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AP photo by Tony Dejak/ Former University of Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II greets fans in Cleveland on Thursday night after he was chosen by the Denver Broncos with the ninth pick of the NFL draft.

Another opening night of the National Football League draft.

Another four-hour University of Alabama infomercial.

The Crimson Tide entered Thursday evening's Cleveland-hosted extravaganza having dominated this event in the Nick Saban era with a whopping 33 first-round selections, including four first-round picks on five occasions. Alabama had never, however, produced three top-10 selections in a single draft until receiver Jaylen Waddle went sixth to the Miami Dolphins, cornerback Patrick Surtain II went ninth to the Denver Broncos and receiver DeVonta Smith went 10th to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Philadelphia traded up two spots with the Dallas Cowboys to take Smith, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner who became the fourth Tide receiver in two years to get selected among the top 15 picks. The Las Vegas Raiders took Henry Ruggs with the 12th pick in last year's draft, with the Broncos using the 15th selection to snag Jerry Jeudy.

"Being around these guys that I've played with, they've taught me a lot," Smith said on the ESPN telecast. "We are held to a high standard, and everybody coming in behind us is going to be held to that same standard."

The early Alabama picks off the board did not include quarterback Mac Jones, who began this week as the betting favorite to go third overall to the San Francisco 49ers but wound up going 15th to the New England Patriots.

Thursday's draft, which was televised by ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network, opened as expected with the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the New York Jets taking Brigham Young quarterback Zach Wilson. The drama began with the 49ers, who used the third pick on North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.

Lance was light years from the spotlight that Jones possessed at Alabama, making just 17 career starts for his Football Championship Subdivision school, and his selection marked the third time in NFL draft history that quarterbacks went in the top three picks.

Atlanta used the fourth selection on Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who became the highest-drafted tight end ever. Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka was the fifth overall pick of the Chicago Bears in 1961.

The Cincinnati Bengals picked fifth and selected JaMarr Chase, who became the highest-drafted receiver in LSU history. After Miami took Waddle, the Detroit Lions used the seventh pick on Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell.

The first seven picks were offensive players until the Carolina Panthers selected South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn and the Broncos followed by taking Surtain.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who began his college career at Georgia in 2018 as Jake Fromm's backup, went 11th overall to the Bears, who traded up nine spots with the New York Giants.

Patience is nothing new for Jones, who spent his 2017 and 2018 seasons in Tuscaloosa as the third-stringer behind Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. He spent the 2019 season as Tagovailoa's backup until earning a battlefield promotion late that year at Mississippi State.

"It was fine. I just sat around and waited," Jones told ESPN. "I'm just so blessed to be part of such a great organization. It's not really where you get picked but what you do with the opportunity, and that's what Coach Saban told me.

"We're just getting started, and I'm looking forward to playing in the NFL. It's going to be awesome. I'm blessed."

Jones was the seventh Southeastern Conference player chosen in the first 15 picks.

Alabama's four picks in the top 15 matched last year's success, when Tagovailoa went fifth overall to Miami and tackle Jedrick Wills went 10th to the Cleveland Browns in addition to Ruggs and Jeudy. The Tide entered this draft hoping to break the program mark for first-round selections and did that when tackle Alex Leatherwood went 17th overall to the Raiders, becoming the fifth Alabama player taken.

Running back Najee Harris made it six first-round selections for the Tide when the Pittsburgh Steelers took him with the 24th pick.

Georgia racked up six first-round picks in the three previous drafts, with linebacker Roquan Smith, tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel getting selected in 2019, cornerback Deandre Baker in 2019 and tackles Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson last year. Wilson was picked 29th overall by the Tennessee Titans, played just three snaps and is currently not on a league roster, making him one of the NFL's biggest busts ever should he not return.

The Bulldogs added their latest first-round pick late Thursday night when cornerback Eric Stokes went 29th to the Green Bay Packers.

The Titans used the No. 22 pick to take a cornerback, Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech.

The University of Tennessee has produced three first-round picks within the past decade — receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in 2013, offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James in 2014 and defensive end Derek Barnett in 2017 — but entered Thursday without a first-round projection. Guard Trey Smith and receiver Josh Palmer have the potential to be picked Friday night, when the second and third rounds transpire.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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