Alabama was supposed to threaten Miami's NFL Draft record of six first-round picks in one draft last year. The Crimson Tide fell two short when Cam Robinson slipped into the early second round, Tim Williams tumbled to the third and no one was selected much earlier than expected.
They'll get another shot this year.
Sean Taylor was the first Hurricane off the board in the 2004 draft, going No. 5 to the Washington Redskins. The hard-hitting safety's selection was immediately followed by Kellen Winslow II to the Cleveland Browns. Four more 'Canes were chosen over the next 15 picks, giving them a remarkable six draftees in the first 21 picks. The record has been challenged, including by Ohio State in 2016 when the Buckeyes had five first-rounders, but it has held for 14 years.
Entering the College Football Playoff National Championship, cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick and receiver Calvin Ridley appear to be the only players guaranteed a first-round selection (barring a stunning injury or off-the-field development). The Tide, however, have six others who could also be a top-32 pick.
Safety Ronnie Harrison is ESPN's 23rd-ranked player and Bleacher Report's 20th-ranked player. The 6-foot-3, 216-pounder does have a second-round grade by ESPN but was called "overlooked" by Mel Kiper Jr. as a "big and physical" player who could play either safety spot in the NFL. Kiper also said Harrison could return for his senior season but he could "sneak" into the first-round discussion with good tests.
Running back Damien Harris may also get overlooked in a deep class, though the junior who averaged at least seven yards per carry each of the last two years, is Matt Miller's 25th-ranked player. Additionally, linebacker Rashaan Evans is viewed as a fringe first-round prospect, along with cornerback Anthony Averett. Defensive tackles Da'Ron Payne and Da'Shawn Hand are ranked 42nd and 47th, respectively, by Miller, and though Todd McShay grades the "relatively one-dimensional defender" Payne as a second- or third-round prospect, he does call him an athletic and excellent run-stuff who has "the upper-body strength to control blockers."
Clearly, tying Miami's first-round record will be a chore for a program with only two guaranteed first-round picks. However, if four of the other second-tier prospects exceeds expectations in February and March, Alabama has a shot.