Alabama Football: Which player could make a surprise jump to the NFL?

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan
Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

Alabama Football was an NFL factory for 16 years under Nick Saban, and will send another haul of elite prospects to the league in the 2024 Draft. Among them are a handful of players like JC Latham, Kool-Aid McKinstry, and Dallas Turner, who have long been dubbed as 2024 first-rounders. Also included are players that have bided their time in their respective careers, such as linebackers Chris Braswell and Trezmen Marshall. 

One player in particular boosted his draft stock more than any other in 2023. Entering his redshirt sophomore season, cornerback Terrion Arnold was a largely unproven player who had experienced some struggles as a redshirt freshman. Many critics questioned his ability to be a starter on the 2023 defense, but Arnold quickly silenced those doubters. His trajectory throughout the season was steep, culminating in first-team All-American honors and first-round draft projections.

Are there any players on Alabama’s 2024 roster that could be making a surprise jump to the NFL this time next year?

Redshirt sophomore tackle Elijah Pritchett enters his first draft-eligible season in a similar position to the one Arnold capitalized on. Pritchett saw significant playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2023, but experienced growing pains and never fully earned the trust of the fan base or the coaching staff. Pritchett will have every opportunity to become a full-time starter at one of the tackle spots in 2024, and a breakout campaign could allow him to rise up draft boards.

The other candidates to become prized NFL Draft selections next spring are mostly transfers. These new additions could all have big seasons and ultimately prove to be one-and-done players at Alabama. 

Center Parker Brailsford, previously of Washington, is the most popular choice to win the starting job in the middle of the Alabama offensive line. He will have to beat out redshirt junior James Brockermeyer first, but the ceiling is high for Brailsford, who was named a first-team freshman All-American in his time with the Huskies. 

Alabama also brings in a pair of transfer defensive backs who are widely assumed to be day one starters. Former USC cornerback Domani Jackson is a former 5-star recruit who has the athletic potential to one day be an NFL standout. He was inconsistent with the Trojans, but perhaps a new environment will allow him to reach his peak. 

Jackson became Alabama's most experienced cornerback the day he stepped on campus. Ideally, he will be able to provide the lockdown presence that Bama got from McKinstry and Arnold in 2023.

Similarly, former Michigan safety Keon Sabb will have the chance to be a leader in the Alabama secondary. Sabb is a versatile DB who, on paper, pairs nicely with veterans Malachi Moore and Devonta Smith. He should be one of the better safeties in the SEC next year, but could outperform even those expectations and head to the NFL after one year in Tuscaloosa.

It will be somewhat surprising if any of these players can actually rise to the level Terrion Arnold reached in becoming a first-team All-American, but they will each have the chance to build their individual brand and establish themselves as draftable prospects.