SEC: D.J. Fluker

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama coach Nick Saban had plenty to be proud about with the signing class he assembled last Wednesday. It was talented, deep and met every need the Crimson Tide had heading into the 2014 season. It was, according to ESPN and every other major recruiting outlet, the No. 1 class in the country by a wide margin.

[+] EnlargeDa'Shawn Hand
Mark LoMoglio/Icon SMIDE Da'Shawn Hand could make an immediate impact for Alabama in 2014.
But for Alabama, top recruiting classes are nothing new. It was the third consecutive year the Tide finished No. 1 in ESPN’s class rankings. In fact, no class assembled by Saban with the benefit of a full calendar year to recruit (since 2008) has finished lower than No. 3 overall.

There was something special about this class, apart from the record five five-star athletes and 19 ESPN 300 signees. This class of offensive linemen might be the most decorated in the program’s history. It is, at the very least, the best Saban has ever put together since arriving in Tuscaloosa.

According to Saban, solidifying the trenches was the goal.

“I think that was a point of emphasis early on when we started this, is that we needed to get quality people up front on both sides of the ball,” he told reporters at his annual signing day news conference. “We got six offensive linemen, and I think six defensive linemen. Even though three of those guys are junior college guys, we felt that it was important that we get some guys that had a little more maturity about them, a little more veteran experience.”

The defensive linemen could turn out to be just as special. Da’Shawn Hand, a dynamic athlete out of Virginia, was the second-best defensive end in the country, according to ESPN. Jarran Reed, a former Florida commitment, could make an instant impact after transferring from junior college, as could former freshman All-SEC choice D.J. Pettway. Johnny Dwight and Joshua Frazier could develop into solid contributors as well.

But make no mistake, the most impressive group of the class was the O-line, led by No. 1-rated offensive tackle Cameron Robinson of Monroe, La. The 6-foot-6, 325-pound athlete brings back visions of Cyrus Kouandjio, who was the No. 1 offensive tackle recruit when he came to Alabama only a few years ago. With a similar build and similar attributes to Robinson, Kouandjio started eight games as a true freshman before a knee injury caused him to miss the rest of the season.

Robinson isn’t the only impressive tackle, though. Dominick Jackson, the No. 1 junior college offensive tackle in the country, is ready to make a good first impression. At 6-foot-7 and 310 pounds, no one is going to miss the towering product from College of San Mateo in California.

[+] EnlargeCameron Robinson
Miller Safrit/ESPNCameron Robinson, the nation's No. 1 offensive tackle, leads an impressive group of offensive line recruits for Alabama.
Josh Casher and J.C. Hassenauer offer a similar two-deep at the center position. Casher, from nearby Mobile, Ala., and Hassenauer, of Minnesota, were ranked the No. 1 and No. 2 centers in the ESPN 300, respectively.

Throw in Montel McBride, the No. 28-ranked offensive guard in the country, and Ross Pierschbacher, the No. 3 offensive guard in 2014, and you’ve got an offensive line class with both quality and depth.

In fact, both areas are unmatched in Saban’s tenure with Alabama. The six prospects averaged a scout’s grade of 84.17. Compare that to the previous high of 81.67 in 2011 when Kouandjio and three other offensive linemen signed with Alabama. Four O-line classes (2007-10, 12) had an average scout’s grade of 80 or lower.

At this point it’s important to remember that rankings aren’t everything. As coaches were quick to point out throughout the last week, whatever stars a recruit “earned” in high school vanish upon enrollment. It’s no longer about who you are as much as what you can do.

Case in point: Alabama’s offensive line, circa 2012. That line, featuring All-Americans Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack, was hailed as the best in the country and arguably the best in the history of the program, clearing ground for an offense that took to Tide to the BCS National Championship.

But if you judged that line based on each player’s recruiting rankings, it would have been considered middle-of-the-road at best. Jones was a C+ tackle prospect out of Tennessee (scout’s grade: 78) and Warmack was thought of in much the same way (scout’s grade: 79). Right guard Anthony Steen was a three-star prospect who wound up starting three years at Alabama. Big D.J. Fluker (6-7, 325 pounds) was the most highly regarded recruit of the bunch, the No. 1 tackle prospect in the 2009 class and the No. 12 player overall, according to ESPN.

Saban, for his part, wouldn’t be sad to see recruiting rankings fall off a steep cliff. We can talk about how great Alabama’s O-line class is today, but he’d like to see it judged three years from now when players have developed and have an opportunity to move on to the NFL.

“The challenge for all these young men [who] got recruited [on Wednesday], wherever they're going, is to be able to stay focused on what they need to do to improve as players and do the things that they need to do to become very effective college football players,” Saban said. “Maybe the biggest challenge of all, maybe even more so going from college to the NFL, I think is having the maturity to be able to stay focused on the things they need to do to develop as players and keep a positive attitude toward the goal they have, understand what it takes to accomplish the goals they have and then have the discipline they have to execute it every day.”
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama's offensive line represents the ultimate failure to manage expectations, to live in the world as it is as opposed to the world as it might become.

This season's line wasn't the same as its predecessor, but it was expected to have the same type of production. Just look at Ryan Kelly. He was no Barrett Jones, yet he was hyped as a possible improvement over a player with more accolades than any in Alabama history. How crazy was that?

[+] EnlargeRyan Kelly
Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY SportsRyan Kelly and Alabama's offensive line have gotten better with each game.
Looking back, it's easy to spot the lunacy. That's no knock on Kelly, who could very well end up being a more talented center than Jones by the time his career is over. But come on. You don't replace Jones' Outland and Rimington trophies overnight. You can't quantify what his experience and leadership meant over four years as a starter at guard, tackle and center for the Crimson Tide.

At the same time, you don't sneak Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker out the back door and expect no one to notice. Those were two first-round NFL draft picks. You could have run a rusty wheelchair behind them and picked up first downs. Granted, Arie Kouandjio and Austin Shepherd were talented replacements, but they hadn't started a game in their careers. We didn't even know if Kouandjio could stay healthy for an entire season, for goodness sake.

In other words, we should have seen Alabama's early-season struggles on the offensive line coming. We should have expected the performances vs. Virginia Tech and Colorado State when the line didn't get push, AJ McCarron was pressured, and the running game never materialized. We shouldn't have thought the success of 2012 would transition into 2013 without so much as a blip in the radar. It doesn't work that way.

All they really needed was time and more realistic expectations.

So it's no wonder we've seen such a dramatic improvement from Alabama's offensive line over the past few weeks. The line hasn't allowed a single sack since the third quarter of the Ole Miss game on Sept. 28 -- that's a streak of 17 quarters for those keeping score at home -- and the running game is suddenly potent again. The offense has begun to click on all cylinders, jumping up to No. 35 nationally with 462.8 yards per game.

Coach Nick Saban touted their improved chemistry and trust with one another, saying how important experience has been to their development.

"They have played well," he said. "They've run blocked well these last few weeks. The last four weeks we thought played well on the offensive line. I think that's important to us, especially with AJ. If he doesn't get pressured in the pocket and we get people open, he's pretty accurate throwing the ball and makes good choices and decisions.

"I think it's a key to us being successful that they continue to improve and play well up front. We'll play against some good defensive linemen and some good defensive teams down the road."

By "down the road" Saban meant this Saturday's game against LSU. Though the 13th-ranked Tigers' defense has been up-and-down this season, they still possess some of the country's best talent on the defensive line. Tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson are monsters at 309 and 294 pounds, respectively.

LSU currently ranks fifth in the league in scoring defense (24.8 ppg), sixth in passing efficiency defense (131.9) and have accounted for the fifth-most sacks (20) in the league.

Had Saturday's game come earlier in the season for Alabama, there might be a full-blown crisis among Tide fans over the state of the offensive line. We'd be hearing questions about whether they could handle the pass rush and if that would mean the offense as a whole wouldn't score enough points to win.

But instead, we're hearing next to nothing. Luckily for Alabama, the offensive line has found its stride in the nick of time. It's almost as if the early struggles never happened. The names of Jones, Warmack and Fluker aren't forgotten in Tuscaloosa, but they're not as agonized over as they were in the first few weeks of the season.

"The past three or four games we were clicking on all levels of the run game and pass game," said right guard Anthony Steen, "and right now we’re just trying not to lose the beat and stay on top of things.”

Steen, a veteran presence with more than 30 starts under his belt, didn't know about the line's streak without allowing a sack until a reporter told him. He wasn't focused on that, he said, and neither were his teammates. Rather than getting to up or too down, he's tried to keep everyone even-keeled.

What's been said and what's happened this season won't matter when LSU comes to town this weekend, and Steen knows that. He said the Tigers' defensive line "will be the most physical line we'll see all season" and that's the only challenge he's worried about.

