Our own David Syvertsen takes a look at the top players taking the field tonight and how they will affect the 2012 NFL draft.
Its nuts to see how much NFL talent will be on the field tonight.
*#3 Trent Richardson – RB – 5’11/224
1st Team All American in 2011. Appears he will leave for the NFL this year. Was NFL ready before his sophomore season. Came to Alabama with elite speed, but has really bulked up and turned himself in to more of a power back. Has a Michael Turner-type ability in that he is a guy that can carry the ball a bunch of times and grind down a defense. Consistently gets the tough, often unnoticed yards because of the ability to break tackles. Will contribute right away in the NFL, just not sure he is worth a high draft pick. He lacks the big play speed, won’t run away from most defensive backs. Solid, but unspectacular player in the NFL.
#4 Marquis Maze – WR – 5’9/184
2nd Team All SEC in 2011. Maze is one of my favorite receivers in this class, believe it or not. Considering the value of where he is projected to be drafted, he presents great value. He runs crisp, efficient, explosive routes throughout the entire tree. He has legit 4.4 speed. Very strong pair of hands that make the tough catches consistently. Also a top tier punt returner, has an obvious ability to read blocks and find the seams before they are appear. 4th/5th rounder because of his size, but I think he will be worth every penny.
#73 William Vlachos – C – 6’1/295
1st team All SEC in 2011, 2nd Team in 2010. Engineer of a very smart offensive line. A guy that has been given a ton of responsibility, essentially a coach on the field. Has more power/pop off the snap than you think. Struggles to sustain blocks though, does not have a pair of heavy hands. Will be drafted after round 4 or 5, maybe a starter down the road.
#52 Alfred McCullough – G – 6’2/312
Low, squatty, powerful guard that gets overlooked. Short arms hurt him, but McCullough is a reliable player that played very well this season. Not the most mobile guy in space, but he gets to the second level quickly. Late rounder that could make a nice backup because of his NFL ready strength and technique inside.
#41 Courtney Upshaw – OLB – 6’2/265
1st Team All SEC in 2011. One of my favorite players in the entire draft class. Has NFL level strength from head to toe, a nice combination of natural strength/girth and weight room power. His game is based on an explosive first gear and good old thick, country strength. Best projected as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, although some teams can view him as a defensive end in a four man front. Reminds me a ton of Lamarr Wodley of the Steelers. Should be a top 15 pick, will be a contributor right away.
#4 Mark Barron – S – 6’2/220
1st Team All SEC in 2011, 2010, 2009. 1st Team All American in 2011 and 2010. May very well be the first ‘Bama player taken in the draft. Will likely work out very well before the draft. A do it all safety that excels in every area, really have a hard time finding holes in his game. Will fly in to the box and deliver bone-jarring hits. Can man up a wide receiver and follow him all over the field. Plays back deep and up with the linebackers. Great blitzer, avoids blocks and a top notch form tackler. Watch an Alabama game and you will see #4 involved in almost every play.
*#21 Dre Kirkpatrick – 6’2/193
2nd Team All SEC in 2011. Probably should go back for his senior season, as I think he could end up as an eventual top 5 selection 2013. But if he does come out this year, he is going to be a wildcard. Based on his combinatio n of performance in 2011 and prior, he may not be the sure thing that teams want in a top 15 pick. But his upside is as high as any cornerback in this class. Very long, lanky frame but he has fluid hips. Excellent press corner that can just obliterate receivers at the point of attack. May be the best run defending corner in the country, loves to be physical and aggressive. Will be a very hard guy to beat deep because of his long stride, deep speed.
*#30 Dont’a Hightower – 6’4/260
1st Team All American. Will likely come out this year, as this is his fourth year at Alabama but he received a medical redshirt in 2009 for a torn ACL. Will likely be considered the top inside linebacker in the draft, and rightfully so. Very similar player to former ‘Bama linebacker Rolando McClain. Absolutely dominant against the inside run, in a league of his own in that respect. Only issue here though is that he may be a bit too heavy for the NFL right now. The way the offenses are spreading things out and making linebackers drop back 40-50 times per game, I think the risk of keeping Hightower on the field is a bit high. He is very athletic in short space, can be light on his feet. But when you ask him to play sideline to sideline, or drop 15-20 yards in to coverage, or follow a tight end around the seam, he looks very average. Will be a tough decision for a team that is looking at him in round 1. When all is said and done, I believe he is worth a top 20 pick. One of the smartest defenders Saban has ever coached, the kind of guy that can think his way into hindering the physical shortcomings.
