In a recent Q&A with ESPN, Alabama head coach Nick Saban expounded on some of the positives in Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson, both of whom he sees succeeding in the NFL.
Of the many appealing factors for drafting defensive lineman Jonathan Allen in the first round and linebacker Ryan Anderson in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins liked that both players came from Alabama.
The Crimson Tide, of course, has been college football's top program over the last 10 years under head coach Nick Saban.
Saban has accumulated a 119-19 record while in Tuscaloosa, winning three BCS Championships along with the College Football Championship in 2015.
"Anytime you watch college football, and you watch other defenses, no disrespect, and then you flip on an Alabama game, it's different," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden when asked about Allen and Anderson while they were in college. "The speed is different. They are well-coached, they are in their gaps, they play hard, they play physical, and that's from Week 1 until the end. That has to appeal to you as a coach. They are using their hands, they are physical, they are chasing the ball, they are running to the ball. Of course they have a lot of guys that can sub in and out, but they are just well-coached and we feel good about where they are from a mental standpoint from talking to them, getting to know these guys.
"We know they are both highly intelligent guys. They understand football, understand X's and O's and they both play very hard with a high motor and they are well-coached. So I don't see any negative whatsoever with them going to Alabama – only positive."
ESPN's John Keim recently conducted a Q&A with Saban about the pair of Alabama products, starting with Allen's rise from Stone Bridge (Va.) High School to the Redskins.
When Allen first started at Stone Bridge, he was a wide receiver who converted to the defensive line. The move, of course, would prove successful, as Allen would become a Rivals five-start recruit and was the No. 11-overall prospect in the Class of 2013.
Despite his exceptional skillset, though, Allen still had room to grow physically.
On Friday, April 28, 2017, the Washington Redskins selected linebacker Ryan Anderson with the 49th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
"First of all when we recruited the guy he wasn't nearly as big," Saban told Keim. "He was more an outside linebacker/pass-rush type. We like to recruit those guys because they're athletic and can rush the passer. Then if they're bigger they make really good athletic linemen, whether [end or tackle]. That's what happened with Jonathan. He has the athleticism of an outside linebacker, but he grew into being a good defensive lineman, so instinctive and smart as a player. He really developed into a great pass-rusher. He's really smart in terms of how he applies what he knows and how he studies and prepares. He's very gifted as well. [The Redskins] got a steal because if everyone isn't afraid of his shoulder, which was never a problem, here, he would have been picked in the top five."
By his junior season, the 6-foot-3, 288 pounder was considered a first-round talent who entered the 2016 NFL Draft. But on the last day for underclassmen to make decisions on their futures, Allen changed his mind and returned to Alabama for his senior season.
Allen would dominate once again. He finished the year with 10.5 sacks to push his career total to 28.5 sacks, second all-time in Alabama history behind only College and Pro Football Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas.
His pass rushing ability along the line should help a Washington defensive line that lost Chris Baker in free agency.
"The guy is explosive with good initial quickness," Saban said. "He plays the point well and is strong at the point. He plays with great pad level and leverage. Whoever thinks he might be undersized ... if he's undersized it's very limited. It's all relative. When you're a half-inch too short and three pounds of not what the mean is, that doesn't mean you're undersized to me, especially when you're a productive, good player."
Anderson, meanwhile, is a "very instinctive player" who can "turn speed to power" when getting after quarterbacks.
In 57 career collegiate games, Anderson recorded 40 tackles for loss along with 19.5 sacks and six fumbles forced.
Anderson plays with a tenacity that the Redskins hope bolsters a pass rush that has centered on Ryan Kerrigan in recent seasons.
"It was never a negative," said Saban of Anderson's nastiness. "He was never a guy that got a lot of emotional, undisciplined penalties. He's a real strong competitor, great character and plays hard. He's tough. He tries to dominate the guy he's playing against. So I never saw it as a negative; you're talking about a guy who never had issues off the field ... Did he mature a lot here? Absolutely. Am I proud of what he became and his development as a player and person? Absolutely."