"We know it’s going to be a tough game," he said. "We know it’s probably going to come down to two or three plays. If they have two good plays and an 80-yard pass and an 80-yard run, then we might lose. But if we have two or three good plays then we might win.

"It’s going to be that type of game. We know that, and we know it’s going to come down to the end."

Video: Alabama's titles in jeopardy?

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
11:35
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Trevor Matich reacts to the report that former Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker allegedly received impermissible benefits and the impact it could have on Alabama's last two titles.


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- He'd like to talk about football. Period. Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn't care about hype or allegations or outside distractions. He simply doesn't want to hear it. If it were up to him, life would operate in a bubble that measures 360 feet by 160 feet. There's chalk inside that box, lines every 5 yards and a bright yellow goalpost on either end.

Saban's singular focus has no room for what happens out of bounds. Leave the rest to the administration to sort out. When reports like the one that broke Wednesday afternoon occur, he stays away. In fact, he doesn't even read them. Less than 72 hours away from No. 1 Alabama's date with No. 6 Texas A&M, he wants to talk about the Aggies and nothing else.

[+] EnlargeFluker
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsWhatever D.J. Fluker did or didn't do occurred in the past, and Nick Saban would prefer it stay there.
"If you want to talk about the Texas A&M game, I'd be glad to talk about it," Saban said after back-to-back questions about the report. "That's what I'm here to do. I'm here to coach our players, talk about our team."

It has been a long week already for the Crimson Tide, and the scathing report was the imperfect cherry on top. Alabama lost to Texas A&M and its Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel at home a year ago. The players have been asked repeatedly since then how they'll get their revenge. And time and time again, they've said it's not about revenge or retaliation, that they don't buy into the hype and won't participate in the media build-up. Like their coach, they wanted the focus to be on the game and nothing else.

But it's hard to tune out the outside noise once it reaches a certain pitch.

Saban can say again and again how outside influences won't be distracting, but his body language said something different on Wednesday. Earlier in the week he talked about the value of playing without emotion in raucous environments like the one his team will face Saturday, but from the podium he was showing just how hot under the collar he can become.

"As I said before, I made a statement," Saban said. "Don't ask me any more questions about this!"

It was a rare instance where an exclamation point was deserved, as Saban shouted at a room full of reporters.

"It hasn't been distracting for me, because I don't read about it," he said. "I'm focused on what we need to do to play a game. That's what's fair to our players. That's what we owe our current players. So this has not been a distraction for me."

C.J. Mosley called the news involving former teammate D.J. Fluker disappointing, but was sure to add that it was in the past and that's where he was intent on keeping it. UA's All-American has been busy all week trying to figure out how to handle stopping Manziel. As Mike linebacker, he'll be tasked with spying the fleet-footed quarterback.

Junior wideout Christion Jones was similarly flip about the allegations. He wasn't worried about what allegedly happened a year ago. His focus was on Saturday.

"I don't really get involved with that," Jones said. "Our compliance does a great job teaching us about all those things and staying away from agents and stuff like that. We can talk about A&M and leave it at that. I don't really get involved with that."

It was easy to say, but it will be harder to put into practice. The question now is whether the distractions have reached a breaking point and whether it will have any influence on what happens on the football field come Saturday.

Knowing Saban, it will be kindling on an already intense fire, a burning source of motivation for a team already looking to prove something against Texas A&M. Getting back at the Aggies was enough. Now, players can take the "us against the world" mentality to heart.

Saban was defiant Wednesday night. He wanted to talk about football, not media reports. After three questions about off-the-field matters, he'd had enough. When no one followed up with an actual question about preparing for Texas A&M, he walked off, but not before adding his sarcastic thanks to the crowd.

"Appreciate your interest in the game," he said.

And that was the last anyone will hear from him publicly until after Saturday afternoon's game in College Station, Texas. Then, maybe, he'll be able to talk about what he wants: football.
Nearly everyone who watched Johnny Manziel run circles around opposing defenses last season agreed that the Texas A&M star was the nation’s top quarterback in 2012.

A new statistical measure that ESPN will introduce to college football this season -- Total QBR (Quarterback Rating), which it brought to the NFL a couple of years ago -- confirms that Manziel’s 2012 performance did more than just pass the eye test.

Of the 122 qualified quarterbacks, the Heisman Trophy winner led the nation with a 90.5 Total QBR.

