2012 NFL Draft: Alabama Crimson Tide Players on the Watch List

Jimmy McMurreyAnalyst IIMarch 15, 2011

2012 NFL Draft: Alabama Crimson Tide Players on the Watch List

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    Too early to tell?  Heed Fleetwood Mac's advice and don't stop thinking about tomorrow.  It worked for Bill Clinton, right?  Alabama has a solid draft class coming up in 2012.  

    This year's 2011 NFL Draft includes three standout players from the Alabama Crimson Tide.  Mark Ingram, Marcell Dareus, and Julio Jones are all expected to go in the first round.  

    In addition, there are a few others including run-blocking prodigy H-back Preston Dial and the somewhat undersized left tackle James Carpenter.

    Though it's tough to predict what an NFL team will need the following year, it's not hard to predict which college stars are good prospects.  

    What does the Crimson Tide have in store for the NFL combine in 2012?

RB Trent Richardson

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    It's become an argument of legend.  Is Mark Ingram really the best back in Alabama's backfield?  Trent Richardson had many asking that question early in his true freshman year.  

    In 2009 Richardson racked up 751 rushing yards while averaging 5.2 per carry, with 16 receptions for 126 yards.  He gave us about the same in 2010 with 700 yards averaging a monstrous 6.3 per carry and 23 receptions for 266 yards, even though he missed some playing time with a minor knee injury.

    Richardson is 5'11", weighs over 225 lbs., and benches 475 lbs. and squats over 600 as of a year ago.  To top it all off I'd boldly wager he runs the 40-yard faster than Ingram.  

    Richardson has a ball carrying vision Alabama fans haven't seen since, well, Mark Ingram.  He's got excellent lateral movement but he earns his paycheck between the tackles.  

    Just try to find a highlight of a player making a solo tackle on Richardson.  Most of the time he drags the poor defenders an extra 5+ yards down the field.  He's already got himself his very own Heisman highlight.  

WR Darius Hanks

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    The past few years Darius Hanks has had to wait in the shadow of Julio Jones and to some extent the speedy Marquis Maze.  In addition to all of that shared spotlight Alabama was often a more run-oriented team.  

    The passing game has since picked up at 'Bama and Julio Jones is gone.  Darius Hanks is ready to step into is own in 2011.  

    At 6'1", just under 200 lbs., and less than 1000 yards receiving on his resume one might ask "Just what can this guy bring to the NFL table?"

    Unlike the many prima receivers in the NFL Hanks is humble, modest, and, more importantly, not afraid of going through the middle.  Randy Moss, Ochocinco, and Terrell Owens could learn something from this young man. 

    If Darius Hanks can haul in a good 500 yards this year, this tough-as-nails young man just might play on Monday nights.

WR Marquis Maze

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    Not every NFL Receiver can be built like Randy Moss.  Some are built like Santana Moss.  3 time Pro-bowler Wes Welker showed us that little guys can make big plays too.  

    Marquis Maze, who stands at 5'10", 180 lbs., has been the Tide's deep threat for the past couple years. He's very fast, running around a 4.4 40-yard, can stop on a dime, and the jack-of-all-trades has proven to be a very viable option for punt returns, among other things.

    Maze somewhat considered entering the draft early this year, but due to his lack of numbers and the deep receiver class in the draft he decided to return for his senior year.  Now that he's out of Julio Jones' shadow he's poised to have a season for the ages.

    If he puts up similar numbers as the past few years, especially if he improves on them, he just might be a real steal looking back 10 years from now.   

C William Vlachos

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    William Vlachos, the 6'1", 289 lb. (weight posted prior to the 2009 season) redshirt senior, has anchored the Tide's front five for the past two years, and will do so again in 2011.  

    Though slightly undersized, it's not uncommon for an NFL center to stand just slightly over 6 feet.  Don't his weight fool you, either.  He's one of the strongest players on his team. 

    Vlachos is pretty athletic for such a big guy, frequently pulling.  He's not afraid to book it down the field trying to get a block.

    Prior to the 2010 season William Vlachos was one of 37 player placed on the Rimington watchlist.  He's expected to be there this year as well and possibly bring the trophy back to the Capstone. 

    When all is said and done his name isn't as big as guys Mike Pouncey, but at least Vlachos can snap a damn good football.  He might not be starting rookie material right away, but William Vlachos is one hard worker. 

TE Brad Smelley

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    Like his predecessor Preston Dial, Brad Smelley is very effective playing H-back.  Don't let his run blocking ability mislead you; he has some very dangerous--and very soft--hands.  

    He wont wow you with his current stats.  Playing behind Colin Peek and Preston Dial in 2009, and Dial and Michael Williams in 2010, Smelley has not gotten a whole lot of playing time.  

    With his team mate TE Michael Williams typically lining up for either pass protection or the occasional catch, Smelley will get plenty of opportunity this coming season to showcase his value to the run game.  

    If he can haul in a few catches and make a couple blocks fit for a highlight reel the 6'3" 230 lb. senior could make it into the later rounds of the draft.   

