Alabama, Nebraska and Auburn NFL Pro Days: Who Has the Most NFL Talent?
Pro Days are upon us, as virtually every football-playing college across the country—from tiny FCS schools like Fordham to the mighty BCS powerhouses like Alabama—are showcasing the players who believe they have a shot at playing at the next level.
Well, you know, assuming the next level has a season come September.
Pro Days actually started last week with Baylor, Tulane and Utah State kicking things off. But it starts to get interesting this week when Arkansas, Auburn, Oklahoma (all Tuesday, March 8), Alabama (Wednesday, March 9) and Nebraska (Thursday, March 10) host their respective Pro Days.
Those five schools represent some of the cream of the crop when it comes to producing NFL players. But which of them have the best, NFL-ready talent, players who will start contributing from the first mini-camp?
Read on, friends.
Quinton Carter, Oklahoma, Free Safety
Carter came to OU as a high school quarterback but came into his own in the secondary for the Sooners. The safety position is generally considered fairly weak for this NFL raft, and Carter’s big asset is that he can play both free safety and strong safety.
He’s a big hitter and has good speed, and NFL scouts certainly love the intangibles with this kid. He’s already received his degree in sociology and has started his own non-profit organization called SOUL (Serving Others with Unity and Leadership) in his native Las Vegas.
Alas, he’s still considered just a late-second, early third-round pick.
DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma, Running Back
Murray is in a strange position when it comes to this year’s draft.
Although he leaves OU as its all-time leader in all-purpose yards (6,626), touchdowns (64), points (384) and receiving yards by a running back (1,572), he’s lumped in with other second and third-round running back picks like Quizz Rodgers of Oregon State.
It will be interesting to see who takes a flyer on him, but you can bet it won’t be before the late-second round or early third.
D.J. Williams, Arkansas, Tight End
Although Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett preferred to go deep, Williams still caught 54 balls for 627 yards and a career-high four touchdowns in 2010, earning the Mackey Award—the first time a Razorback won the award signifying the nation’s top tight end.
The good thing about Williams is that while he’s not your prototypical big NFL tight end, he’s an outstanding blocker and possesses the speed to get into the secondary and stretch the defense a bit.
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas, Quarterback
You have to feel for Mallett after rumors became public that there was concern over his alleged drug use. At this point, that’s all they are—rumors. Yet, it’s possible the innuendo has cost Mallett a spot in the first round as he’s rated as the fifth-best quarterback available right now. That’s an average, of course, but...fifth-best? Really?
Mallett threw for more than 3,600 yards and 30 touchdowns with only seven interceptions in two seasons with the Razorbacks after transferring from Michigan. He’s got a rocket arm, reads defenses well, and though not extremely mobile, makes things happen.
Alex Henery, Nebraska, Placekicker
One of the nation’s best, if not the best, placekickers.
Henery not only drilled 18-of-19 field goals this past season—his only miss, from 51 yards, was blocked—but he’s a heck of a punter, too, punting 69 times for an average of 43.2 yards per kick. Twenty of them went inside the 20-yard line, five for touchbacks.
Here’s the problem, if you can call it that, with Henery. He’s a kicker.
And NFL teams don’t spend first, second, third, or sometimes, even fourth-round draft picks on kickers.
Niles Paul, Nebraska, Wide Receiv
Paul had a bit of a disappointing season with 39 catches for 515 yards and just one touchdown.
Couple that with the fact that this is a good year for wideouts—A.J. Green, Julio Jones, et al.—and it’s not likely Paul will be taken before the third round.
Prince Amukamara, Nebraska, Cornerback
So how is a guy who didn’t have a single interception in the 2010 season listed among most draft experts’ top 10 players to be chosen?
Easy—Amukamara is a lockdown corner who literally cuts off a third of the field when opposing offenses choose not to throw to his side, which, as you can see by his INT total, was quite often.
Most experts say Amukamara will be taken after LSU’s Patrick Peterson; either way, he’s a top-10 pick.
Nick Fairley, Auburn, Defensive Tackle
You talk about playmakers and game-changers on defense, this is it.
Fairley is fairly certain to be a top-10 pick, maybe even top five depending on how things shake out.
An All-American and the winner of the Lombardi Trophy as the nation's best lineman, Fairley led the SEC with 11.5 sacks and was the Defensive MVP of the BCS national championship game. He has something of a reputation as a cheap-shot artist, but you can be guaranteed NFL scouting experts look at that as being overly aggressive— which isn’t necessarily a bad thing sometimes. Not in the NFL, anyway.
Cam Newton, Auburn, Quarterback
Now, this is a tough one to read because there are so many intangibles here.
Some draft gurus have Newton going first overall to the Carolina Panthers. Some have him going middle of the top 10. Others have him going outside the top 10.
It’s pretty much a given that Newton’s going in the first round; it’s just a matter of when. Does the controversy over his father and the alleged payments come into play? Do his comments about wanting to be an entertainment icon come into play? Does his performance in the combine come into play?
Does he even throw on Pro Day?
Guess we’ll find out soon enough.
James Carpenter, Alabama, Offensive Tackle
NFL scouts say he lacks the quickness needed to play the left tackle position in the pros, but Carpenter is going to end up as an early third-round pick in the draft and will most certainly become a serviceable guard or tackle in the pros.
Mark Ingram, Alabama, Running Back
The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner had something of a quiet season after injuring his knee in the preseason and missing the first two games of the year. He rushed for 816 yards, a far cry from his 2009 campaign, but yet, he also averaged 5.6 yards per carry—something NFL scouts took note of.
The injury, by the way, is a blip. NFL scouts are unconcerned, Ingram proved through the course of the season that it wasn’t an issue, and his dip in production was due to missing those first two games, sharing duties with some talented backfield mates and having his team throw the ball a bit more than usual.
Ingram is the top-rated back in the draft and will go among the top 15 players overall.
Julio Jones, Alabama, Wide Receiver
Jones will not participate on Pro Day, as he had a pin inserted in his foot last week to repair a stress fracture. There was probably no need for him to perform, anyway, after what he did at the combine—a 4.39 in the 40 and a combine-best 11 feet, three inches in the broad jump.
Jones is a lock for the top 10-15 after catching 78 passes for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns in Alabama’s 2010 season.
Marcell Dareus, Alabama, Defensive Tackle
Dareus’ stock just keeps going up and up and up and up.
Coming out of bowl season in January, Dareus was thought to be a high pick – but perhaps not higher than Nick Fairley of Auburn. But the senior has distinguished himself, particularly at the Combine where his 40 time was even with Fairley, even though he outweighs Fairley by 28 pounds.
Dareus can play inside and outside, as well. Both players have their strengths, and few weaknesses. You won’t go wrong with either choice but, right now, it’s Dareus looking at being at top five pick.
It's not hard to figure out the cream of the crop from this group.
Alabama just has too many first-round locks and NFL-ready talent, and it's easy to see why the Tide won the national title in 2009 and started out on top in 2010.
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