Here is a primer on the similar NFL QBR, which explains how the metric attempts to explain everything a quarterback does: running, passing, sacks, fumbles and penalties. It measures a player on a 1-100 scale, where 50 is average.

Sharon Katz of ESPN Stats and Information recently explained how Total QBR is an important measuring stick for teams harboring BCS championship hopes. Four of the last five quarterbacks who helped their teams win the BCS title ranked in the nation’s top eight in QBR.

That might be an important statistic to watch for the six SEC teams who are ranked in the top 12 in the Associated Press preseason poll: No. 1 Alabama (AJ McCarron was eighth nationally last season with an 81.1 QBR), No. 5 Georgia (Aaron Murray, 13th with 78.4), No. 6 South Carolina (Connor Shaw, 38th with 64.6), No. 7 Texas A&M (Manziel), No. 10 Florida (Jeff Driskel, 51st with 59.1) and No. 12 LSU (Zach Mettenberger, 80th with 47.0).

If the annual QBR trends hold true, some of those players must considerably improve their consistency if their team is to snatch a spot in the championship game in Pasadena.

McCarron, however, might simply need to hold steady in order to lead the defending champion Crimson Tide to yet another spot in the title game. That could prove trickier than one might expect for Alabama’s senior star, who has a wealth of skill talent at his disposal, but will line up behind a rebuilt offensive line this fall.

In a recent blog post, ESPN.com’s Tobin Petipas examined the Tide’s o-line from 2012 -- a group that featured the same starting five in all 14 games and ranked among the most dominant offensive fronts in recent memory. Three starters -- D.J. Fluker, Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones -- became 2013 NFL draft picks, leaving behind only elite NFL prospect Cyrus Kouandijo at left tackle and right guard Anthony Steen, who was actually the only member of the group who did not commit a penalty or allow a sack last season.

Nonetheless, it will be difficult for Alabama’s rebuilt offensive line to provide the same dominant effort that allowed McCarron and the Tide’s running backs to perform so effectively in 2012. Alabama’s running backs averaged an SEC-high 4.1 yards per carry before first contact and were not touched until five yards past the line of scrimmage on a whopping 34.6 percent of their carries thanks in large part to the big holes the offensive line created.

Further, McCarron passed for 13 touchdowns and no interceptions off play-action fakes last season, largely because of the fear that Alabama’s rushing attack struck into opponents’ hearts.

New offensive line coach Mario Cristobal has no shortage of talent at his disposal, but his two returning starters are the only players in his meeting room who have started a game.

The Tide’s rushing production and McCarron’s Total QBR numbers could slide if Cristobal’s line struggles to adjust, but we should learn quickly how much of a concern the line will be for Nick Saban’s club. Alabama opens against a typically stout Virginia Tech defense, which ranked in the top six in FBS in negative plays forced and quarterback pressures (hurries and knockdowns) last fall.
The SEC's 63 NFL draft selections was a record for any league and blew away every other conference this year.

The next closest was the ACC with 31 draft picks. In fact, the SEC's East produced 32 draft picks and the SEC West 31. The old record for the most draft picks for one conference was 55, set by the Pac-10 in 1983.

The SEC had 32 players selected in the top three rounds. That compares to 16 a year ago. The next closest conference in the top three rounds was the ACC with 12 players selected.

The only school in the SEC that didn't have a player taken in this year's draft was Ole Miss.

Alabama and LSU tied for the most draft picks this year in the SEC. Each had nine. Florida State was tops in the country with 11.

Here's the rundown by SEC team:
  • Alabama: 9
  • LSU: 9
  • Florida: 8
  • Georgia: 8
  • South Carolina: 7
  • Texas A&M: 5
  • Arkansas: 4
  • Tennessee: 4
  • Mississippi State: 3
  • Missouri: 2
  • Vanderbilt: 2
  • Auburn: 1
  • Kentucky: 1

And here's a link to the round-by-round listing of all 63 SEC players drafted.
It’s always revealing to go back and see where the top NFL draft picks from the SEC were ranked coming out of high school.

Of the 12 SEC players drafted in Thursday's first round, nine were selected as ESPN 150 prospects. And of those nine, six were ranked among the top 60 prospects nationally when they were going through the recruiting process in high school.

That’s not a shabby percentage by the ESPN recruiting folks.

