Alabama Football: Fall Down 2014 NFL Draft Boards Helps Many Tiders

Christopher WalshCollege Football National ColumnistMay 15, 2014

AJ McCarron and other former Alabama players may not have been drafted when they wanted, but still ended up where they needed to be.
AJ McCarron and other former Alabama players may not have been drafted when they wanted, but still ended up where they needed to be.USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to the National Football League draft, the prevailing thought nowadays is that teams need to come away with at least three starters every year and fill as many needs as possible.

That potentially put former University of Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood in a difficult spot. On the one hand there was a very deep pool of wide receivers to choose from this year, but when you talk about true team needs the position is often discussed long after left tackle, defensive line, cornerback, quarterback, etc.

Nevertheless, Norwood landed with a team in which he could immediately fit in as a third or fourth receiver, the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks.

“He’s a smart guy who’s ready to play in the league right now, knows how to run routes, very, very consistent catching the football and was probably at his best off-script with A.J. McCarron,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said in a post-draft conference call with reporters this week. “You look at Seattle and where they have to excel and it’s when Russell Wilson gets outside of the pocket.

“He’s a smart receiver with a smart quarterback who likes to create when things break down. I think he’s going to become sort of a security blanket, or has a chance to become one for Russell Wilson.”

Alabama's Mr. Clutch, Kevin Norwood, will now try and be the same for Seattle.
Alabama's Mr. Clutch, Kevin Norwood, will now try and be the same for Seattle.Dave Martin/Associated Press

Although every player wants to be selected in the first round and get the biggest contracts, Seattle may have been be the ideal landing spot for Norwood, who was the 20th wide receiver to be selected at pick No. 123 in the fourth round.

The same holds true with many his other former Crimson Tide teammates. Even though the 2014 draft will be largely viewed as a disappointment for Alabama, with eight of its 12 combine invites selected and many not when expected, if one had sat down beforehand and attempted pick the best team for each player the list might have been very similar to where they all ended up.

Ozzie Newsome took linebacker C.J. Mosley in Baltimore. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix filled a huge need at safety for Green Bay. Arizona needs defensive linemen like Ed Stinson if it’s going to compete with Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West.

Dallas brought in punter Cody Mandell to compete with Chris Jones, who as a rookie averaged 45 yards per punt (39.1 yards net) last year. Deion Belue singed with a team that needed some depth at cornerback and only took one in the draft, Walt Aikens of Liberty in the fourth round. ESPN commentator Matt Millen said on College Football Live that he could see free agent Anthony Steen starting for the Cardinals in a couple of years.

Even Adrian Hubbard might be in the right spot as he’ll have the chance to challenge former first-round pick Nick Perry be the understudy at the linebacker/defensive spot to mega free-agent signee Julius Peppers. Who better to learn from? Besides, the Packers call that tweener position “elephant.”

Cyrus Kouandjio went to New York for the draft and ended up staying in the state.
Cyrus Kouandjio went to New York for the draft and ended up staying in the state.Kathy Willens/Associated Press/Associated Press

Buffalo wanted bigger offensive linemen and took three in the draft beginning with tackle Cyrus Kouandjio in the second round. He’s expected to challenge for the starting right tackle job.

“They’re rolling the dice,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said about the Bills’ strategy, which led to taking Baylor guard Cyril Richardson in the fifth round and troubling tackle Seantrel Henderson in the seventh.

Perhaps Buffalo was hedging its bets a little considering the concern about how well Kouandjio’s knees might hold up over years, but considering his mauler potential the Bills felt that he was more than worth the risk.

“Makes sense, it really does,” McShay said. “Kouandjio is a big boy. He’s not there yet, but if he ever gets there they’re going to end up with a really good value at pick No. 44 overall. He’s long, he’s got 35 five-eighth-inch arms, 10-and-a-quarter hands. He had terrible 40 time and numbers at the combine, but if you watch him on tape he moves pretty well at almost 6'7".”

However, none of the former Alabama players may be in a better spot than McCarron in Cincinnati. Andy Dalton is heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Jason Campbell was brought in to serve as a sort of a mentor and reserves Zac Robinson and Josh Johnson have already been released.

“We thought he’d be a second-round pick, maybe a third-round pick,” Kiper said. “He goes to the perfect team.

“Andy Dalton in the playoffs is 0-3. He’s got a lot of talent on that team, the Bengals do, and they want to get to the playoffs and win a game. He’s been a good quarterback, but to be great you have to win playoff games. He has seven turnovers and one touchdown in the three playoff games.”

In addition to not being expected to jump in and start from day one, which has set back way too many quarterbacks over the years, the initial plan appears to be to have McCarron essentially redshirt a year as a No. 3 option. Cincinnati is talking contract extension with Dalton, but roughly half the league had a backup quarterback start at least one game last season.

Meanwhile, the Bengals don’t seem concerned with critics claiming that they only added another Dalton-type game manager, or reports that other teams bypassed on McCarron following his predraft interviews when he allegedly came across as “cocky.

“You know, a lot of people call me cocky,” Bengals quarterback coach Eric Zampese told reporters in Cincinnati. “I kind of like that in a quarterback.”


Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh