12:26 PM ET
Michael DiRoccoESPN Staff Writer
- Covered University of Florida for 13 seasons for ESPN.com and Florida Times-Union
- Graduate of Jacksonville University
- Multiple APSE award winner
INDIANAPOLIS — Alabama has had nearly 400 NFL draft picks and only one of them has done what former Crimson Tide left tackle Evan Neal has a chance to do next month: Go first overall.
Neal is among a handful of prospects — including NC State left tackle Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu, Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux — who could hear their names called when the Jacksonville Jaguars open the NFL draft on April 28. If that happens, it will stop Alabama’s streak of not having the No. 1 overall pick at 74 years.
The last time it happened was 1948, when Washington selected quarterback/halfback Harry Gilmer, and for Neal to be the player to snap that streak, with all the elite talent the program has produced in its history, would be monumental.
Alabama quarterback Joe Namath was taken first overall in 1965 in the AFL draft by the New York Jets.
“It would mean everything,” Neal said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. “You have a whole lot of Alabama players that were worthy of having the No. 1 spot, and for that to be me, that’d be extremely special. I feel like the whole state of Alabama would be proud. The University of Alabama would definitely be proud for sure.”
Alabama has had 39 players taken in the first round of the past 13 drafts, including a record-tying six last year, but nobody has gone higher than third. Buffalo picked defensive tackle Marcell Dareus in 2011, and Cleveland picked running back Trent Richardson in 2012.
In the past two drafts alone, the Crimson Tide have had 10 first-rounders.
The Crimson Tide have had 375 players selected since the draft began in 1936, and Gilmer was the only one taken first overall — and only two players were selected second overall: quarterback Riley Smith in 1936 by Boston and linebacker Cornelius Bennett by the Indianapolis Colts in 1987.
ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay has the Jaguars taking Neal in his post-Super Bowl mock draft. ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Neal going third overall to the Houston Texans in his latest mock draft, which was released on Tuesday.
original source: Neal hopes to end Bama’s No. 1 overall drought