Last year, six of the nine SEC players going in the first round were unranked nationally by ESPN coming out of high school. So it's never an exact science.

The highest-ranked player this year taken in the first round was Florida safety Matt Elam, who was the No. 9 overall prospect in the 2010 class and the No. 2 athlete. That same year, Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner was the No. 16 overall prospect and the No. 2 cornerback, while Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was No. 25 overall and the No. 3 defensive tackle.

The lowest-ranked of the SEC’s 12 first-rounders this year was Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, but his issues were academic-related.

Alabama offensive guard Chance Warmack also flew under the radar coming out of high school. He wasn’t even ranked among the top 30 prospects in the state of Georgia by ESPN, and said the home-state Bulldogs didn't offer him a scholarship.

Here’s a breakdown of all 12 SEC players taken in the first round, including their national rank by ESPN coming out of high school, their position rank, other players ranked ahead of them, their grade and where they’re from:

Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (No. 2 to the Jaguars): No. 83 overall in class of 2010, No. 6 offensive tackle. Three of the tackles ranked ahead of Joeckel signed with SEC schools -- No. 2 Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee), No. 3 Ian Silbermann (Florida) and No. 4 Chaz Green (Florida). Grade 81. Arlington, Texas

Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU (No. 6 to the Browns): Unranked nationally in class of 2009, No. 34 outside linebacker. Among the outside linebackers signing with SEC schools that were ranked ahead of Mingo that year were Chase Vasser (Georgia), Greg King (Tennessee), Chaun Gresham (South Carolina), Nigel Mitchell-Thornton (Tennessee), Jerod Askew (Tennessee), Dexter Moody (Georgia) and Tana Patrick (Alabama). Grade 78. West Monroe, La.

Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (No. 9 to the Jets): No. 16 overall in class of 2010. No. 2 cornerback. The only cornerback ranked ahead of him nationally that year was Lamarcus Joyner, who signed with Florida State. Grade 84. Millbrook, Ala.

Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama (No. 10 to the Titans): Unranked nationally in class of 2009. No. 16 offensive guard. No. 35 in the state of Georgia. Eighteen other players who signed with SEC schools that year from the state of Georgia were ranked ahead of Warmack. Grade 79. Atlanta.

D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (No. 11 to the Chargers): No. 12 overall in class of 2009. No. 1 offensive tackle. Offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who was the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s draft, was also in the 2009 class, but was unranked nationally as a defensive end. Grade 86. Foley, Ala.

Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (No. 13 to the Jets): No. 107 overall in class of 2009. No. 8 defensive tackle. The three defensive tackles ranked ahead of him that year who signed with SEC schools were No. 2 Gary Brown (Florida), No. 4 Josh Downs (LSU) and No. 7 Chris Davenport (LSU). Grade 81. St. Louis, Mo.

Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (No. 17 to the Steelers): No. 59 overall in class of 2009. No. 6 outside linebacker. No. 7 in the state of Georgia. Jones signed with USC out of high school before transferring to Georgia. The No. 1 outside linebacker nationally that year was Manti Te’o. Grade 82. Columbus, Ga.

Eric Reid, S, LSU (No. 18 to the 49ers): No. 71 overall in class of 2010. No. 7 safety. The No. 1 safety nationally that year was Jonathan Dowling, who signed with Florida. Grade 81. Geismar, La.

Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (No. 23 to the Vikings): No. 25 overall in class of 2010. No. 3 defensive tackle. The only two defensive tackles ranked ahead of him that year were No. 1 Dominique Easley (Florida) and No. 2 Taylor Bible (Texas). Grade 83. Philadelphia, Pa.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee (No. 29 to the Vikings): Unranked nationally and at his position in class of 2009. Patterson didn’t qualify academically and spent his first year out of high school attending North Carolina Tech and then played two seasons at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College before transferring to Tennessee. Rock Hill, S.C.

Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia (No. 30 to the Rams): No. 29 overall in class of 2010. No. 4 safety. Ogletree started out at safety at Georgia before moving to inside linebacker. Grade 83. Newnan, Ga.

Matt Elam, S, Florida (No. 32 to the Ravens): No. 9 overall in class of 2010. No. 2 athlete. Ranked as an athlete that year by ESPN. The No. 1 athlete was Ronald Powell, who also went to Florida. Grade 86. Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Lunchtime links

April, 26, 2013
4/26/13
12:00
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Twelve SEC players taken in the first round, huh? What an overrated league ...
The SEC had 12 players selected in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night, tying the record set by the ACC in 2006.

