Alabamaís 2010 draft haul could beat 2009
By Jess Nicholas
May 2, 2009
A year after Alabama was shut completely out of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Crimson Tide responded in a big way by seeing four players (OL Andre Smith, RB Glen Coffee, S Rashad Johnson, C Antoine Caldwell) be drafted in the first three rounds of the 2009 Draft.
But itís possible Alabama could do even better in 2010. Hereís a look at Alabamaís graduating seniors and draft-eligible underclassmen and where they might go in the 2010 NFL Draft.
OG Mike Johnson
While Smith and Caldwell drew most of the media attention in 2009, Mike Johnson did just as good a job at left guard. Johnsonís value is in his intelligence, toughness and his ability to play any position other than center. But it is left guard where he has excelled. Guards donít typically draw the attention that tackles do, but occasionally a couple will ascend into the first round of the Draft. Item to work on: Johnson needs to get more consistent as a pass blocker.
Predicted round: Second round
OT Drew Davis
If you had told most Alabama fans two years ago that Drew Davis would have a chance to be drafted, you would have needed a lot of smelling salts for the resulting fainting spells due to uncontrolled laughter. But Davis grabbed a starting job last year and displayed improvement this spring. His strengths are his ability as a run blocker, and the fact that he has never been overweight at Alabama and has a solid, athletic frame. Items to work on: Davis has gotten better as a pass blocker, but itís not his strength due to his footwork. Also, he projects as a right tackle only in the pros.
Predicted round: Fifth or later
TE Colin Peek
Peek came to Alabama already as a NFL prospect, transferring from Georgia Tech when Paul Johnson took over as head coach and basically eliminated the tight end position altogether. In two spring practices, Peek has shown himself to be a far better than average blocker, and a real weapon as a receiver. Unfortunately, he has also shown himself to be injury-prone. Predicting Peekís draft status will be tough because of that, and because he sat out last season as a transfer. If he plays to his potential, he could go very high. Item to work on: Durability.
Predicted round: Second or third
WR Mike McCoy
McCoy has the kind of build that attracts pro scouts and is fast enough to get the job done. Heís had two strong springs in a row. But it hasnít translated yet to the fall. McCoy appeared to nail down the starting job opposite Julio Jones this spring, although Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks figure to play a lo at his position and in the slot. If McCoy can duplicate the feat of Matt Caddell two years ago Ė struggling for his first three years but putting together a stellar senior year Ė he could find his way into the Draft. And heíll do better in that regard than Caddell, who was an undrafted free agent largely because of his lack of height. McCoy is taller. Items to work on: Consistency getting open, fewer dropped passes.
Predicted round: Sixth or seventh
RB Roy Upchurch
Upchurch has the largest draft range for any Alabama player. If he bounces back 100 percent from neck surgery, he could very well end up Alabamaís starting running back Ė and he has more upside at the position than did Glen Coffee last year. Upchurch is taller than Coffee, bigger and more versatile (Upchurch lined up at receiver and fullback last year as well as at tailback). He glides as a runner, is faster in the open field and is the prototypical third-down back. He also plays with toughness and carries a field general attitude. But his numerous injuries make even his return in the fall questionable, to say nothing of his draft potential. Item to work on: Durability.
Predicted round: Second to fifth
Others: OL James Carpenter (junior), FB Baron Huber, PK Leigh Tiffin
Carpenter, with a strong year, could feasibly declare early. There isnít enough evidence right now to support the possibility, although he displayed great mobility as a left tackle in the spring and could play there, at center or at right guard in the fall. Huber has the classic build of a fullback, but not really the athleticism to play at the next level. The fact he has no career carries and isnít a featured part of the offense will also hurt him. As for Tiffin, leg strength for field goals is not an issue, but misses in critical situations are. Tiffin also canít consistently kick off for distance, although the NFL often employs kickoff specialists. Given that some excellent kickers didnít get drafted in the 2009 NFL Draft, however, it seems unlikely for Tiffin to go.
DE Brandon Deaderick
Deaderick has played in and out on Alabamaís defense and will start the year as the weakside end. He is strong against the run and strong in general, taking up blockers and allowing the linebackers to run free. He hasnít displayed consistent pass-rushing ability, however, which limits his value in the upper rounds. He is also limited to basically being an end in a 3-4 scheme; in a 4-3 defense, he would be a tweener. Items to work on: pass-rushing moves, consistency
Predicted round: Fifth or later
NT Terrence Cody
Cody could have come out this year and gone in the first day, especially had he not gotten hurt against Ole Miss. That injury and his subsequent play exposed a weakness in Codyís game: value against fast teams that lean toward a passing spread. Regardless, Cody displayed a good work ethic and followed that up with a productive offseason. True nose tackles make a lot of money in the NFL, particularly ones with good attitudes who can get penetration. Cody fits the bill and, health permitting, will become very rich very soon. Item to work on: pass-rushing moves.
