With the 2018 College Football season now over, the beginning of another journey comes for many NFL hopefuls this offseason. The 2019 NFL Draft process officially starts with many draft-eligible juniors and sophomores announcing their departure for the Draft. For many collegiate seniors, they’ll start their draft process with the 2019 Senior Bowl all this week in Mobile, Alabama. The Senior Bowl is one of the biggest events prior to the NFL Scouting Combine in the Draft process. Last year’s Senior Bowl had four players from the Alabama Crimson Tide showcase their talent, skills, and physical attributes in front of NFL scouts and coaches. This year, there will be only two former Tide players participating in the three-day practice setting followed by the game on Saturday, January 26th.
Former defensive end/defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs and former left guard and center Ross Pierschbacher will be participating all this week. Outside linebacker Christian Miller was originally participating this year but is suffering from a hamstring injury suffered from the 2018 Orange Bowl against the Oklahoma Sooners. Miller will be a part of the fan events. Both Buggs and Pierschbacher have a chance to elevate their NFL Draft stock through a productive and great week in this Senior Bowl.
Defensive tackle/end Isaiah Buggs
It should come as no shock that the Crimson Tide is known for developing NFL-caliber defensive linemen. Since his arrival in 2017, Buggs was destined to be a productive starter for the Tide. Buggs arrived as the 2nd ranked junior college prospect from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in the 2017 recruiting class. For two seasons, Buggs was the most consistent run stoppers at the line of scrimmage. In 2017, he accounted for 51 total tackles. This season, he accounted for 52 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss (8th highest in the SEC), and 9.5 sacks (4th highest in the SEC). He started all 15 games this past season for the Crimson Tide and started 13 games in 2017. He was recognized as 2nd team All-SEC this past season.
Buggs is roughly ranked as the 8th best defensive end prospect in this 2019 NFL Draft by many analysts. This ranks well among other prospects where defensive ends tend to be selected fast in the NFL Draft. What makes Buggs more useful for the NFL is how he plays outside on 1st downs or run-orientated plays and inside on long-plays or 3rd downs. He can play end in a 3-4 NFL defense and defensive tackle in a 4-3 front. The usage of his hands and his strength makes him an efficient, tenacious pass rusher. While he comes off the ball quickly, he isn’t fast in his pass rush at the line of scrimmage or when he chases the quarterback. He is currently considered to be a late 2nd to 3rd round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Center/guard Ross Pierschbacher
When an offensive lineman is able to start every game from his freshman year, he is remarkable. The Crimson Tide had the experience of having two offensive linemen in junior tackle Jonah Williams and senior center Ross Pierschbacher start in every game appearance since freshman year. Pierschbacher has played in 66 games in his entire career for the Alabama Crimson Tide. From 2015 to 2017, he started at the left guard position at 56 starts. This past season, Pierschbacher played and started 12 games at the center position for the Tide. Due to his leadership and consistent talent, Pierschbacher helped the Tide become the 6th ranked total offense (522 total yards per game) and 3rd scoring offense (45.6) this past season. He was recognized at center as a 2nd team AP All-American and 1st team by Sporting News.
In his senior season, Pierschbacher played in 889 snaps and only gave up two sacks and one pressure. He is a strong but stable blocker, who can easily drive his way to the linebacker level on run blocks. He is stout and firm in his stance whenever he is facing a tenacious pass rush. At 6’4, 309 pounds, Pierschbacher is highly athletic to where he can consistently pull from the line. Due to his versatility, NFL scouts and coaches are thrilled that he can play the guard and center positions. Pierschbacher ranks 6th among guards or centers of all the prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft. This, though, might make him rise due to his dual-position playing ability. Pierschbacher projects to be a 2nd round to 4th round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
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