2012 NFL Draft: 6 Alabama Prospects the Denver Broncos Should Consider

Jimmy McMurreyAnalyst IIJanuary 12, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 6 Alabama Prospects the Denver Broncos Should Consider

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    With the BCS National Championship decided, NFL head coaches are licking their chops over the latest batch of draftees to come out of Nick Saban's system at Alabama.  They are all great players, but who would be best for the Denver Broncos?

    As a fan of both the Denver Broncos and the Alabama Crimson Tide, I would absolutely love to see as many 'Bama players as possible at Mile High.  

    With Denver's surprising (or unsurprising, for the Tim Tebow faithful) success they will likely miss out on the really good catches coming out of Alabama this year, such as Trent Richardson.  That's the only downside to going to the playoffs.

    This is a scenario of "What if?"

    Also, it's something a little different than Tim Tebow, as much as I love him!

    Most of these guys will be in Mile High some day, but in a different uniform.  

    National championship-winning teams win the trophy for a reason, and that is their star-studded lineup. It's fun to think about what these stars could do for your own NFL team, regardless of the likelihood of them ending up there.

    Here are some players from the 2012 college football BCS National Championship team that should be in the 2012 NFL draft, and what they could do for Denver.  

Trent Richardson

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    Running Back, 5'11", 225 lbs

    Richardson is the best running back in the upcoming draft, and it's not even close.

    He has two young daughters whom he's very adamant about supporting financially, so even though he hasn't declared for the draft he will do so soon.  The allure of another run at the Heisman and a third national championship ring wont trump his concern for his own flesh and blood.  

    Willis McGahee has done well this year, but he's hit the 30-year mark, a high number for a position with a short shelf life. 

    Knowshon Moreno is about as hot and cold as it gets, but mostly cold, especially with his knack for being injured.  

    The Broncos need a running back.

    Trent Richardson would be the ultimate addition to the Broncos.  Put him in the backfield with Tim Tebow and teams won't have a choice but to load the box with eight and nine guys.  In that scenario, Tebow could hit 300-plus yards a lot more.  

    The young quarterback is slowly becoming more and more dangerous.  Add the next Adrian Peterson and you have a recipe for destruction...of opposing defenses.

Marquis Maze

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    Wide Receiver, Returner, 5'10", 180 lbs

    Maze was Alabama's top receiver in this year's title run, but suffered a pulled hamstring early in the game on a stellar punt return and sat in tears the rest of the game.  One title ring isn't enough for some guys, but that's what you want in an NFL player, right?

    He has a lot of potential, and there's a reason he was a three-year starter under Nick Saban, as well as a two-time national champion.  The kid has moves.

    He could be an outstanding slot receiver akin to New England's Wes Welker.  Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are threats on the outside, but Tim Tebow could use a reliable, dangerous guy in the slot.  

    He needs someone small, shifty and deceiving.  Marquis Maze could fill that role.  He could also step right in and contribute on special teams, likely in big ways.  

    Maze will drop into the later rounds of the draft, especially after not getting the opportunity to show his prowess in the title match.  He could be a real steal for John Fox, and the coach should definitely grab him once the defensive needs are covered.

Courtney Upshaw

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    Outside Linebacker, 6'2", 265 lbs

    Courtney Upshaw is a dominating, run-stuffing, pass-rushing linebacker.  He's the cream of the crop.

    The Denver Broncos already have an elite pass-rushing linebacker in Von Miller and they run a 4-3 defense.  What use could they have for another Von Miller who they really don't have room for?

    A few come to mind.

    Upshaw is big and strong enough to play defensive end in a 4-3 system and the transition would be nearly seamless.  Much of the time he was just a fourth lineman for the Tide's defense.  

    He could also play opposite of Miller.  Can you imagine what a double-linebacker blitz would look like with Miller and Upshaw?  Bring out the third-string quarterback!

    Don't let Upshaw's size fool you; he's fast.  He can play in coverage, but at Alabama he rarely needed to with a dominating secondary. 

    He showed his speed in the title game against LSU on several option plays.  Not only did he take away the quarterback run, but his burst of speed allowed him to tackle the pitch man after the catch too.  If that isn't impressive then you don't know football.