No other conference had more than six first-rounders this year. The ACC had six, and the Pac-12 was next with five.

Six of the top 13 selections were from the SEC, including three in a row from Alabama. Cornerback Dee Milliner went No. 9 to the New York Jets, offensive guard Chance Warmack No. 10 to the Tennessee Titans and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker No. 11 to the San Diego Chargers.

Alabama running back Eddie Lacy did not go in the first round as projected. The Crimson Tide have produced 13 first-round picks over the past four years.

For Alabama coach Nick Saban, that gives him 22 players that he has recruited and signed in his 11 seasons as an SEC head coach who've gone on to become first-round NFL draft choices. Saban was responsible for signing all nine of LSU’s first-round selections from 2004-09, and he signed 13 of Alabama’s 14 first-rounders over the past five years.

LSU had two players go in the first round -- defensive end Barkevious Mingo No. 6 to the Cleveland Browns and safety Eric Reid No. 18 to the San Francisco 49ers. The Tigers have produced five first-round selections over the past three years.

Florida and Georgia also had two players each taken in the first round. All four were defensive players.

In fact, eight of the 12 SEC players taken in the first round this year were defensive players. The only offensive skill player selected in the first round from the SEC was Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson at No. 29 to the Minnesota Vikings. Patterson became the first offensive player from Tennessee to go in the first round since receiver Robert Meachem went No. 27 overall to the New Orleans Saints in 2007.

Here's a quick review from Thursday's first round:

No. 2: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 6: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU to the Cleveland Browns

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 9: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama to the New York Jets

Bill Polian video analysis here.

No. 10: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama to the Tennessee Titans

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 11: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama to the San Diego Chargers

Bill Polian video analysis here.

No. 13: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri to the New York Jets

Bill Polian video analysis here.

No. 17: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia to the Pittsburgh Steelers

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 18: Eric Reid, S, LSU to the San Francisco 49ers

Bill Polian video analysis here.

No. 23: Sharrrif Floyd, DT, Florida to the Minnesota Vikings

Bill Polian video analysis here.

No. 29: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee to the Minnesota Vikings

Bill Polian video analysis here.

No. 30: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia to the St. Louis Rams

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 32: Matt Elam, S, Florida to the Baltimore Ravens

Todd McShay video analysis here.

Auditing the SEC's talent producers

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
12:10
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If you’re looking at the NFL draft through the perspective of a college football fan, what does it tell you about your school?

I’ve always felt that it magnifies two things -- how efficient a school is at acquiring talent and how efficient it is at developing that talent.

Nobody in college football has been better in those two areas recently than Alabama, which just happens to own three of the past four national championships.

The past three NFL drafts underscore just how talented the Crimson Tide have been. They have had 20 players drafted over the past three years, including 10 first-rounders. In the top three rounds, they’ve produced 14 draft picks over the past three years.

Ten first-rounders is staggering. To put that number in perspective, only one other school in the SEC over the last three years (Florida) has produced more than three first-rounders. The Gators have had four.

With the first round of the 2013 NFL draft set for tonight, Alabama could see its total of first-rounders swell to 14 over the past four years. Cornerback Dee Milliner, offensive guard Chance Warmack, offensive tackle D.J. Fluker and running back Eddie Lacy are all projected to go in the first round.

Florida will also make a reappearance in the first round thanks to defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who’s projected to be a top 5 pick. Safety Matt Elam could go in the first round as well.

Last year’s draft marked the first time since the 1993 draft -- nearly 20 years -- that the Gators had not produced a pick in the first three rounds.

After Alabama, LSU has the most players taken in the first three rounds (11) over the past three years. Florida is third with nine, and then it drops off to Georgia with five.

This should be a banner draft for the Bulldogs, though, as they could have as many as four or five players taken in the top three rounds this year.

The only four SEC schools who haven't produced a first-round pick over the past three years are Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Missouri is next to last in the SEC with the fewest total players drafted over the past three years at five, but three of those have been first-rounders.

Below is a breakdown of the top talent producers in the SEC over the past three years. Included are total number of draft choices, first-round draft choices and total number of players taken in the top three rounds.

