In a draft that is deep in talent at defensive tackle, Alabama’s duo of A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed are at the head of the class.
The reigning FBS national champions are well represented at the NFL combine. In addition to Robinson and Reed, running backs Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, offensive tackle Dominick Jackson, cornerback Cyrus Jones, center Ryan Kelly, defensive end D.J. Pettway and linebacker Reggie Ragland are all participating in the scouting marathon.
But their defensive tackles appear to be NFL-ready. Robinson made 46 tackles with 7.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks in 15 games. Reed finished with 56 tackles, 4.5 for loss and one sack. He was voted second-team All-SEC by the media in part because he was so disruptive.
Robinson and Reed realize the depth at their position for the upcoming draft and have hoped to separate themselves at the combine.
“I have strength and power, so I feel like those two, combined with the size (6-feet-4, 312 pounds) I have, is really great,” Robinson said. “I think that sets me apart from everybody else.”
That doesn’t mean Robinson doesn’t have room to improve.
“I most want to improve on my pass rush,” he said.
Playing under a former NFL head coach in Nick Saban has helped to prepare Robinson and Reed for the jump to professional football. Both believe they can play in either 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
“We played 4-3 and 3-4, so we do a little bit of both. But we just don’t shoot upfield,” Robinson said. “Most of the time, we were just gapping and pushing the pocket.
“But I feel like going to a team, I have the ability to actually penetrate the gap and show my athleticism, how I can get to the quarterback much (more) efficiently than I did at Alabama. I feel that I can show that off when a team picks me up.”
Robinson is hardly surprised that Alabama’s program is churning out so many NFL prospects.
“You develop discipline,” Robinson said. “You know exactly what you have to do, playing for coach Saban. He really helped us be more disciplined and pushed up to play to our best ability.”
Robinson, who is the top-rated defensive tackle in the draft by nfldraftscout.com, and Reed, who is rated fourth, played off each other for the Crimson Tide.
“We kind of mimic each other’s game,” Reed said. “We’re kind of similar. I haven’t really looked at the differences from one another because we both have great effort. We both play relentless. We both play physical.”
Reed believes his game also translates to the NFL.
“The ability to get sideline-to-sideline, bring down quarterbacks, make plays outside the tackle box,” Reed said. “It definitely shows versatility and athleticism.”
Robinson or Reed could be headed to the Kansas City Chiefs, who own the 28th pick of the first round. Robinson has also met with Washington (21st pick) and Detroit (16th pick).
“Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson, the two Alabama kids, kind of fit what Kansas City does from a scheme perspective,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said.
Former Alabama player Marcell Dareus, who plays for Buffalo, helped Robinson and Reed prepare for the combine.
“He tells us to keep chugging along and to keep working on things that we’re not great at,” Robinson said.
Robinson has been a big NFL fan, watching the game since he was a young boy. He started little league football at age 5 and played up against 8- and 9-year olds.
“I like (Warren) Sapp,” Robinson said. “I like (Albert) Haynesworth. I like Javon Kearse, Julius Peppers and Dwight Freeney. I like a bunch of guys coming off the edge.”