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February 23, 2010

Tide players look to help selves at NFL Combine

The pre-NFL Combine buzz reached its peak this week.

Here's what's being said on the eve of the annual event, which will go through Tuesday in Indianapolis:

_ Former general manager Charley Casserly believes this might be the most-talented draft since 1983. It's considered a big year for defensive tackles and defensive backs, who are expected to dominate the first two rounds.

_ NFL Network's Mike Mayock said on a conference call Tuesday that Sergio Kindle of Texas might be selected 12th by the Miami Dolphins, where many believe Alabama's Rolando McClain will end up. Miami's biggest needs appear to be interior linebacker and wide receiver.

_ SI.com listed Crimson Tide cornerback Kareem Jackson as the 48th overall prospect, which would make him a solid second-round pick. It said: "Jackson possesses tremendous physical skills yet needs a little more work on his game. He offers starting potential at the next level, though it may take time before he's completely ready."

_ Defensive tackle Terrence Cody's weigh-in will be a focal point after he showed up to the Senior Bowl at 370 pounds. "The big question about Terrance Cody is the weight," NFL.com's Gil Brandt said in a chat. "He's a great run stopper, but it will help him if he gets down to 350. He'll probably be closer to 400 pounds, is my guess."

While the word out of the Capstone was that Cody dropped 10 pounds the week of the Senior Bowl alone, he and nine other players are about to be under the massive combine microscope. While it's essentially impossible to project where everyone might end up before NFL free agency begins March 5 (when teams start filling needs), here's a simplistic overview of where the Alabama players stand:

RB: Roy Upchurch showed up on many team's radars by playing in the Senior Bowl only to be primarily used as a role player. A lot of teams want three running backs who can do different things so a good showing could make him a late pick.

WR: Mike McCoy doesn't seem to be creating much of a buzz, but has hired an agent.

TE: Despite being under the weather at the Senior Bowl, Colin Peek appeared to really help himself and had two catches in the game for 31 yards including a 19-yard touchdown. The Academic All-American reminds many of a sort of poor man's Todd Heap. Best guess now: Fifth round.

OL: Idaho guard Mike Iupati has solidly moved into the first round, which is pretty rare for the position. Mike Johnson's versatility will help him as he can also play tackle. Best guess now: Third round, but could go second. Tackle Drew Davis will probably have to go the free-agency route.

DT: Although some have been openly critical of his weight Cody remains an unmovable force in the middle. It's an exceptionally deep draft for talented defensive tackles, but he still has a chance to land in the late first round. However, he's also raised some eyebrows by hiring Alvin Keels, the same agent involved in the Andre Smith rollercoaster last year. Best guess now: Early second round.

DT/DE: Lorenzo Washington participated in the Texas vs. the Nation Game and Brandon Deaderick might be a better prospect at defensive tackle. Washington's versatility figures to be an asset but both need a good showing in Indianapolis and/or Pro Day.

LB: McClain is considered the top linebacker in the draft and numerous teams are looking for help in the interior. Best guess now: Between picks 10-15 in the first round. Eryk Anders and Cory Reamer will likely be free-agent signings.

CB: Jackson's stock rose despite not appearing in an all-star game, while Javier Arenas showed his grit at the Senior Bowl. Jackson is considered a better cover corner while Arenas will likely be a slot defender and return specialist at the next level. Best guess at this point: Jackson in the second round, Arenas in the third. Marquis Johnson wasn't invited to the NFL Combine, but look for him to get drafted.

S: The top safeties in the draft are considered exceptional, which will have some teams making some interesting choices early on. Justin Woodall played in the East-West Shrine Game and has probably done enough to warrant a selection. Best guess at this point: Sixth round.

ST: Only two kickers were selected in last year's draft and there may not be any this year. Still, Leigh Tiffin will almost certainly spend part of his summer at a training camp.


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