Alabama Crimson Tide Go Big in 2012 NFL Draft with 4 First-Round Picks

Jimmy McMurreyAnalyst IIApril 27, 2012

Alabama Crimson Tide Go Big in 2012 NFL Draft with 4 First-Round Picks

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    Once again the Alabama Crimson Tide made waves by having four players selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft, a repeat for the 2011 draft. 

    2011 was a surprise when four players were selected, as only three were expected. 

    Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones and Mark Ingram were all expected to be taken in the first round, but former Tide left tackle James Carpenter sneaked in as well at No. 25 overall to the Seattle Seahawks

    2012 was a bit of a different surprise, where five players were expected to go in the first round yet only four made it. 

    Here are the first four former Crimson Tide players that have been drafted into the NFL with six more rounds to go. 

Trent Richardson

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    Cleveland Browns

    3rd Overall

    After experiencing the "Madden Curse," Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis turned his 2010, 1,177-yard season with 11 touchdowns into a mediocre 587-yard season with only three touchdowns. 

    The Browns were desperate for a quality running back to improve on their 28th rushing rank in the 2011 regular season. 

    They jumped at the opportunity to take the next Adrian Peterson and traded a spot up with the Minnesota Vikings (who already have Adrian Peterson himself) to land Trent Richardson. 

    Being drafted so high is rare for running backs these days, but guys like Trent Richardson only come around so often. 

    Richardson will make a fine addition to a growing offense that looks to feature fellow 2012 draftee Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State at quarterback.

Mark Barron

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    Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

    7th Overall

    Mark Barron had already cemented himself as the top safety in this year's draft with his two national championship rings, and tonight it showed. 

    In a position that doesn't have a very high priority Barron went seventh overall.  

    Legendary Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu went sixteenth overall.  

    The depth at safety in this years draft was nothing to write home about, however. Taking even Barron so high in the draft required a lot of consideration. 

    The Buccaneers have a pretty terrible safety squad and have needs at cornerback as well, but LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne came off the board with the sixth overall pick. 

    Barron suddenly became an easy choice for the Bucs, and likely one they won't regret. 

Dre Kirkpatrick

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    Cincinnati Bengals

    17th Overall

    For most of the 2011 season Dre Kirkpatrick was expected to be the second cornerback taken in the 2012 NFL draft. 

    At the last moment, however, South Carolina corner Stephon Gilmore jumped up the draft boards and was taken as the second corner by the Buffalo Bills at 10th overall.  

    Though Kirkpatrick would have likely enjoyed playing with former Tide defensive end Marcell Dareus, he's probably in a better spot. 

    The Bengals are a promising young team on offense with quarterback Andy Dalton and wideout A.J. Green, both of whom had stellar rookie seasons.  

    With Kirkpatrick on defense the Bengals future looks a lot brighter than the Bills, so it's probably better for him that Buffalo went with Gilmore.  

Dont'a Hightower

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    New England Patriots

    25th Overall

    Of the four Tide players drafted in the first round, Dont'a Hightower landed in the best spot.

    The New England Patriots have Tom Brady at quarterback, and he's throwing to receiver Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski. That same trio earned the Patriots the honor of the second most prolific passing offense in 2011. 

    Their overall defense was ranked 31st last season, but their offense carried them to some great achievements. 

    Not only did they crush "Tebowmania" twice (once in the regular season, and once in the playoffs) but they also narrowly lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants by a meager three points. 

    Hightower is a special talent that can stuff the run and crush the quarterback, and New England is a fantastic place for him to land.  

    Expect Hightower to push Ray Lewis to be the best linebacker in the AFC. It's a bold claim, but he does bleed Crimson.

Courtney Upshaw

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    Not Yet Drafted

    Though the NFL draft held a lot of joy for Alabama fans and players, there was some disappointment as well. 

    For some time, Courtney Upshaw was expected to easily go in the first round of the draft. However, despite a solid career and demolishing the LSU offense in the BCS title game, Upshaw was not drafted in the first round. 

    He was on the scene at Radio City Music Hall in a full suit and tie, ready to have his name called. 

    After seeing four of his former teammates called to the stage and the New York Giants select Virginia Tech running back David Wilson with the 32nd overall pick, Upshaw realized he would have to settle for the second round. 

    It was quite unexpected, as seven defensive ends were selected in the first round. Only two were widely recognized as better prospects: Melvin Ingram of South Carolina and Quinton Coples of North Carolina. 

    Upshaw played the hybrid Jack linebacker position at Alabama, but he is marketable as a 4-3 defensive end as well as an outside linebacker at the pro level. 

    The fact that he wasn't selected sooner is a bit puzzling, but Upshaw will soon prove that he is first-round quality when he starts crushing NFL quarterbacks.