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The Bama Invasion

A progress report on our 2013 NFL draftees.

Roll Tide, men.
Roll Tide, men.

With the NFL preseason well underway, we thought this would be a good time to check in on the Crimson Tide players who were drafted in April. As expected, it sounds like some of our favorites have a real chance to make an impact this season.

Dee Milliner, CB- 1st round, New York Jets

How's this for character building? Not only was Dee drafted into the pressure cooker that is New York, he is being thrown into the starting lineup as a rookie in place of departed All-Pro Darrelle Revis. After his first preseason game, head coach Rex Ryan and fellow starting CB Antonio Cromartie each publicly criticized Dee's performance, citing a perceived lack of aggressiveness. Sounds like Dee is adapting though, as Cromartie followed up:

"For us, having a guy of Dee Milliner's caliber is great. For him, it was a learning experience. For us, we can set the standards for him where we know where he needs to be. He came out yesterday in practice showing a tremendous drive and finishing off everything and doing the things he needs to try and do."

With the high draft position and commensurate salary, increased expectations come. I look forward to watching Dee develop this season.

Chance Warmack, OG- 1st round, Tennessee Titans

From jlomas of Music City Miracles:

You can tell Warmack can be a devastating run blocker, especially in space, but he needs work on his short pass sets. He needs to be more aggressive without letting his technique suffer. You can also see that both the OC and Locker are completely comfortable with him despite him only having a handful of practices with the team. They often run the ball behind him with success and when Locker has a medium/long pass play called he always looks to step up into the right side of the pocket.

Sounds like Chance was sort of feeling his way in his first action, but as expected he will be a starter from day one and has legitimate Pro Bowl potential. The Titans are going to be lucky to have Chance anchoring their run game for the foreseeable future.

DJ Fluker, OT- 1st round, San Diego Chargers

From John Genarro of Bolts From the Blue:

DJ's been alright. He's definitely going to be the Chargers' starting Right Tackle, but (as expected) he's been struggling with speed rushers in the preseason. As a run blocker, he has looked awesome, so San Diego is hoping that's enough to make him a productive rookie.
Once again, players drafted early in the first round in today's NFL are typically asked to come in and contribute right away. It appears that San Diego fans are learning what we already knew: DJ is an absolute beast in the run game but will struggle if put on an island against elite speed rushers. Good to hear that he is holding his own and will get on the field as a rookie.

Eddie Lacy, RB- 2nd round, Green Bay Packers

From Evan "Tex" Western of Acme Packing Company:
Eddie Lacy has brought something to Green Bay that has not been present in a few years - optimism and excitement for the running game. Of course, when he sat out the Packers' first preseason game and a series of practices with a mild hamstring injury, fans began to panic about the "injury-prone" label, but he returned this week and put up an impressive showing in his first preseason action. Lacy ran eight times for 40 yards and caught one pass for 11, but it was the way he picked up yardage that has Packers fans excited. He's shedding tacklers, both with his signature spin move and by simply running through them. If he can take even a little bit of pressure off Aaron Rodgers, his draft selection will have been well worth the investment.

After all that Eddie fought through in college- qualifying initially, injuries, waiting his turn behind two transcendent players- I couldn't be happier for him to be in the situation he's in now. With Aaron Rodgers under center there should be plenty of holes for Eddie to run through as defenses are forced to key on the passing game. Roll Tide, Eddie, and enjoy the spoils. Oh, and keep warm.

Nico Johnson, LB- 4th round, Kansas City Chiefs

From Joel Sherman of Arrowhead Pride:
Nico Johnson is coming along nicely in the NFL. With fourth round picks, you're not necessarily expecting them to start for your team right away but Nico could. Lining up at inside linebacker, he's in the midst of arguably the best position battle on the team, Nico the rookie vs. Akeem Jordan the veteran. Jordan has been running with the first team throughout camp but Nico has gotten some looks with the ones here and there. It would not surprise anyone in Kansas City if he ends up taking the starting job at some point this season. Considering the value, Nico has been a nice pick so far. We're excited.

In Tuscaloosa Nico was a standout run defender but struggled at times in coverage. He may very well end up finding a niche as an early-down and short-yardage inside 'backer. Great to see that he's been well-received in Kansas City and competing for playing time as a rookie.

Barrett Jones, C- 4th round, St. Louis Rams

From Eric Nagel of Turf Show Times:

Jones is the dark horse of the offensive line. He's been hyped coming into camp, mostly because of his ability to play nearly any position on the line. He's dealt with a lisfranc injury for awhile now, but saw some action against Cleveland. With some of the lineman injured, it wouldn't be surprising to have him take snaps at both center (where he is currently the 3rd stringer) or right tackle.

As we know, Barrett's strength lies in his smarts and versatility. Here's hoping the foot issue doesn't prove to be a hindrance to his development.

Jesse Williams, DT- 5th round, Seattle Seahawks

From Danny Kelly of Field Gulls:
Jesse Williams' play is kind of concerning at this point. Williams got most of his snaps with the twos and threes and didn't show anything in terms of a pass rush, and at times was pushed back off the line too easily. He's a space-eater, and these are super vanilla schemes, so maybe his value as a nose tackle or base three-tech will be seen later on, but in the game last night, he didn't do anything that impressed me (not that I am an expert on defensive line play).
Jesse has extraordinary strength but isn't the quickest fellow in the world. At this point in his development he is probably a situational player, contributing on run downs only. Life can be tough for fifth-round picks, some even struggling to make the roster. Jesse's work ethic will prove vital in his efforts to become a viable starter in the league.

Quinton Dial, DE- 6th round, San Francisco 49ers

From David Fucillo of Niners Nation:
He had surgery on turf toe back in January, and he actually has not practiced with the team. He is on one of the team's Non-Football Injury list. It's obviously a football injury, but any injuries that happen to a draft pick before they are selected by the team are referred to as "non-football". He is expected to remain on the NFI list for the start of the season. If he is on the list when the regular season starts, he has to remain on it a minimum of six weeks, and cannot practice during that time. He can only rehab during those six weeks.
There are positives and negatives to getting drafted by elite teams. The Niners are basically set in their two-deep, so a sixth round pick has little chance of contributing as a rookie. Basically, Dial is stashed on an injury list so that the Niners can keep him on the roster and see how he develops after week six. The upside here is that he's playing for a contender and getting paid to do very little. Good work if you can get it, I guess, but something tells me he'd rather be on the field. Hopefully he heals well and shows out later in the season. Decent chance he's cut though, which is common for later round picks. Might take him a couple tries to make a roster.

Michael Williams, TE- 7th round, Detroit Lions

From Sean Yuille of Pride of Detroit:
Williams has had a relatively quiet training camp, which is mainly because of his role. He was drafted to be the Lions' blocking tight end, and he has filled that role admirably so far. He should make the roster as the Lions' third tight end, and I'd imagine they will get him a bit more involved in the passing game once the regular season begins.
Good news here, as seventh round picks rarely make the roster. Sounds like Williams is doing what has been asked of him thus far and has a great chance to stick around for the season.

Alabama also had three undrafted free agents sign with teams this offseason: FS Robert Lester signed with the Panthers, DE Damion Square with the Eagles, and LS Carson Tinker with the Jaguars. While all three are longshots to make the respective rosters, it would appear at this point that Square is making the most noise.

As always, it will be interesting to watch these gentlemen develop and see what comes of their professional careers. Needless to say, they are already Champions. Roll Tide.