AL.com All-Access: How many in-state players will be first-round NFL draft picks this year?


We’re inside a week from the beginning of the 2017 NFL draft, but things still appear to be fluid as to whom will be selected in the first round.

The Reuben Foster saga continued on Thursday, with news he’d failed a drug test at the NFL combine. (Foster told reporters he merely had a “diluted sample,” but that counts as a positive test under the NFL drug policy).

Foster looked like a lead-pipe cinch to be a first-rounder headed into the NFL draft season, and seemed to remain so even after shoulder surgery and then his highly publicized dismissal from the combine. But will this latest news affect his stock?

Up to a half-dozen Alabama players are candidates to be selected in the first 32 picks next Thursday in Philadelphia. Auburn also has one player who could sneak into the first round if everything breaks right.

Here’s how I’d rank those players, in terms of the likelihood they’ll be taken in the first round:

1. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama — There have been whispers about Allen’s health — he reportedly has a bad shoulder that might be a chronic problem — but there are no questions about his talent, character and football smarts. He’s almost a lock to go in the Top 10.

2. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama — The star of both the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine, Howard is that rare tight end who could crack the Top 10 in the draft. It would be a major shocker if he’s still on the board by pick No. 20.

3. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama — Before Thursday, I might have placed Foster ahead of Howard, but continued off-field question marks might cause him to slip on some teams’ boards. I still think he goes in the first round, just maybe not Top 10.

4. Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama — Robinson was inconsistent as a player at Alabama, and there are some questions as to whether he’s a left tackle in the NFL. Nevertheless, based on skill set he’s a solid candidate to be a first-rounder.

5. Marlon Humphrey, DB, Alabama — Humphrey has even more on-field performance questions than Robinson, as he was burned pretty often. However, his combination of size (6-foot-1) and sprinter’s speed doesn’t come along that often.

6. Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama — Williams does one thing very well — rush the passer — a skill that is much-coveted in the NFL. The other parts of his game aren’t as refined, however, and he’s had some off-field issues.

7. Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, Auburn — The NFL is always looking for pass-rushers, and Lawson performed very well at the combine. Still, his injury history and lack of every-down production are a concern.

(A number of other players, including Alabama LB Ryan Anderson, Auburn DT Montravius Adams, South Alabama TE Gerald Everett and Troy OT Tony Garcia are also early-round draft candidates, but it would be a big surprise to see them go on Day 1).

So how many in-state players will be drafted in the first round? I’m going to say four — Allen, Howard, Foster and Robinson, with Humphrey narrowly missing. (The Las Vegas over/under is 4.5, so I guess I’m going slightly under).

If that sounds like crazy talk, remember that this time last year, we all thought Alabama’s Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson and Reggie Ragland were first-rounders, but all slipped to the second. When you get into the back half of the first round, strange things often happen.

So what do you think? Are you guessing four first-rounders? More? Fewer?

I’ll take your questions and comments on that or anything else on your mind beginning at 10 a.m.

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