Predicted round: First round, potentially a top-10 pick
DT/E Lorenzo Washington
Washington started at nose tackle two years ago, moved to a reserve tackle/end role when Terrence Cody came to campus, then beat out Marcel Dareus for the strongside tackle/end combo position this spring. Washingtonís versatility and athleticism are his biggest strengths, as well as the fact he can also rush the passer a little, and his willingness to do whatís best for the team. A full season as a starter at Alabamaís combo line position will help him further. Unlike Deaderick, he also has a home in a 4-3 defense as a tackle, giving him extra versatility. Item to work on: outside pass rush.
Predicted round: Third
LB Rolando McClain (junior)
Assuming McClain backs up his first two seasons with a similar year in 2009, he could easily be a candidate to declare early for the 2010 Draft. McClain has the prototypical size and speed for a NFL linebacker and can play either inside or out. He can be good in coverage but can also be a bit erratic. McClain hasnít yet said whether he is considering coming out in 2010 but a strong season this year would certainly make it a possibility Ė especially if a rookie salary cap is in the NFLís future after next year. Item to work on: Covering backs out of the backfield one-on-one.
Predicted round: Late first through second
CB/KR Javier Arenas
The real draft darkhorse on the team is Javier Arenas. He doesnít have ideal height for cornerback in the NFL, but his physicality makes scouts drool and then there is his ability as a kick returner. That dual value, along with his intelligent play on the field, makes Arenas a real possibility to go in the first round of the draft. Item to work on: Bringing kickoff return skills up to par with his punt return skills.
Predicted round: Late first through second
SS Justin Woodall
Woodall already looks the part of a NFL safety. The question is whether he can play like one. His top-end speed isnít quite up there with elite safeties, and his one-on-one coverage ability is average. But he has really come into his own lately in terms of game management and game knowledge, and his ability to support the run is among the best in the business. Woodallís biggest liability right now is that he is limited to being a strong safety, largely due to the lack of recovery speed. Items to work on: Top-end speed training, one-on-one coverage ability.
Predicted round: Fourth or later
Others: LB Cory Reamer, DE/LB Brandon Fanney, DE/LB Eryk Anders, CB Kareem Jackson (junior), NT Josh Chapman (sophomore), NT Kerry Murphy (freshman), S Ali Sharrief, S Tyrone King Jr., CB Chris Rogers, CB Marquis Johnson, P P.J. Fitzgerald, LB Prince Hall (suspended)
There is a large collection of supporting-cast talent on the 2009 Alabama defense, which should indicate just how difficult it will be for the 2010 team to replicate what most experts expect out of the 2009 unit. Of the above group, probably the player with the best shot at the pros is Jack linebacker Brandon Fanney due to his build and the likelihood that he would test well in a combine setting. Fanney doesnít have the speed to play the Jack position in the NFL, but could be an end in a 4-3 defense. Fanneyís big issue is that a suspension in the offseason cost him his starting job and if he canít get it back before the fall, itís unlikely heíll have a chance to get enough attention from scouts to be drafted. Even if he is, he would seem to project as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent. Eryk Anders currently has the Jack job, but he is a tweener in NFL eyes. Heís the size of an outside linebacker in the NFL but doesnít have a linebackerís coverage abilities. Heís not big enough to play NFL end in any alignment. But he does have enough speed to get noticed and could, if he holds off Fanney in the fall, sneak into the late rounds as a reach pick. Cory Reamerís history of knee surgeries and lack of ideal bulk will probably cost him a shot. Safeties Ali Sharrief and Tyrone King Jr. donít have a complete skill set for the next level. Chris Rogers looks the part, but just hasnít been able to capture enough playing time in his career to be noticed. Marquis Johnson has the size and straight-line speed needed to play corner in the NFL, but has had an up-and-down career at Alabama. He would need a breakout 2009 season but is currently the teamís third corner. Punter P.J. Fitzgerald would have to have a mammoth season to be considered. Cornerback Kareem Jackson is just a junior and would need to have a junior season more like his freshman year than his sophomore year in order to be considered. Odds are he will return for his final year. The same is true for redshirt sophomore Josh Chapman, who will play behind Terrence Cody in 2009 and then likely take over the spot in 2010 Ė if he beats out Kerry Murphy, who would be draft-eligible next April despite being just a freshman this year, due to his time spent in prep school. An intriguing name is linebacker Prince Hall, suspended from the Alabama team prior to spring. If Hall makes a comeback at a lower division, he has the physique and experience to get some notice Ė just not as an Alabama player.