SS Mark Barron

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    While on the fence about whether or not to enter the draft early, a torn pectoral muscle in the last game of the 2010 regular season dashed any hope of Barron leaving early--and renewed Tide fan's hopes of him staying.

    Barron has been the staple of the Crimson Tide secondary since his breakout sophomore season, Alabama's championship run year.

    His 10 interceptions in two seasons speaks for themselves, as well as his 2010 season team leading 75 tackles.

    Alabama fans are excited to see what Mark Barron does this year, and he's certain to make some NFL team very happy in the near future. 

NT Josh Chapman

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    As a little known contributor in 2009 Josh Chapman filled in behind now Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Terrence Cody.  Cody was often unable to play a full series of downs and Chapman was put in as a backup--and quite frequently.  

    Though shorter and not as physically imposing as Cody (nor his likely 2011 replacement Jesse Williams) Chapman pulls his own weight, so to speak.

    As of a year ago Josh Chapman weighed in at 6'1" and 310 lbs.  Though he's not the biggest player on the Alabama team he is rumored to be the strongest, namely in the bench and back squat.  

    Due to his size and the fact that Alabama runs a 3-4 scheme Chapman would most likely be better suited as a 4-3 defensive tackle.  He played his best throughout the year when linebacker Courtney Upshaw was lining up as a second end.  

    With his starting position up for grabs this offseason Josh Chapman has his work cut out for him.  If he can maintain a starting spot on the line, whether at end or tackle, Chapman just might be able to impress the scouts.   

DL Jesse Williams

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    If you aren't an Alabama fan you may have not heard of this guy.  The 'Bama fans, however, know all about him.

    This massive 6'4", 330 lb. (and much of that weight being pure, solid muscle) Australia native played for two years at an Arizona junior college before becoming the #1 JC prospect and committing to Alabama.  

    He doesn't know much about football compared to most guys on the team, but he's a former rugby player so at least he wraps his arms around for a tackle instead of spearing guys with his helmet.

    Williams has all but put incumbent Tide nose tackle Josh Chapman out of a job , but stranger things have happened before the first game of the season and Chapman may get to anchor the line again for his senior year.

    Williams is likely best suited to play nose tackle at any level, but with a 4.8-4.9 40-yard time he's athletic enough to play anywhere on the line.  

    One might think it a bold statement to say he'll be a 1-year wonder before heading to the NFL, but he certainly has the potential.  As a 'Bama fan I certainly hope he stays his full two years.  

LB Courtney Upshaw

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    Marcell Dareus may have been the defensive star of the 2009 BCS Championship game, but 6'2" 263 lb. then-junior Courtney Upshaw played one heck of a game too.

    The young man from Eufala, AL is going into his final year with the Tide and seems to have really found his niche.  He's not so much a pass defense-oriented linebacker, but he's a threat to stop the run and one scary pass rusher.

    Putting quarterbacks on their backs has become his specialty this past year when he passed Marcell Dareus' sack record in a season with his own 7 solo sacks.  To top it off he completely dominated Kirk Cousins and the Michigan State Spartans in the Capital One bowl.

    Upshaw's unique size and athleticism would allow him to play as an outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid at the next level.  He has lined up behind the line and on the line in a 3-point stance.  This makes him marketable to both 3-4 and 4-3 teams.

    If he stays healthy this guy could go in the very early rounds. 

LB Dont'a Hightower

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    Dont'a Hightower was seen by many as a preseason All-American.  Things didn't quite pan out like many of us thought they would, but then again most didn't think about just how long it takes to fully recover from a torn ACL, which he suffered in game four of the 2009 season when an Arkansas defender cut-blocked him with a helmet to the knee.  

    Like a train just leaving the station, however, Hightower picked up steam at a nice pace throughout the season.  Heading into this spring he's faster and stronger than he was before the injury.  Even when he was a bit sluggish he still pushed around linemen, as showcased at the 'Bama spring game here, and against Florida here.

    With his full recover Hightower is again able to be a threat against the passing game, in addition to his mean run-stuffing capabilities.  

    Second on the team in tackles in 2010, a healthy Hightower will surely improve on those numbers in 2011. Tide fans don't expect to see Hightower in Tuscaloosa come 2012.

Those Who Just Might Sneak into the Draft

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    Though certainly talented players, not everyone at 'Bama gets to go pro.  If they weren't good, though, Saban wouldn't have them on his roster.  Here's a few player's who just might raise some eyebrows when given their time to shine.

    RB Demetrius Goode (reminiscent of Roy Upchurch's NFL possibilities), 5'9" 190 lbs.

    S Will Lowery, 5'10" 188 lbs.

    S Robby Green, 6'0" 190 lbs.

    LB Jerrell Harris, 6'3" 230 lbs.

    OL Alfred McCullough, 6'2" 309 lbs.

    CB DeQuan Menzie, 6'0" 195 lbs.

    CB Phelon Jones, 5'11" 200 lbs.

    LB Nico Johnson (JR), 6'3" 230 lbs.