#99 Josh Chapman – DT – 6’1/190
2nd Team All SEC on 2011. A guy that surprised a lot of people this year. The unsung hero of the nation’s top run defense. Does not fill the stat sheet but the impact he can have on a running game enormous. Takes on the double teams, keeping linebackers free for that extra second. Very smart player as well, can read blocks and move blockers towards a designated running lane. Could end up being a 1st round pick, put some very nice tape together this year for teams that struggle against the inside run.
#5 Jerrell Harris – LB – 6’2/242
Very interesting prospect here. There are some players that clearly benefit from stardom all around them. However there are also some that don’t get the looks because of that unit’s stardom. Harris is a guy that one awards for being a top defensive player on Bama’s scout team. He now gets a lot of playing time on the starting defense and he shows glimpses of NFL ability. Plays the position with a ton of power, and showed better lateral range that Hightower. One of those guys that can deliver a different kind of sound when he gets everything behind a hit. The earliest I see him going is round 6, but I think he is a guy that has his best football way ahead of him.
#24 DeQuan Menzie – 5’11/198
Versatile defensive back that may be best suited for safety. May be their best zone defender in a talented secondary. Anticipates well, does his best work with the action in front of him. 5-6th round kind of prospect that I need to study more.
*#17 Morris Claiborne – CB – 6’0/185
1st Team All American, Jim Thorpe Award Winner, and SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. I think Claiborne is the best cover corner to come out of college in a long, long time. Will grade out just as high, if note higher than Patrick Peterson of thr Arizona Cardinals. Long, lanky, but strong frame with flexible and fluid hips. Has better ball skills than any defensive back I can remember scouting, ever. Can track the ball well and explode after the ball with complete balance and efficiency. Shows minimal wasted steps as a cover corner in a man scheme. Won’t be burnt by many, if any, receivers. Will need to work on handwork with his jam, but nothing that will hold him back. The one thing I don’t like is his lack of presence against the run. Poor tackler, constantly tries to trip up a ball carrier. Zero physical presence when trying to tackle. Will be a top 10 pick, possibly even the first defender selected.
*#2 Rueben Randle – WR – 6’3/208
1st Team All SEC in 2011. Really turned it on this year and put together a few game tapes that made him look like a first rounder. There are a few whispers he will come out for financial reasons, although he could really use another year. Is a raw talent with superb deep ball skills. Tracks a ball well with balance and can catch the ball with ease among traffic. Doesn’t have that extra gear to run away from defenders though. A tough kid that can create a lot of yards after the catch. Would likely grade out as a 3rd rounder that could sneak in to round 2.
#18 Brandon Taylor – S – 6’0/201
Nothing overly spectacular about Taylor physically, but he going to play at the next level. Wears the #18 jersey, given to the player that works the hardest in the offseason. Has a lot of experience, productive player across the board. Very good form tackler that adds some extra pop to his hits. Very aggressive, downhill type. Not a liability in coverage, but also not a guy that can play the centerfield role. Also struggles when matched up against a wide receiver. 5-6th rounder.
#60 Will Blackwell – G – 6’4/295
1st Team All SEC. Nothing special about Blackwell. Lacks a true power game, doesn’t move a lot of defenders. An effective second level blocker that simply gets himself between the defender and ball carrier. I don’t see NFL power in him though so at the very least he is a future backup. Undrafted type.
#19 Deangelo Peterson – TE – 6’3/238
Will need to scout Peterson a bit more. I’ve been told by a few guys that he is name that pops up among scouts more than one would think. From what I’ve seen, he does not create mismatches, nor does he compete much as a blocker. Undrafted type that some see big upside in.
#94 Kendrick Adams – DE – 6’4/258
Rotational player that intrigued me a few times this year. He has a long, lanky but muscular frame that has plenty of room for growth. He has showed some nice initial explosion as an edge rusher, just a bit raw when it comes to hand work. Does not have a steady flow of moves inside or out. I would consider him late or in free agency because of the upside and how raw he is, being at LSU for just two seasons.
#22 Ryan Baker – LB – 6’0/236
2nd Team All SEC in 2011. Considered to be the leader of the LSU defense. Very low, powerful athlete that packs a punch. Has an interesting role within the defense. Will play on the weak side, but used as a blitzing linebacker on most passing downs. Hard guy to block, can be disruotive because of his natural leverage advantage and strong first step. A guy that always plays with balance, giving him maximum power. I really like guys like Baker I think he will come in, earn an important role as a special teams player, and build his way on to the linebacker depth chart. He is one of those late round linebackers that will earn his way in to playing time early on. Nothing sexy about it, just a very good football player