Alabama becoming Hurricanes-like NFL pipeline
Alabama is becoming the kind of NFL draft factory that the Miami
Hurricanes were a decade ago.
The national champion Crimson Tide is expected to have five
players drafted in the first round Thursday night, which would be
only the fifth time that has happened since the common draft began
Add in last year’s first-round quartet, and only the Hurricanes
have had more a prolific stretch in the draft.
Tailback Trent Richardson, linebackers Dont’a Hightower and
Courtney Upshaw and defensive backs Mark Barron and Dre Kirkpatrick
are all projected as first-rounders.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. figures ”at worst” four of
them will go in the first round, and said that playing for the Tide
is good for a half-round bump for other draft-eligible players.
”People love the fact they’re coached up so well, basically pro
coaching,” Kiper said. ”And they’re so much more prepared for
what the NFL is going to have to offer.”
Still, Alabama will need one more great year to match the
Hurricanes. Miami had six first-round picks in 2004, four in 2003
and five in 2002.
The Hurricanes of the early 2000s are the only ones to have at
least nine first-rounders in a two-year span, according to STATs
Ohio State also had five players taken in the opening round in
2006, and Southern California did it in 1968.
Saban said he emphasizes the importance of his players getting
degrees and developing personally – and maybe turning into NFL
”We want to help them develop as a football player which means
have a great career here, win a championship and see if you can
play at the next level,” he said.
It helps that Saban has been bringing in some of the nation’s
top recruiting classes. That has translated into two national
championships in three years, along with a renewed draft
The Tide didn’t have a single player picked in 2008 for the
first time in 38 years. The following year, Andre Smith became
Alabama’s first first-rounder since Shaun Alexander and Chris
Samuels in 2000.
The Tide has eight players who are likely to be drafted.
Noseguard Josh Chapman, cornerback DeQuan Menzie and wide
receiver/return man Marquis Maze are all expected to be picked in
the mid-to-late rounds.
At least six players are listed as potential first-rounders in
2013 in various mock drafts.
Agent Pat Dye Jr. represents Hightower and Menzie, along with
such former Saban stars and current NFL players as Rolando McClain,
Mike Johnson and Julio Jones.
He thinks Saban’s background as an NFL assistant and former
Miami Dolphins head coach helps, but so does the talent.
”He certainly knows what it takes at that level, and he’s
demanding of them physically,” Dye said. ”He’s demanding of them
mentally. I think all of those things, combined with that talent
base, is why those guys have had so much success on draft day and
go on to have success in the NFL.”
Plus, he adds, ”They’re not going to settle for anything less
than perfection over there, which is a great training ground for
getting ready for the next level.”
Richardson is a candidate to go to Cleveland at No. 4 or Tampa
Bay at No. 5. Barron is also regarded as a potential Top 10 pick,
while the other three are projected to go in the middle to late
portion of the round.
Hightower feels like playing in the complex defense of Saban and
Kirby Smart helps him.
”Wherever he’s at, he’s always had success,” he said. ”If you
go back and look some of the players he’s put out at LSU and
Michigan State, that shows a lot. They look at that. And they know
that I have the athletic ability and know that I can come in in a
week and get the game plan and be ready to go by Sunday. It’s
definitely something that helped me out.”