB Patrick Surtain II and DT Christian Barmore -- announced on Thursday their intentions to forego their remaining eligibility and enter the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Crimson Tide stars strengthen a lengthy list of college underclassmen who have already done so, with two standouts, CB Josh Jobe and LB Chris Allen, expected to return as seniors.
The NFL deadline for college underclassmen to petition the league for early draft eligibility is Monday.
Jones (6-foot-3, 214 pounds, per school measurements) led an undefeated season (13-0) in record-breaking fashion, setting new Alabama marks for single-season passing yards (4,500) and completion rate (77.4). The redshirt junior showed remarkably accurate deep touch in his only season as a full-time starter, completing more than 50 percent of throws traveling 20-plus yards downfield. Protected by an offensive line that was selected as college football's best, Jones had time for star receivers, including Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, to beat defenders deep with double moves. Albeit with limited mobility, he quarterbacked the best offense in school history, besting Tua Tagovailoa's 2019 unit in both points (48.5) and yards (541.6) per game.
Waddle, a true junior, has been regarded by an AFC area scout on equal ground as a draft prospect as Smith, though with different styles of play. Waddle, the more laterally quick of the two, exposes tacklers in the open field with quickness and pairs it with exceptional speed. He was considered by teammates in 2019 to be equally fast as teammate Henry Ruggs III, who ran a 2020 NFL Scouting Combine-best 4.27-second 40-yard dash. In a scouting report coming off Waddle's breakout 2019 season, NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah likened Waddle to former Pro Bowl receiver Santana Moss. Waddle proved explosive as a receiver and even more so as a return threat in 2019, averaging 24.4 yards on 20 punt returns and 35 on his five kickoff returns. In 2020, Waddle suffered a fractured ankle on an opening kickoff against Tennessee on Oct. 24, and didn't play again until hobbling through the national title game for three catches.
Surtain, the son of former Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl CB Patrick Surtain, is among the most talented man-to-man coverage talents in college football. He's mostly worked outside but has some experience as a slot corner. The true junior was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award (top defensive back), and his size (6-2, 202 pounds) is prized at the position. Surtain broke up a career-high nine passes in 2020 for 24 in a three-year career. Jeremiah wrote last summer that he viewed Surtain as an excellent scheme fit for coaches from the Seattle tree.
Barmore (6-5, 310 pounds) was slowed in 2020 due to a knee injury that limited him early in the season, but he steadily improved and was dominant by its end. Barmore's interior pass rush skills developed, with help from occasional stunts and twists, to notch six sacks over his last six games, including two in the College Football Playoff.
On the heels of the NCAA's provision of an extra year of eligibility for all players due to COVID-19, players who have completed four years must notify the NFL by March 1 if they intend to return to college.