When the picks following University of Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley as the 17th overall selection of the NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens were announced, you just didn’t see anyone from the Crimson Tide smiling.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix hardly did when he went just four slots later to the Green Bay Packers, although that was probably due to the realization he would soon need to invest in a lot of sweaters.
Tackle Cyrus Kouandjio only did once, when reaching the podium at Radio City Music Hall and hugging the commissioner. He clearly wasn’t happy about when he joined the Buffalo Bills—in the second round.
“I have a lot more motivation now, I made it past the first round. I think I needed that. I’m ready to go,” Kouandjio said in an interview with the NFL Network’s Melissa Stark before even leaving the stage.
“Is that a warning to everybody else in the league?” she asked.
“Yes it is.”
|Alabama's 2013 draft selections|
|1||17 (17)||C.J. Mosley||ILB||Ravens|
|1||21 (21)||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||S||Packers|
|2||12 (44)||Cyrus Kouandjio||T||Bills|
|4||23 (123)||Kevin Norwood||WR||Seahawks|
|5||20 (160)||Ed Stinson||DE||Cardinals|
|5||24 (164)||AJ McCarron||QB||Bengals|
|5||27 (167)||Vinnie Sunseri||S||Saints|
|6||1 (177)||Jeoffrey Pagan||DE||Texans|
That same evening, linebacker Adrian Hubbard and quarterback A.J. McCarron sent out tweets about being upset, only to come back during the subsequent days to say that they dropped due to health issues.
Both were correct to an extent but still came across as making excuses.
Rightly or wrongly, Alabama’s 2014 draft will go down as a disappointment, and not just because it failed to break the program record of having 10 players selected (1945).
Of the 12 who had been invited to the NFL combine, only safety Vinnie Sunseri, who showed enough during his knee rehab to be a fifth-round selection by New Orleans, went sooner than most expected.
Those who essentially went when everyone predicted were the first-round selections (give or take a few picks for Clinton-Dix, who some thought could go between 10th and 15th), wide receiver Kevin Norwood (who gets the benefit of the doubt for the fourth round) and Cody Mandell, who would have been a bit of a surprise to be drafted at all as a punter.
Everyone else dropped.
ESPN analyst Todd McShay explained why only eight Crimson Tide players were chosen when answering a question about a non-Alabama prospect during a conference call with reporters this week: “Teams weren’t willing to use draft picks on players if they had enough issues in measurables or in terms of durability or intangibles. Those were kind of the red flags.”
While the draft was loaded, Kouandjio (knee), McCarron (shoulder, foot), defensive linemen Ed Stinson (groin) and Jeoffrey Pagan, (shoulder), cornerback Deion Belue (foot), and guard Anthony Steen (shoulder) all had physical issues that kept them out of a combination of the Senior Bowl, combine workouts or pro day. Hubbard was told at the combine that he had a minor heart abnormality, for which he has since been cleared.
None of those things will matter in the National Football League, which is all about performing. If you don’t, for whatever reason, you’re gone. It’s that simple.
A perfect example is Green Bay, where Hubbard will try to latch on as a free agent. The Packers have a good history with undrafted free agents, with at least three making the team during each of the last four years. In 2013, safety Chris Banjo, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba and offensive lineman Lane Taylor were all on the 53-man roster.
However, Green Bay brings in free agents for evaluations on almost a daily basis, guys who are hungry and would do anything to stay. If one can do something better than a person on the roster, there’s no hesitation to make a change.
Moreover, consider what Bob McGinn, who may be the best NFL beat writer in the nation, wrote in his draft preview for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about what various scouts said regarding Hubbard:
"Just stands and watches. He certainly looks the part, but he doesn't play the part. They tried to drop him some at the Senior Bowl and the guy struggled."
"He stinks. There's nothing to him. Low motor. No pass rush. Not very strong. Not explosive."
In 28 starts, Hubbard finished with 83 career tackles, 18 for a loss and 10 sacks. His best numbers were in 2012, and last year eight other Crimson Tide players had more tackles. He was named preseason second-team All-SEC, but nobody had him on their postseason team.
With a 3-4 defensive scheme Green Bay will keep approximately nine of the 16 linebackers already on the roster. The physically-gifted Hubbard has until the end of August to shed the underachiever label and earn one of those spots.
That’s harsh, but that’s the way it is in the NFL.
Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.