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Alabama Crimson Tide: Alabama players in the NFL Draft

For AJ McCarron, CJ Mosley, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Kevin Norwood and others, college football is over. Next Thursday, these players will begin a new chapter in their careers.  The stage will be at its brightest and Radio City Music Hall (New York City) will be full to capacity as the players wait to see which franchise they will play for.

Under head coach Nick Saban, Alabama’s placed 36 players in the National Football League. 14 of them were first round picks and four of them are Super Bowl champions. On May 8-10, 2014, Saban and the Tide’s goal will be to put 15 players in the NFL.

Aside from seeing players go pro, the Crimson Tide will try to continue its trend of having players selected in the top 10 of the draft. Since 2008, Alabama has had eight players to be selected early in the first round.

While owners, general managers and coaches have their clipboards ready to address team needs, here is a breakdown of Alabama players that are attending the draft next Thursday. The breakdown features stats, strengths, weaknesses and potential franchises that may draft these players.

Alabama Players in the NFL Draft

  • AJ McCarron
  1. Position: Quarterback
  2. Starter Experience: Three years (2011-13)
  3. Size: 6’4” 215 pounds
  4. Career Stats: 66.8 completion percentage,  9,019 passing yards, 77 touchdowns, 15 interceptions

Strengths

Weaknesses

Accuracy

Mobility

Decision Making

Sacks

Ball Placement

Blitz Anticipation

Leadership

Forcing Throws

Summary: McCarron is a proven winner. In his tenure at Alabama he’s posted a 36-4 record as a starter with the hardware to show for it. He is an accurate passer that understands his personnel. McCarron recognizes coverage schemes well and places the ball in the right spots.

He has to work on anticipating the blitz and getting the ball out to his hot reads quicker. He doesn’t have to be elusive; however, he has to at least be able to break the pocket and pick up some yards with his legs. McCarron must continue to go through his progressions wisely and use his check downs. If the primary option isn’t open, he has to throw the ball away.

Possible NFL Teams: New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers

NFL Draft Projections: Early 2nd round—middle 4th round

  • Cyrus Kouandjio
  1. Position: Left Tackle (Offensive line)
  2. Starter Experience: Two years (2012-2013)
  3. Size: 6’6” 322 pounds

Strengths

Weaknesses

Size

Alertness

Run Blocking

Pass Blocking

Footwork

Consistency

Summary: Cyrus Kouandjio has all the makings of being a dominant NFL offensive lineman. He’s a big guy who is light on his feet.  He does a great job of creating holes in the run game and is a decent pass blocker.

Alertness and consistency are issues that Kouandjio needs to improve on. He was guilty of many false start penalties last season. College football fans are noisy, but NFL fans are boisterous. Kouandjio has to be alert and recognize the quarterback’s cadence. In 2013, Kouandijo experienced the Jekyll and Hyde effect. He had games in which he dominated the competition in pass blocking; however, when the competition got tougher Kouandjio struggled.

If Kouandjio can be consistent and alert, he is going to be a successful offensive lineman.

Possible NFL Teams: Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers

NFL Draft Projection: Late 1st round—early 2nd round

  • CJ Mosley
  1. Position: Linebacker
  2. Starter Experience: Three years (2010-13)
  3. Size: 6’2” 234 pounds
  4. Career Stats: 319 tackles, 6.5 sacks, five  interceptions,  two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries

Strengths

Weaknesses

Instincts

Size*

Lateral Quickness

Pass rushing*

Run Stopping

Covering Running Backs

Coverage Ability

Injuries

Summary: CJ Mosley was the alpha male of Alabama’s defense as a starter. He’s an instinctive linebacker who does a great job of shooting gaps and finding the ball. He knows how to tackle in space and can stop the run. Mosley’s lateral quickness enables him to play the passing lanes well and deliver huge hits on running backs and receivers.

Size and pass rushing are question marks for Mosley. He has 10 ¾ inch hands and long arms, but he weighs just 234 pounds.

Mosley isn’t known for being a pass rusher, but in the NFL linebackers have to generate pressure on the quarterback. If Mosley is drafted by a team that doesn’t count on linebackers to blitz much, this aspect won’t be a factor.

Mosley must improve in covering running back out of the backfield. He has a tendency to get burned on wheel and drag routes. He’s dealt with nagging injuries in his collegiate career, including elbow, hip and shoulder injuries.  If he can maintain his health, Mosley will have a successful NFL career.

