Former NFL coach Jon Gruden had it right when he called the upcoming draft a “crap shoot,” even though he was only talking about one position at the time.
Not so long ago, the top three quarterbacks available were all thought to be automatic top-five selections. Now no one can say for sure if they’ll all go in the first round.
What does that mean for AJ McCarron, who hopes to become the first University of Alabama quarterback to be selected in the first round since Richard Todd in 1976 (by the New York Jets)?
It’s difficult to say, especially since he’s thought to be part of a strong tier of talented quarterbacks right behind the top three, including Tom Savage, Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray.
“I think teams are trying to talk themselves into that second group so they can take a big-time positional player earlier in the draft,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.
While the 2014 draft might go down as one of the strongest ever in terms of overall talent, combined with a record number of 98 underclassmen declaring themselves available, it’s probably the most unpredictable to date.
Perhaps this is why Nick Saban made a point of saying at a Crimson Caravan speaking event last week that it’s not when you’re drafted that counts but what you do with the opportunity.
Gruden obviously agrees, and believes that McCarron would be "a good acquisition for someone that has a long-term plan."
"Alabama comes out of a huddle, they only throw the ball 26 plays a game, which is about 100th in college football,” the ESPN announcer/analyst said on a recent conference call with reporters. “He takes care of the ball. He has a big-picture understanding of the game. He's been well-schooled, disciplined, he's durable.
"I don't think he has tremendous athletic ability, his arm is not off the charts, but he can play quarterback and manage an NFL system."
Regardless, after having the most players invited to the NFL combine, with 12, Alabama is poised to set a record for most selections in program history. It had nine picks in 2013, and eight the year before, but the record of 10 was set in 1945. Back Johnny August was the Crimson Tide’s first player selected that year in the eighth round, and the 10th player went in the 32nd round.
This year, of course, the draft will last just seven rounds. Here’s a look at the Crimson Tide’s top prospects (in alphabetical order):