TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When combing through the best players in Alabama history, it's become a matter of separating eras: the early Wallace Wade and Frank Thomas era that put the Crimson Tide on the map, the Paul "Bear" Bryant era that produced a whopping six national championship, the resurgent Gene Stallings era of the early 1990s and, most recently, the Nick Saban era that threatens to be the most successful dynasty of all. Each period had its own set of stars, its own players who qualify as all-time talents.
The trouble in determining an all-time team, though, is figuring out how different eras compare, how a Hall of Fame receiver like Ozzie Newsome compares to a recent star like Julio Jones. How would AJ McCarron compare to Joe Namath, or Shaun Alexander compare to Trent Richardson? Where would Chris Samuels rank against the likes of D.J. Fluker? Would you take Chance Warmack over Dwight Stephenson if push came to shove? How do you measure someone like Barrett Jones who played every position on the offensive line and won national awards at both tackle and center?
When you're looking at 23 Alabama players or coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame, it's not easy to parse through the best of the best. Not when there are still so many players who are well on their way to joining that class. But that's what TideNation attempted to do this week when it conducted its all-time Alabama football draft. ESPN writers Chris Low, Ivan Maisel and Alex Scarborough were given the unenviable task of drafting their own all-time Alabama football teams that consisted of one quarterback, two running backs, three wideouts, a center, four offensive linemen, two safeties, two cornerbacks, a defensive front seven, a kicker and a punter.
Sound simple? It wasn't. Take a second and go through the back of Alabama's media guide where the records are kept. Look at the rushing statistics and try ranking your top five running backs. Shaun Alexander and Bobby Humphrey are No. 1 and 2 in total yards, but would you rank them above Richardson, Mark Ingram, Eddie Lacy and Kenneth Darby? Would you be tempted to extrapolate the freshman success of T.J. Yeldon and say he's better than any of his predecessors?
That's just one position. The same kind of arguments can be made at linebacker, quarterback and nearly every other spot on the roster, even at specialty positions like kicker and punter.
We'll begin the draft reveal Tuesday, but the discussion can begin right now. There's a thread already started on the TideNation message board, and the Twitter back-and-forth has been underway since late last week. Join the debate and follow the action throughout the week on TideNation.
Watch out for grades and analysis of the teams on Wednesday and a look at the all-time recruits on Thursday. We'll wrap up the action on Friday by gazing into our crystal ball to find a few current players that might end up a part of the all-time great conversation in the future.
The week will fly by, so enjoy.