Possible NFL Teams: Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens

NFL Draft Projections: First Round (top 15)

  • Ha’Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix
  1. Position: Safety
  2. Starter Experience: Three years (2011-13)
  3. Size: 6’1” 208 pounds
  4. Career Stats: 100 tackles, seven interceptions

Strengths

Weaknesses

Size

Speed*

Ball Skills

Man-to -Man Coverage

Zone Coverage

Over Aggressiveness

Summary: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a very instinctive player. He excels in zone coverage and does a great job of breaking on the ball. He locates the ball well and is physical with receivers. Clinton-Dix can tackle well in space and lower the boom on running backs.

At the NFL combine, Clinton-Dix didn’t showcase elite speed. His 40-time was clocked at 4.58. This is decent, but receivers in the NFL are physical and faster. Clinton-Dix has to be able to not only run with these receivers, but also have the recovery speed to bail out cornerbacks.

Clinton-Dix played a lot of zone coverage at Alabama. If he’s asked to play man-to-man in the NFL, a question mark arises. Will he have the speed to stay with the receivers at the line of scrimmage is the question?

Possible NFL Teams: Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions

NFL Draft Projections: First Round (top 10)

  • Kevin Norwood
  1. Position: Wide Receiver
  2. Starting Experience: Three years (2010-13)
  3. Size: 6’2” 198 pounds
  4. Career Stats: 81 receptions, 1, 275 yards, 12 touchdowns

Strengths

Weaknesses

Size

Blocking

Hands

Breaking Tackles

Speed

Leaping Ability

Route Running

Creating Separation

Summary: Kevin Norwood was the definition of “Mr. Clutch” at Alabama. He has great hands and is a savvy route runner. Norwood is an exceptional third down target.  He demonstrates great balance and body control in his ability to make receptions and keep both feet in bounds.

Norwood needs improve on his blocking and leaping ability. Crimson Tide fans didn’t see too much of him going up to high point the ball. At times, he struggles with creating separation. Norwood has to be able to fight off jams at the line of scrimmage and get open.

Possible NFL Teams: New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Draft Projections: Early 3rd round—late 5th round

  • Adrian Hubbard
  1. Position: Linebacker
  2. Starter Experience: Three years (2011-2013)
  3. Size: 6’6” 257 pounds
  4. Career Stats: 83 tackles, 10.0 sacks, five forced fumbles

Strengths

Weaknesses

Size

Intensity

Speed

Burst/Explosion

Pass Rushing

Instincts

Run Stopping

Personality

Summary: Adrian Hubbard has the tools be a dominant pass rushing linebacker. The question is does he want to? He has good speed and can rush off the edge. He displays exceptional pass rush moves and can stop the run.

Possible NFL Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers, New York Giants

NFL Draft Projections: Middle 3rd round—late 4th round

  • Vinnie Sunseri
  1. Position: Safety
  2. Starter Experience: Three years (2011-13)
  3. Size: 5’11” 210 pounds
  4. Career Stats: 105 tackles, four interceptions

Strengths

Weaknesses

Size

Speed

Zone Coverage

Man-to-Man Coverage

Tackling

Over Aggressive

Film Junkie

Hard Hitting

Summary: Vinnie Sunseri made a name for himself as a head hunting, speed demon on special teams. He’s a great communicator who excels in zone coverage. He studies a lot of game tape and is a sure tackler.

Possible NFL Teams: New England Patriots, New York Jets, Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins

NFL Draft Projections: Middle 5th round—Middle 6th round

As for Kenny Bell, Anthony Steen, Tana Patrick, Cody Mandell, Ed Stinson,  Jeoffrey Pagan, Deion Bleue and John Fulton,  it will be interesting to see which rounds they fall in.

Bell isn’t a big receiver (6’1” 180 pounds), but he is a burner. He has great leaping ability and is a good route runner. Bell could fall in between the fourth and sixth round.

Steen is a tough, blue collar offensive lineman. He understands blocking schemes and does a great job of protecting the quarterback. Despite not getting a lot of hype, Steen is a productive player. He may fall in between the third and fifth round.

Mandell is an exceptional punter. He has good speed and does a great job of getting good hang time on his kicks. Mandell has the ability to pin opposing teams inside their own 20-yard line. He may fall in between the fifth and seventh round.

Patrick, Pagan and Stinson are good, but not extraordinary players.  They each played their position well, but neither of them had that “wow” factor. These three will fall in either the seventh round or go undrafted and sign on to a team as free agents.

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