    A beastly linebacker that can play on the defensive line as well is a tempting prospect.  He'll probably be long gone before the Broncos could take him and they don't really need him.  They have more pressing matters on defense anyway, the secondary in particular.  

    It's not unheard of for teams to draft high two years in a row for the same type of player. The Detroit Lions did it by drafting Ndamukong Suh in 2010 and then Nick Fairley in 2011.  

Dont'a Hightower

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    Middle Linebacker, 6'4", 260 lbs

    Dont'a Hightower was the primary cog in Alabama's defense this year.  As the field general he was key in making Alabama's defense ranked first in every major category.  

    His coverage skills aren't top-notch but they are well above average.  It is his sick run-stopping ability that makes him a gem.  He leads his team with 85 total tackles in just 13 games when the defense was rarely on the field.  With a trend like that, he would easily rack up over 100 tackles in a 16-game season.  

    He could be the next Ray Lewis, and the Baltimore Ravens just might go for him.  The No. 1 inside linebacker is a toss-up between him, Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict and Boston College's Luke Kuechly.  

    After Hightower and the Alabama defense (which he led) completely shut out a LSU team that averaged 35 points per game in the title match, all Hightower needs is a solid combine to become the No. 1 inside linebacker in the draft.  

    Just like Upshaw, Hightower's size is not a liability.  He can go toe to toe with offensive linemen but is quick enough in coverage to make an impact.  He is ideal for stopping big, pass-catching tight ends.  He would eat Rob Gronkowski alive.

    He didn't start off as a natural leader in college but has developed into the ideal middle linebacker with a strong voice.  He can call adjustments and makes sure his guys are right where they need to be.  

    Again, Denver has too many issues at positions other than linebacker, but wouldn't it be neat to have him?

Mark Barron

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    Safety, 6'2", 218 lbs

    Mark Barron is expected to be the first safety taken in the draft, and could be a powerful addition to a Denver team in dire need of some new blood at the position.

    Fortunately, quality safeties aren't often taken early, and Barron could easily fall to the second round as the first safety taken.  

    Current safety Brian Dawkins is 38 years old and probably done after this year.  Quinton Carter could use a good wingman but that will probably be Rahim Moore, which is just fine with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are certain to be eyeballing Barron.  

    Barron can stop the run, cover with the best of them and he is big and strong.  

    His stats don't tell the whole story, as Alabama's defense wasn't on the field a whole lot this year, and quarterbacks have been throwing away from him since the 2009 season when he came up with seven picks.  

    Denver sure could use another quality safety, but cornerback is where they could really use help.

Dre Kirkpatrick

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    Cornerback, 6'3", 192 lbs

    With the exception of Trent Richardson, none of the Alabama stars are more desired by Denver than Dre Kirkpatrick.  They don't have a chance at getting LSU's Morris Claiborne but probably won't land Kirkpatrick either.  

    However, the Broncos need a cornerback.  Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman are both 33 years old.  How much gas is left in their tanks?  They are both from the SEC, so it would be quite fitting to get another SEC corner.  

    After the showing in the national championship game, Kirkpatrick could make a strong case that he's the best corner in the draft.  That shouldn't stop Claiborne from being taken first anyway, as his return abilities make him much more appetizing.  

    Kirkpatrick had his issues in coverage, but what cornerback doesn't once in a while?  He's still about as good as it gets.  His unique size (for a cornerback) allows him to go up against tall, long-armed receivers and plays the run like a linebacker.

    He has made no interceptions this year, but he's had plenty of passes broken up.  Quarterbacks don't like to throw to him anyway, but it's not like they get the chance to throw much when their own defense is on the field.  

    Kirkpatrick is a brutal tackler too.  He wraps up well enough, but when he hits a receiver the ball usually comes loose.  If they are lucky he hits them quickly before it's a completion; if not it could be a turnover.  He's forced two fumbles this year.  

    He plays the game like a smaller corner, yet stands at 6'3" (some list him as 6'2" and some change).  Once Bailey finally heads off to the NFL Hall of Fame, the Broncos will have no quality corners at 6'0" or taller.

    Denver is lacking in many places and probably won't trade up for anything.  If they were to trade up, it would be for Kirkpatrick.  John Elway is keen on getting franchise cornerbacks and Kirkpatrick has that written all over.