06 January 2011
The University of Alabama has scheduled a press conference on Friday where it is expected that Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones, and Mark Ingram will declare their eligibility for the NFL Draft.
Dareus is projected by most to be a potential top 10 pick, so him leaving should come as no shock. With this situation coming to fruition, I think back to the fall of 2009 when then senior defensive end Lorenzo Washington described Dareus as a "three year player." He spent the vast majority of the 2010 season dealing with ankle and hamstring injuries, but still demanded a double team on virtually every snap. While I don't think we ever got the chance to see Marcell play at his highest level, he will always be remember as the MVP of the BCS Championship Game last season.
Jones was thought by many to be on the fence about this decision. While he certainly has the potential to be a top half of the first round selection, Julio is a guy who simply marches to the beat of his own drummer. And while a lot of guys simply can't wait to be finished with college, Julio seemed to enjoy the experience. In the end, the number of injuries that he has suffered through during the past two seasons might have been the deciding factor for him. Further injuries could potential hurt his draft status. As it is, he is coming off of an amazing stretch during the second half of the season that clearly cemented him as one of the nation's top receivers. There is chatter that the Tennessee Titans are interested in Julio with the #7 pick, though his combine performance will have a huge say as to where he goes. Julio won't light up the clock in the 40 yard dash, and some teams will hesitate to take a guy without blazing speed. Those teams will miss out, as Julio has all of the tools to be a dominant NFL receiver.
Ingram plays running back, and running backs simply do not stay all four years in college if they have a shot to leave early. The shelf life of an NFL running back is short, with most finished by the time they are 30. So there is a mindset among folks at that position that you simply have to get to the league as quickly as possible. With a national championship and a Heisman Trophy under his belt, there simply isn't anything left for him to accomplish at the college level. Word is that the New England Patriots love Ingram's running style, and could grab him with one of their two first round picks. Like Julio, he won't turn any heads with his 40 yard dash time, but the constant comparisons to Emmitt Smith will likely land him in the first round.
There are four other juniors that have yet to make their decisions known - Mark Barron, Dont'a Hightower, Marquis Maze, and Courtney Upshaw. They have until January 15 to make their intentions known.
General consensus at this point is that Hightower and Upshaw are coming back. Hightower is still recovering from the massive knee injury he suffered in 2009, and another year being removed from that surgery will likely help his draft stock.
Upshaw closed the 2010 season with two fantastic games, but is currently a tweener in the eyes of many NFL folks. He's not quite big enough to play end in a 4-3 scheme, and not quite fluid enough to play a true outside linebacker spot in a 3-4 scheme. There are a handful of teams that utilize a jack linebacker type position, but that certainly limits his options with bein a first round pick.
Barron would likely propel himself into a top two rounds pick if he could participate in the NFL Combine, but the torn pectoral muscle he suffered against Auburn will keep him from participating in any off season workouts for NFL scouts. That could keep him in Tuscaloosa for another year, though he has apparently been hearing that he would likely fall no further than the third round. The money in round three isn't on the same level as round one, obviously, but its certainly more than he will make playing another year of college football. Don't be shocked to see this one go either way.
Maze is a shocker for most people, as it looks likely that he would go undrafted. But he already has his college degree, he has already been in college for four years, and he has a newborn child. Folks that know him indicate that he really does not enjoy going to class (who does?), and that his desire to move on with his life might simply be too great for him to return. He likely won't be invited to the NFL Combine, so he will have to have a great Pro Day at Alabama if he hopes to get drafted.
We'll keep you updated on all four of these guys over the next week leading up to the deadline. And if any of the three announcing tomorrow change their minds over night and decide to stay, we'll give you the good news.