Yes. The 2011 NFL Draft is still months away. But as I've started to see ESPN's reports on the draft (Mel Kiper, anyone?), I've seen one name listed consistently for a number of teams. Marcell Dareus: a junior defensive tackle at Alabama.
Dareus first really caught my, and others' attention in last season's national championship game against Colt McCoy's Texas Longhorns. Dareus was the guy who knocked McCoy out of the game. Oh, and he also returned an interception for a touchdown in route to a 37-21 win.
"I look for a huge season, a monster season, out of him," said Mel Kiper. In fact, both Kiper and draft expert, Todd McShay, ranked Dareus in their top 10 prospects if he declares.
Unfortunately, Dareus' season did not start well. In September, the NCAA declared him ineligible for the first two games of the year after he accepted around $2,000 while on an infamous trip to Miami. When Dareus finally did get back on the field he didn't make an initial impact.
His first game—an away game against Duke University—Dareus recorded one total tackle, mostly due to his lack of field time.
Sure enough, the next week the Crimson Tide travelled to Arkansas and, again, Dareus made one tackle the entire game.
Dareus started to show some life in a crucial game against Florida; he recorded three tackles and deflected a John Brantley pass for an interception.
Ironically, Alabama's first loss of the year happened to be the game Dareus shined. He made six tackles, including one sack as the Crimson Tide fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Dareus' good play continued against Ole Miss, as he recorded four tackles and another sack.
In Alabama's last two games, Dareus has made a total of six tackles and one sack.
What makes this guy such a highly touted prospect is his freakish athletic ability. Dareus is 6'4", 300 lbs and runs a 4.5 second 40 yard dash. Pass rushing has become crucial in the NFL as we've seen some great talent at the quarterback position emerge.
It also helps that many teams happen to be looking for an effective pass rusher.
Right now, if the draft order were to be decided according to teams' current records, I'd see Dareus going as early as the Dallas Cowboys (2nd pick) or as late as the Denver Broncos (6th).
Honestly, I think the Cowboys are going to pursue a quality secondary prospect. LSU CB Patrick Patterson would be the logical pick. Dallas' past three opponents have combined for 855 passing yards. Let's face it Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman are not getting it done in the secondary. Jerry Jones will address their necessities, and a quality defensive back is a necessity.
The Carolina Panthers, who would have the 3rd overall pick, could also pursue Dareus. The Panthers have totaled just 11 sacks on the year; Dareus would clearly be beneficial to a below-average pass rushing line. Unfortunately, Carolina's pass game is just as bad. I think their quarterbacks (hence plural) have not exactly been given a fair chance. Other than Steve Smith, who do they have to work with at wideout? Brandon LaFell and David Gettis? Come on. I think Carolina will try for a wide receiver.
The San Francisco 49ers are another terrible defense against the pass. Similar to the Cowboys, their secondary needs some help. The next best cornerback available would be Prince Amukamara of Nebraska.
Last, but not least, the Denver Broncos have had an extremely tough year defensively. They gave up 273 rushing yards to the Oakland Raiders. Clearly something is not right with that defensive line. Look no further, Marcell Dareus is your man.
Honestly, I think he'd be a great fit for the Broncos. At this point, I think he'd be a good fit for any NFL team. Then again, he still has to declare for the draft first.