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NFL Combine

Will the Patriots again look to Alabama if they target a linebacker in the NFL Draft?

Alabama linebacker Christian Harris had three sacks in the national championship game against Georgia.Andy Lyons/Getty

INDIANAPOLIS — The talent pipeline from Tuscaloosa, Ala., to Foxborough, Mass., is as strong as any in the NFL, given the bond between Nick Saban and Bill Belichick.

With a bevy of Crimson Tide prospects at the annual NFL Scouting Combine, there’s a strong chance the list could grow. Linebacker Christian Harris could be at the top, and he’d welcome the opportunity.

“You’ve got [Christian] Barmore up there, Anfernee Jennings. I didn’t get to play with Dont’a Hightower, obviously, but he went to Alabama and they love Alabama players, so that’d be pretty cool,” Harris said Friday.

The speedy 6-foot-2-inch, 232-pounder was a versatile and vital cog in Saban’s defense over the last three seasons, collecting 221 tackles, capped by his three-sack performance in the national championship game. Perhaps most impressive is Harris’s durability. He never missed a game in his college career.


With the Patriots needing to get faster at the second level to help combat dual-threat quarterbacks such as Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa, Harris could slot right in and make an impact.

Harris said he met with a couple of New England scouts during the week to “talk ball” and break down some plays.

“We watched film. Everybody wants to know about my knowledge,” Harris said. “They were trying to get to know me as a person, as a player, trying to see where my knowledge was at.”

Harris said he had the same message for all the teams that he met with during the hectic week.

“I want them to know that I’m not just a weak-side linebacker,” he said. “I feel like I’ve definitely developed my knowledge of the game. I don’t just know my position, I know everybody’s spot. I can communicate, I can play fast, I can get guys lined up, and I can be a leader on defense.”


Christopher Allen totaled 13 tackles for loss and a half-dozen sacks in 2020 before injury greatly curtailed his 2021.Gary Cosby Jr/Associated Press

In a bit of surprise, the Patriots had not yet met with fellow Alabama linebacker Christopher Allen, who indicated he met with all the other teams.

Following a dominant 2020 season in which the outside linebacker totaled 13 tackles for loss and a half-dozen sacks, Allen’s 2021 season was cut short by a foot injury suffered in the opener.

He said Tuesday he feels he would have “blown this season out of the water” had he been a full participant.

Alabama’s Pro Day is set for March 30, and it’s likely the Patriots will have a strong presence there — Belichick usually attends — and could check in with Allen and the rest of the draft class then.

Utah’s Devin Lloyd, one of the most highly touted linebacker prospects in the class, also met with the Patriots. Similar to Harris, he said the chat was a combination of personal questions and film recognition. He enjoyed having his brain picked by New England’s inquisitors.

“It was good,” he said. “They’re definitely intense, you know, the questions they ask. You know, they’re very successful year in and year out for a reason.”

Lloyd possesses enviable traits, including being physical at the point of attack, but also has the athleticism and speed to be successful in coverage. He also supremely confident.

“I’m somebody who hunts, I get to the ball,” he said. “But also, I’m very calculated in my movements and you know, somebody who’s just an instinctual player, that plays with physicality, you know, plays with instincts. Somebody who is just really smart and nasty.”


The Patriots also had an informal meeting with linebacker Chad Muma of Wyoming, one of the standouts at the Senior Bowl. Muma is a Type 1 diabetic who is passionate about educating people and erasing stereotypes about the disease.

“It’s just the impact I saw in my college career specifically,” said Muma, who looked up to ex-NFLer Jay Cutler, also a diabetic. “These younger kids who are first getting diagnosed and they don’t know about diabetes, it goes back to my story when I was looking at NFL players with diabetes.

“It’s just something for those younger-generation kids that are now getting diagnosed or have diabetes. It’s good to have someone that advocates for them to really see that they’re able to go do whatever they want and have whatever dreams they have.”

Other linebackers who met with the Patriots include Georgia’s Quay Walker, Texas A&M’s Aaron Hansford, and Montana State’s Troy Anderson … Among the Patriots personnel spotted in and around the Indiana Convention Center the last few days were senior football adviser Matt Patricia, scouting consultant Eliot Wolf, and special teams coach Cam Achord.

Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.