The University of Alabama football team saw five of its players—Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw—picked in the first 35 selections of the 2012 NFL draft.
A year later, Alabama may feature as many nine players in the top 100 picks.
A full college football season should be expected to alter many of these opinions. There's likely guys who will drop from list, and there's likely guys who will be added. It's the nature of the business.
But as we head into the 2012 season, here are the Alabama players widely considered to be the top 2013 NFL draft prospects:
OL Barrett Jones
The 2011 Outland Trophy winner, Jones has all the makings of being the first interior offensive lineman taken in the 2013 draft. While he has experience playing at tackle, Jones should project to any of the three interior line spots at the NFL level. He looks like a safe first-round bet.
OT D.J. Fluker
There may not be another tackle in the 2013 class with as much upside as Fluker. At 6'6", 335 pounds, he has prototypical size and power. But his strength lies as a pass-blocker. Fluker could very well end up as a top-five or top-10 pick.
NT Jesse Williams
Williams, a native of Brisbane, Australia, appears ready to carry on Alabama's recent run of churning out NFL nose tackles. He started every game for the Crimson Tide in 2011 and is one of the strongest players in college football. With a big 2012 season, Williams could vault his name into first-round discussion.
S Robert Lester
Lester probably could have left Alabama this spring and been a high pick in a weak 2012 safety class. Instead, he returned to school and plans to stamp his name as one of the very best in the '13 class. An intimidating figure at 6'2", 215 pounds, Lester enters the season as a solid second- to third-rounder.
LB Nico Johnson
In terms of draft status, it's possible Johnson and Mosley (featured next) become the 2012 version of Hightower and Upshaw. They are that good, and there's no reason to think the Alabama defense takes a step back despite the talent lost.
LB C.J. Mosley
Few inside linebackers in college football are as solid all-around as Mosley. He's just a junior, but chances are he'll test the NFL waters following 2012. It should be interesting to see how he responds production-wise with Hightower and Upshaw no longer wearing a 'Bama uniform.
CB Dee Milliner
Milliner won't have to come out, but a solid 2012 season should see him enter his name for the 2013 draft. He's built much like Kirkpatrick, with his 6'1" frame packing on 200 pounds. With another year under Nick Saban's secondary tutelage, Milliner should be ready for the next level.
G Chance Warmack
Warmack figures to be one of the better senior guard prospects in a somewhat weak class. At 6'3", 320 pounds, Warmack has the right size to be a plug-and-play guy right away. He's a top-75 player to start 2012.
RB Eddie Lacy
Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson had their turns handling the rock in the Alabama backfield, but it's now Lacy's turn. Last season, Lacy rushed just 95 times for 674 yards and seven scores. He has the size to hold up (6'0", 220 pounds) too. We'll see how far he can push his draft status, although Lacy is just a junior.
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