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NFL Draft Prospect Preview: Terrell Lewis goes from forgotten to 2020 1st-rounder

NFL Draft
Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Alabama Crimson Tide have been a pipeline to the NFL Draft in recent years, in terms of defensive talent and excellent linebacker prospects. Past Alabama greats such as C.J. Mosley, Rashaan Evans, and Reuben Foster dominated for the team and have gone on to become first-round NFL Draft picks. The latest great linebacker prospect in that long line is the junior, Terrell Lewis.

Due to injury, the talented edge rusher was a forgotten man in 2018, and returns as a dark horse for a top 15 selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. Below, I will look at the story of Lewis and break down his prospects for the 2019 season and beyond.

The top prospect now finding his place

Lewis was a former five-star recruit according to many college recruiting experts and a consensus top 20 overall high school player. The Tide have consistently put together some of the top recruiting classes in the past decade, and their 2016 class was no different. This class included 2019 first-rounders Jonah Williams and Quinnen Williams. Other talented players involved in that group are 2020 draft hopefuls Raekwon Davis and Trevon Diggs. I mentioned both of these players in my top 25 SEC prospects for the 2020 season. Even with all of these great players in tow, Terrell Lewis (formerly Terrell Hall) was the crown jewel of Alabama’s 2016 recruiting class.

The former top prospect received immediate playing time at Alabama as a reserve. It was evident that the Tide wanted their talented freshman on the field, even at the expense of players like Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson. Both Williams and Anderson were seniors who received their share of NFL Draft fanfare as the season progressed. Lewis was a big player even for a freshman, and his talent was apparent. However, to receive significant playing time and notoriety, he would have to bide his time like many others at Alabama. After playing sparingly in 2016, he entered 2017 as one of the team’s top edge threats, with a significant increase in playing time ahead.

A promising career derailed temporarily

Lewis only started one game during the 2017 season, before his season was cut short against Florida State with an elbow injury. With that injury, Lewis was expected to miss the remainder of the year. After rest and rehabilitation, he miraculously returned for the college football playoffs. As previously mentioned, he was able to help Alabama to a National Championship win and vaulted himself into the views of college football fans and NFL Draft pundits alike. The Tide defeated the Georgia Bulldogs and completed one of the greatest comebacks ever, behind freshman Tua Tagovailoa. Lewis had a mini-breakout in that game, as he posted seven total tackles and a sack. He consistently harassed Georgia starter Jake Fromm and looked like a future star as an edge rusher.

Lewis entered the 2018 season as one of the top returning pass rushers for the defending college football champions. However, all of that hype came to a crashing halt very suddenly. Lewis tore his ACL while training for the 2018 season. He was forced to miss the year and watch Alabama lose to Clemson in the National Championship game. Lewis has such great potential, but his career has been snake-bitten to this point, and the last two years have been extremely tough on him. However, Lewis recently spoke about his comeback and how he feels heading into the season.

From relative unknown to NFL Draft first-rounder

All injuries aside, Lewis has been a force when on the field for the Tide. He stands at a monster 6’5″ 252 lbs, and is the prototype for a 3-4 outside linebacker. For his plus size, Lewis shows excellent speed off the edge. He has even shown his best in the biggest games, against the most significant competition. In the national championship two years ago against the Bulldogs, Lewis matched up with surefire top NFL Draft pick Andrew Thomas. While he did not record a sack against him officially, he played very well and was a constant fixture in the backfield and around the ball. His one sack in that game came on an impressive stunt inside on third down in overtime.

For a player that has only played in 15 career games with only one start, the fourth-year junior is a natural pass rusher with a lot of excitement around him. Fans in Tuscaloosa are excited to get Lewis back from injury, and soon, all college football fans will know why. He seems confident in his ability to bounce back in a big way this season. His big body can generate a lot of power, and he can walk bigger lineman back into the backfield consistently. He also does a great job of keeping his eyes in the backfield when engaged. He was able to overpower Thomas in the game against the Bulldogs and showed a veteran presence and savvy throughout. Lewis will be an exciting player to watch in 2019 because his best is yet to come.

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