The teams are listed in order of their total draft choices:
  • Alabama: 20 draft choices, 10 first-rounders, 14 in top three rounds
  • Georgia: 18 draft choices, 1 first-rounder, 5 in top three rounds
  • LSU: 17 draft choices, 3 first-rounders, 11 in top three rounds
  • Florida: 15 draft choices, 4 first-rounders, 9 in top three rounds
  • South Carolina: 10 draft choices, 2 first-rounders, 4 in top three rounds
  • Mississippi State: 9 draft choices, 2 first-rounders, 3 in top three rounds
  • Tennessee: 9 draft choices, 2 first-rounders, 3 in top three rounds
  • Arkansas: 8 draft choices, 0 first-rounders, 2 in top three rounds.
  • Auburn: 7 draft choices, 2 first-rounders, 3 in top three rounds.
  • Kentucky: 6 draft choices, 0 first-rounders, 2 in top three rounds
  • Ole Miss: 6 draft choices, 0 first-rounders, 2 in top three rounds
  • Texas A&M: 6 draft choices, 2 first-rounders, 2 in top three rounds
  • Missouri: 5 draft choices, 3 first-rounders, 4 in top three rounds
  • Vanderbilt: 4 draft choices, 0 first-rounders, 2 in top three rounds
The number to beat is 12.

That's how many first-round picks the ACC produced in 2006, which is a record for one conference. The SEC record is 11 first-round picks, which happened in 2007.

Both records could be in jeopardy this year if projections are correct.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has 13 players from the SEC being drafted in the first round in his latest mock draft . The draft gets under way tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN with the first round. The second and third rounds will take place on Friday and Rounds 4-7 on Saturday.

Kiper has Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel going No. 1 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs, which would mark the fourth time in the last seven drafts that an SEC player has gone No. 1 overall.

According to Kiper's projection, seven of the top 12 picks will come from the SEC. The SEC produced nine first-round picks last year and 10 in 2011.

Below is a rundown of the SEC players Kiper has going in the first round. He has four Alabama players being picked in the first round, which would give the Crimson Tide a whopping 14 first-round selections over the last four years.
Former Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker's Twitter account caused quite the stir early this week.

The controversial tweet from Fluker's account read: "Yea I took $ n college so wat. I did wat i had to do. Agents was tryin to pimp me so I pimped them. Cast da first stone."

It was quickly deleted and Fluker later claimed that his Twitter account was hacked. His agent, Deryk Gilmore, also said that he knew who was responsible for the tweet.

“We know who did this,” Gilmore said. “This is totally fiction, but I’m waiting to get some proof. I’ve been on the phone with Twitter."

He also added: “I’ll tell you, of course, this wasn’t him. It was [expletive], and it’s a shame. And anyone who believes it was him and wants to believe the worst, you go ahead and do it."

On Wednesday, Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked about the tweet on the SEC coaches teleconference and said that Alabama's compliance was still looking into it, but added that he and his staff are very involved in teaching players what's right and wrong in the off-field world of college football.

"We're trying to do things the right way," Saban said. "We've tried to do everything we can to educate our players to do things the right way when it comes to selecting an agent or being involved in the NFL draft."

Saban also said that staff members will even do in-home visits with parents to help educate them as well. He's also very adamant about agents and those associated with agents not contacting players before they've used up their eligibility. Saban said he's been "very involved" with the NFL's Players Association and the NCAA to create some sort of new rules and "cause-and-effect" consequences for those who do attempt to contact players early.

"We want to do anything that we can to prevent any sort of circumstance or situation that could get a player in trouble or an organization in trouble and to get people to manage things the right way."

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April, 23, 2013
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A look at what's shaking in the SEC:
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has put together his latest "Grade A" draft, in which he presents the best pick for every team in the upcoming NFL draft.

He has 12 SEC players going in the first round, which would tie the record for a conference. The ACC produced 12 first-round selections in 2006.

In Kiper's "Grade A" draft, the first three players to come off the board are from the SEC -- Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel and Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.

Below are the 12 SEC players Kiper has being taken in his "Grade A" draft:
Next week's NFL draft could be a special one for the SEC.

If you check recent mock drafts from ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay , the SEC could be in for a record first day in New York City. Kiper's recent mock draft has a record 13 SEC players being drafted in the first round and 21 going within the first two rounds. McShay has 11 SEC players going in the first round.

Here's a look at the 10 SEC players who were invited to next week's draft, which will be televised on ESPN on April 25 at 8 p.m. ET.
Surprisingly, Georgia linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, who are both projected to be first-round draft picks, didn't make the list.

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