For a fourth consecutive year, BamaOnLine is counting down Alabama’s top 25 most important players ahead of the Crimson Tide’s fast-approaching fall camp and 2018 football season. Next up at No. 23 is the need for a No. 4 wide receiver to come off the bench.

*** Breakdown of Alabama’s Top-25 Most Important Players for 2018: Two things went into consideration in this breakdown. One was how much the player would see the field this fall. With that condition, the list is primarily made up of starters. The second aspect is the player’s importance to the team, meaning if they are replacing a starter at a key position and how hard it would be to replace them should something occur to force them out of commission.


Returning players: Derek Kief, Xavian Marks

Redshirt freshmen: Tyrell Shavers, Chadarius Townsend

Newcomers: Jaylen Waddle, Xavier Williams


Alabama lost its three starting wide receivers to either the 2018 NFL Draft (Calvin Ridley) or free agency (Robert Foster, Cam Sims) this offseason and will need to replace them for the upcoming 2018 season. But luckily for the Crimson Tide, a trio of freshmen saw plenty of the field last year, and Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs III will start this fall.

But this ranking isn’t for one of them.

While the three sophomores assume starting roles, their places as key reserves need filling. UA used six wideouts a season ago, and while it’s entirely possible it goes that route again in 2018, for this story’s purposes, we’re only going to talk about the need for a No. 4 receiver.

Let’s start with the returning players. When Jeudy was forced to miss the spring game due to a knee injury, Kief was the one that earned the starting nod alongside Smith and Ruggs. At 6-foot-4, he gives the Tide a taller option and one that’s been in the program five years. He and Marks are the oldest wideouts on the roster and should see some snaps before leaving town.

But their paths to the field could be blocked by younger players. A toe injury kept him from playing in the A-Day Game, but prior to that, Shavers was impressing his teammates and coaches.

“He’s a talented guy and he’s getting a lot of reps, now especially,” Nick Saban said of Shavers. “I think it’s a work in progress for him to learn the position because he hadn’t played it before. But he’s got some talent and he’s one of those guys that we need to develop and create a role for because he certainly has the ability to contribute. We certainly are going to work really hard to try and help him do that.”

Shavers and Waddle, another Texas native, bring statures and skill sets that differ from Jeudy, Smith and Ruggs that could set them apart from the rest of the group. But among Kief, Marks, Shavers, Townsend, Waddle and Williams, Alabama has plenty of receiver options.

WHY NO. 23?

Well, with the No. 4 receiver making the list (SPOILER ALERT), that means expected starters Jeudy, Smith and Ruggs are set to appear later in Alabama’s Top 25 Most Important Players for 2018. So because of that, although this is important, it gets knocked down a bit.

Still, we saw how crucial the roles of the then-freshmen were last year, especially in the national championship game. Smith proved the stage wasn’t too big for him, making a couple of clutch catches to lift the Tide to victory, Ruggs was a touchdown machine and Jeudy was pegged as a clone of Ridley. Finding a player to fill their vacancies in the lineup is going to be key.

The good news for Alabama is, like it was previously stated, there are plenty of options. Those options, however, are all relatively inexperienced. If Kief or Marks can step up during their senior years or Shavers and/or Waddle live up to the hype, the Tide will be in good shape. And if one or both of those things happen, then a ranking of 23 could ultimately prove to be too low.


*** Below are the players that are ranked below No. 23:

25. PKs Joseph Bulovas and Austin Jones

24. OT Matt Womack

Contact Charlie Potter by 247Sports' personal messaging or on Twitter (@Charlie_Potter).