In one specific way, NFL draft prospects are just like those of us on the outside evaluating their traits.
They, like we, have our favorite games to watch for each of them.
For Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, the question of what game he is proudest of has an easy answer. Auburn, in the Iron Bowl, during the 2021-2022 season.
Asked at the NFL Draft Combine about which game of his was the best to show off his style of play, Young was quick to invoke that Iron Bowl clash, which the Crimson Tide won in overtime. “One game I’m proud of was the Auburn game my junior year. We pride ourselves at the University of Alabama so much in that game, the Iron Bowl. That’s something that’s so big for us a university. Going into overtime and for us to show that fight in a game that means so much is something I’m extremely proud of.”
Revisiting that game, however, illustrates many of the traits that have NFL teams salivating at his potential, regardless of what happens when he steps on the scale here in Indianapolis. Young completed just 25 of 51 passes in that game, for 317 yards and a pair of touchdowns — along with an interception — but it was how Young and the Crimson Tide battled that impressed the quarterback.
And some moments from that game are worth revisiting as Young stands on the cusp of the first-overall selection.
For example, there was this play from early in the game, with the Crimson Tide backed up deep in their own territory. Facing 3rd and 18 on their own 7-yard line, Young slid to his left to avoid the rush, while keeping his eyes downfield. He found Jameson Williams late in the play for a huge gain to move the chains:
In the fourth quarter, however, is when the legend of Young at Alabama truly began to take shape. With the Crimson Tide trailing by seven — and their season perhaps hanging in the balance — Young delivered on a number of critical throws to pull Alabama back.
Here, with Alabama facing a 3rd and 2 with under four minutes to go, Young initially wants to work a high-low concept on the left side of the field. But with pressure building immediately off that edge, the QB flushes to the right, while keeping his eyes downfield. He is able to find John Metchie III crossing the field with him to move the chains:
However, the Tigers stopped Alabama at midfield on fourth down a few plays later, and when the Crimson Tide got the football back, they needed to cover nearly the length of the field with under two minutes remaining.
The first big play on this game-tying drive? Again, Young buying time in the pocket before finding Metchie over the middle, late in the down:
A few plays later, Young got Alabama into Auburn territory with this perfectly-placed throw on a corner route:
What stands out about this throw is the timing, the rhythm, and the anticipation. Auburn shows two-deep safeties early in the pre-snap phase, but right before the play begins they walk one of those two safeties down into the box. Young deciphers the coverage perfectly, and then starts his throw on the corner route well before the receiver makes his break. The result? A big gain, and life for the Crimson Tide.
Young capped off that 97-yard drive with this strike to tie the game, and force overtime:
This is a long throw, from the left hashmark to the right sideline, coming on a third down with the season on the line.
And Young puts it in the perfect spot.
There are a number of reasons that teams and evaluators could have Young at the top of their draft boards. When revisiting his career, and his favorite game in particular, you see many of those reasons come to life. From his ability to extend plays, his ability to throw on the move, his ability to decipher a defense with his mind, and his ability to come through when his team needed him the most, Young delivered on that afternoon in the Iron Bowl.
A game, and an effort, that could now deliver him to the top of the draft.