ARLINGTON, Texas (WTVA/Alabama Athletics) - University of Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne, linebacker Rashaan Evans and wide receiver Calvin Ridley were selected in the first round of the 2018 National Football League Draft Thursday evening at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The four first round selections for the Crimson Tide are the most for any team in this year's opening round and equals the most for Alabama in the first round during Nick Saban's tenure. Four Tide players were drafted in the first round of the 2011, 2012 and 2017 drafts.
Fitzpatrick was selected at No. 11 by the Miami Dolphins with Payne going to the Washington Redskins two picks later at No. 13. Evans was the No. 22 pick by the Tennessee Titans while Ridley went at No. 26 to the Atlanta Falcons.
Alabama has now had 26 players selected in the first round of the last 10 NFL Drafts. Andre Smith was selected in 2009. Rolando McClain and Kareem Jackson were selected in 2010. In 2011, Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones, James Carpenter and Mark Ingram all went in round one while Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dont'a Hightower were taken in 2012. Dee Milliner, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker were taken in 2013 while C.J. Mosley and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix went in 2014. Amari Cooper was selected in 2015. Ryan Kelly was taken in 2016. Marlon Humphrey, Jonathan Allen, O.J. Howard and Reuben Foster were picked in 2017.
Regarded as one of the top defensive backs in Alabama history, Fitzpatrick was voted a permanent team captain in his junior season. The Old Bridge, N.J. native was college football's 2017 Bednarik and Thorpe award winner, the second recipient of each award in Crimson Tide history. Fitzpatrick was selected as a unanimous All-American by the five major outlets (Walter Camp, FWAA, Associated Press, Sporting News and AFCA) and also earned first team All-America honors from Sports Illustrated. He finished fourth on the team in tackles with 60 in 2017 while recording eight tackles for loss (-31 yards) and contributing 1.5 sacks (-15 yards).
Payne was regarded as one of the top defensive line prospects in the nation following the 2017 season. A bruising run-stopper along the Tide front, he was selected as the Defensive MVP of the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the College Football Playoff National Championship Game after recording eight tackles, a pass breakup and his first career interception in the two games. He also caught his first career touchdown pass in the Sugar Bowl. The Birmingham, Ala., native garnered Second Team All-America accolades from the AFCA in 2017 and was selected as a First Team All-SEC honoree by the Associated Press while also earning second-team recognition from the coaches.
A versatile athlete who played in the middle with the ability to come off the edge, Evans was selected as one of the Tide's permanent team captains as a senior. The Auburn, Ala., native was honored as a First Team All-American by the AFCA. He earned First Team All-SEC from the Associated Press and was named to the All-SEC second team by the conference coaches. Evans collected a team-high tying 74 tackles and led the Tide with 13 tackles for loss (-54 yards) despite missing a pair of games due to injury last season. He also contributed seven quarterback hurries to tie for second at UA and totaled six sacks (-41 yards) to rank second on the team in that category.
Ridley finished second in UA history for receptions (224) and receiving touchdowns (19) while ranking third in receiving yards with 2,781. He totaled eight career 100-yard receiving games to tie for third in the Alabama record books and caught at least one pass in all 44 games of his Alabama career to rank third among active receivers in the FBS during 2017. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native was named First Team All-SEC by the coaches. Ridley led the Tide with 63 catches for 967 yards to average 15.3 yards per catch with five touchdown receptions. The 967 yards was good for third in the SEC while his 63 receptions ranked sixth in the conference.
The second and third rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft continues on Friday evening from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas with rounds 4-7 wrapping up the draft on Saturday afternoon.