Bryce Young among 4 Alabama stars to declare for NFL draft

Bryce Young is moving on to the NFL.

The Alabama quarterback, who won the Heisman Trophy last season, was one of four Alabama juniors to declare for the NFL draft on Monday. Joining Young were linebacker Will Anderson, running back Jahmyr Gibbs and defensive back Brian Branch.

Young, Anderson and Gibbs addressed reporters in Tuscaloosa along with Alabama head coach Nick Saban on Monday morning. Later Monday, Branch announced his intentions to go pro in an Instagram post.

Young and Anderson are expected to be high first-round picks, with Young potentially the first quarterback taken in the 2023 draft. Gibbs also received a “top-round grade,” Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said Monday. Branch is also viewed as a potential first-round pick

“All three of these guys have top-round grades, so we’re excited about the opportunities in their future that they can have at the next level,” Saban told reporters, referencing Young, Anderson and Gibbs.

Young was the top quarterback recruit in the country in the class of 2020. He certainly lived up to that billing. He was the backup to Mac Jones as a true freshman as Alabama won the national title. He then stepped into the starting role in 2021 and flourished, throwing for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns en route to an SEC title, national runner-up finish and Heisman Trophy.

This season, Young threw for 3,328 yards and 32 touchdowns, capped off by a 321-yard, five-touchdown performance in Saturday’s 45-20 win over Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) is headed to the NFL after a sterling two-year run as the team's starter. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) is headed to the NFL after a sterling two-year run as the team's starter. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Anderson was also a five-star recruit in Alabama’s class of 2020. He quickly emerged as one of the team’s top edge rushers. In three seasons, Anderson compiled 204 tackles, 58.5 tackles for loss and 34.5 sacks. His best statistical output came in 2021 when he had 31 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks.

Gibbs spent his first two seasons at Georgia Tech before transferring to Alabama. In his lone season with the Tide, Gibbs rushed for 926 yards and seven touchdowns while adding a team-leading 44 receptions for 444 yards and three more scores.

Branch posted 90 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, three sacks, seven pass breakups and two interceptions this season for the Tide. He played in 40 games with 22 starts during his Alabama career and has played all over the secondary.

“I’m very proud of the way these guys have represented the program, not only the way they played on the field but the kind of character as people and the academic success they’ve had,” Saban said.

All four played in Saturday’s Sugar Bowl, rather than opt out to avoid an injury that could have negatively affected their draft stock. Saban was very complimentary of their decision to play and said it had a very positive impact on the team as a whole.

“These guys showed tremendous leadership and character to make a decision to play in the Sugar Bowl, which I think impacted the entire team with the example they set and how they cared about their teammates. These guys have been great ambassadors for the program and great ambassadors for the sport,” Saban said. With the win over Kansas State, Alabama finished the year 11-2. The Tide were No. 5 in the final College Football Playoff rankings thanks to last-second losses to Tennessee and LSU during the regular season.

Saban said there could be other players on his team who make draft decisions “in the near future."