April 20th can’t come soon enough for some Alabama football players.
Alabama is expected to have five 1st round selections in 16 days when the 2012 NFL Draft commences. Players likely to be picked in the first round are Trent Richardson, Courtney Upshaw, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dont’a Hightower. So where will they land? Here’s our predictions. Don’t be fooled by the picture.
#4 overall pick: Cleveland Browns (4-12) select RB Trent Richardson.
Cleveland enters the draft looking for playmakers on offense. Last year’s leading rusher, Peyton Hillis, is now with the Kansas City Chiefs, and general manager Mike Holmgreen failed to trade up to get RGIII. There have been rumors of the Browns trading back from the four spot, but Trent Richardson is too good to pass up. Richardson will be a workhorse in the Browns offense, and will take some of the pressure off of their young quarterback Colt McCoy.
#14 overall pick: Dallas Cowboys (8-8) select CB Dre Kirkpatrick.
The Dallas Cowboys secondary last year was underwhelming, hence the free agent signing of cornerback Brandon Carr, but Carr isn’t the answer to all their problems. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has Dallas taking safety Mark Barron with this pick, but we think Kirkpatrick is a better fit. This pick might surprise some, but Jerry Jones would love another elite corner with Texas-sized confidence in Dallas.
#16 overall pick: New York Jets (8-8) select S Mark Barron.
Many have OLB Courtney Upshaw landing at this spot, but it has been the norm for the Jets to go against popular opinion. While Rex Ryan’s defense is thin at Upshaw’s position, it also is thin at safety. Nobody is saying Barron will be the next Ed Reed, but Ryan knows from his time coaching Reed in Baltimore how important a quality safety is to his defense.
#18 overall pick: San Diego Chargers (8-8) select OLB Courtney Upshaw
We think Upshaw falls to the Chargers simply because some teams might have been turned off by his height and weight. Upshaw checked in at 6’1.5 and 279lbs at Alabama’s pro day, causing some concern amongst scouts. Upshaw will make the teams who passed on him regret their decision in the coming years. The Chargers will be thrilled to have him fall in their laps at No. 19.
#24 overall pick: Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) select LB Dont’a Hightower.
Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has to replace veteran linebacker James Farrior, and Hightower fits the bill as that replacement. Hightower’s versatility to play inside linebacker or on the edge with his hand in the dirt, makes him a valuable pick for the Steelers. His in-depth knowledge of the 3-4 defense is also attractive. He plays with a similar intensity to that of LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, which should allow him to transition smoothly into the Steeler’s defense. A Woodley, Harrison, Hightower trio could be special.