The first round of the 2012 NFL Draft has come and gone, and the Alabama Crimson Tide only had four players drafted as opposed to the expected five. This year’s draft was a testament to the incredible job Nick Saban has done finding, evaluating and developing talent. Now these players prepare for the next phase of their careers.
The Cleveland Browns are coming off of a 4-12 season where the running game was a nonentity. Peyton Hillis was slated to be the starter after a strong 2010 season, but it simply didn’t pan out; the running game only had four touchdowns throughout the entire year.
The moment Trent Richardson steps on the field in Cleveland, he is the focal point of the Browns’ offense. The Browns still have to add more pieces around Trent to be a true contender in the AFC North, the toughest division in the NFL. Look for the Browns to target more skill position players in the later rounds to complement Richardson, such as a receiving tight end or wide receiver.
While the Browns are in rebuilding mode, The Buccaneers are an enigma. Two years ago, they were the youngest team in the NFL and on fire. They finished 10-6 and last year was supposed to a breakthrough year for the organization.
Instead of breaking through, the bottom fell out of Tampa’s 2011 season and the team limped to a 4-12 finish. One of the main problems was the Buccaneers defense. They were dead last in a bevy of NFL defensive categories.
Enter Mark Barron, who was the quarterback of the Alabama defense. Greg Schiano wants to plug Barron into the same role with the Buccaneers. Unlike the Browns, the Buccaneers have the talent on hand to make a run at the playoffs this year.
Dre Kirkpatrick was drafted by one of the NFL’s 2011 feel-good stories. The Bengals went 9-7 and clinched a wildcard playoff spot. The wildcard gave the AFC North three teams in the playoffs. The Ravens won the division and the Steelers were the other wildcard.
Kirkpatrick will bring physical play to the Bengals’ secondary. The AFC North is full of good running backs, and his physical presence on the edge of a defense will help contain all of them. The receiving corps of his division foes are not particularly deep, which will allow the Bengals to run zone coverage schemes. Kirkpatrick excels in zone coverage where he is able to read a play, run up and lay a punishing hit on an opposing player.
Dont’a Hightower walks into the best situation of any of the Alabama first-rounders, the Patriots having played in the Super Bowl last year. Hightower will join Jerod Mayo to anchor the middle of the Patriots’ defense.
Even though Tom Brady’s Patriots made the Super Bowl, the Pats D was suspect. More important than Mayo is Vince Wilfork. The big nose tackle is one of the best in the game, and will make sure Dont’a stays clean to make plays for the Patriots. Under head coach Bill Belichick, it is folly to not consider the Patriots a contender for a deep playoff run. Hightower only enhances those chances.
Later round picks for the Tide will include Courtney Upshaw, DeQuan Menzie, and Josh Chapman among several others. Do they join their former teammates as their names are called? The Draft continues tonight!