The NFL Combine kicks off on Thursday, and the Crimson Tide will have five (sadly former) players representing Alabama in their bids to play at the next level. The entire event (running from February 24th - March 1st) will be televised on the NFL Network and updates throughout the combine can be found at their website. We'll keep you updated on the progress of our boys throughout the week, and to get things started here's a list of who's there and what draftniks are already saying about them:
James Carpenter - 6'5" - 300 lbs - #13 OT
Carpenter has a chance to end up as a starter and certainly has the ability to provide valuable depth as a backup. Looks the part of an NFL left tackle with his great size and frame. At this stage, Carpenter grades out as a good pass blocker but just adequate in the running game. His game could benefit from some improved awareness in blitz pickup. Would become more valuable as a run blocker with increased strength and power. Carpenter should hear his name called during the middle rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft
Marcell Dareus - 6'3" - 303 lbs - #2 DT/DE
Dareus is one of this class' finest prospects. Possesses the athleticism and explosiveness to be consistently disruptive against the run and pass. Hands that don't stop, sheds blockers quickly, and uses the frequently uses the swim move to get to the quarterback. Also has great power to push the pocket and stand his ground adequately when run at. Blessed with great feet and outstanding lateral quickness. Comfortable playing in space and likely capable of dropping into coverage. Only question is his endurance and stamina. Played in a rotation early and dealt with injuries as a junior. Dareus will likely be an early first round selection.
Mark Ingram - 5'10" - 210 lbs - #1 RB
Ingram projects as an every-down back who can make an impact on the ground and in the passing game. One of the most polished running back prospects in recent memory. Has rare natural running sense in terms of vision and patience. Great short area speed and burst to hit the hole, make defenders miss, and get to the perimeter. Runs low, breaks tackles, and usually falls forward. Dangerous receiver in the screen game and as a check down. Shows good effort and awareness in pass protection. Has not been asked to shoulder the entire load to this point, but Ingram's still a first-round prospect.
Perhaps Ingram's primary appeal is that while he does a few things exceptionally well and he does have a high ceiling, he also has an impressively high floor - there just aren't too many things he doesn't do well. He can provide just about any kind of running you want, understands blocking and ball security (just two fumbles at Alabama), he's a good receiver, and he's a team leader. Alabama coach Nick Saban, who isn't known to be impressed by much, has spoken as well of Ingram as just about any player he's ever coached. It's often seen as slightly pejorative to call a player a safe pick - the thought being that the player in question isn't impressive in a flashy sense. Ingram has as much flash to his style as you'd like, but his main asset as a pro prospect is that he has such a well-defined skill set.
Julio Jones - 6'4" - 211 lbs - #2 WR
Jones has the prototypical build to become a No. 1 receiver. A vertical threat due to his height, strength, leaping ability, and speed. Generates big plays after the catch on screens and crossing patterns because of his physicality as a runner. Flashes outstanding hands and ball skills, will make the highlight grabs and haul in passes well outside his frame, but also struggles with bouts of drops. Needs to sure up his hands and route-running to develop into a consistent chain-mover at the next level. Plays aggressive, will go over the middle, and block. Jones has the upside to be a mid first-round pick.
...stats don't tell the whole story with Julio Jones - he would have assuredly put up much more prolific numbers in an offense that was more pass-friendly, but he didn't help himself with an inconsistent ability to catch the ball. At the same time, his toughness, determination to make more out of plays after the catch, and willingness to do the little things, added value beyond the numbers. Jones has the pure athleticism to be a number-one receiver in the NFL, and after working out a few technical kinks and adjusting to more complex coverages, his future should be very bright.
Greg McElroy - 6'2" - 228 lbs - #7 QB
McElroy could quickly emerge as a quality backup NFL quarterback but does not possess the physical attributes of a starter. Fully grasps the mental side of the game and has succeeded in multiple pressure-packed situations but simply does not have the arm strength to force and NFL defense to defend the entire field. Comfortable making NFL-type reads, accurate when hitting short to intermediate targets, and capable of moving around in the pocket. However, we don't expect him to be able to hit the deep out or zip the ball into tight coverage at the next level, so McElroy carries a late Day 3 grade.
Further, McElroy is dealing with a broken hand:
McElroy originally injured his hand in the Senior Bowl, but soon thereafter his father said he had suffered a deep bruise and not a broken bone, as was reported immediately after the game in Mobile."For those who have been asking I did get final word today that my 2nd metacarpal is cracked," McElroy tweeted. "X-ray was tough to read so it went undiscovered. Thanks to everyone for thoughts and prayers. It's just a minor speed bump on the way to making my dream come true! I will keep you updated."