The Iron Bowl was the biggest game of the weekend in college football, with a trip to face Georgia in the SEC Championship Game on the line, and there were plenty of future NFL players on the field as the Alabama-Auburn rivalry was renewed.
Seven NFL teams sent scouts to the game, and I tuned in to get a look at some of the future pros taking part in the festivities. Alabama is considered the biggest juggernaut in college football, and rightfully so, but Auburn was clearly the better team on Saturday. The Tigers held the lead for all but a chunk of the third quarter on their way to a 26-14 win.
Here are five takeaways on some of the top talents from the game.
- I’ll be sticking with my Le’Veon Bell comp for Kerryon Johnson after watching the Auburn RB on Saturday. After studying Johnson last week, I came away thinking the two backs had similar running styles, and Johnson validated that comp on Saturday. He showed he’s a complete back against Alabama. He did get beat on one occasion in pass protection, but there were several other times when he put himself right in the middle of the pass rush and held up well.
He also had some impressive runs where he was able to pick up at least a few yards when there were no holes open for him. Johnson carries a heavy workload (30 carries for 104 yards and 3 catches for 21 yards vs. Alabama) and had to leave the game late with a shoulder injury. Hopefully he’s OK and will be ready to go against Georgia next week.
I think he’s one of the four best running backs in college football with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, LSU’s Derrius Guice, and USC’s Ronald Jones. Those are the best RBs I’ve seen this fall.
- This will be a game Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham can reference whenever he enters the draft as a good moment for him. I knew coming into the game that Stidham was big and could make every throw, but he moved around a little bit better than I thought he could against a fast defense. He’s stepped up in a big way in the Tigers’ wins over Georgia and Alabama down the stretch. Those are great resume builders. He’s playing his best football in the final stretch of the season.
- Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison is one of the more underrated players in the country. When he hits people, they stop. The Crimson Tide came up short, but it certainly wasn’t because of Harrison. He’s a physical safety, and his toughness was on full display Saturday.
- Minkah Fitzpatrick showed once again that he’ll be a very useful player in a Tyrann Mathieu-like role at the next level. The Alabama DB missed a tackle on a trick play, but outside of that, he was outstanding. With so many teams living in nickel or big nickel (when defenses utilize a bigger nickel back who can play the run) at the next level, Fitzpatrick is going to be highly valued by teams with looking for help in that area whenever he enters the league.
- Alabama WR Calvin Ridley is going to be valued way above what his production suggests at the next level.
Ridley was held to three catches for 38 yards by Auburn and he has only 3 touchdown catches this season, but don’t get caught box-score scouting with Ridley. Alabama has a productive and effective college QB in Jalen Hurts, but he’s limited in what he can do throwing the ball. Therefore, the Tide isn’t able to capitalize on everything Ridley can do. I think NFL teams are going to see through that and they’re still going to value Ridley very highly.
In fact, two NFL executives I heard from last week called him the best WR prospect in college football.