NFL Draft: Combine was a mixed bag for Bama

Filed under: Football,Previews |

 

By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief

March 1, 2014

 

As we do each year, TideFans.com takes a look at Alabama’s draft-eligible prospects. For 2014, we’re also branching out a bit to talk about other players, namely fellow SEC players and/or prospects picked to go in the same general range as Alabama’s prospects at their respective positions.

 

OFFENSE

 

A.J. McCarron, QB

Projected round prior to combine: Round 3/Round 4

Projected round after combine: Round 2/Round 3

Summary: McCarron had to overcome some rumblings about an injury or character issues after he opted to skip Senior Bowl week. But he more than answered for them at the combine. McCarron didn’t light up the 40-yard dash (4.94) but he showed good touch on his passes, a good arm and was one of the most accurate quarterbacks in Indianapolis. His leadership skills are unquestioned. There isn’t a hands-down winner among the quarterback class, as each of the top three has significant question marks over their heads. McCarron’s job at the combine was the fight his way into the No. 4 slot behind Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel, and he may have done just that. If so, he’ll be looking at a second-round selection at worst and might work his way up to the bottom of the first round. Bortles, Bridgewater and Manziel will all go near the top of Round 1, leaving McCarron as perhaps the next quarterback taken.

Other players at this position: Blake Bortles (UCF) came to the combine as the No. 3 QB available, but may have worked his way up to the top slot despite running a slower 40-yard dash than anyone expected. Bortles was thought to be a 4.6/4.7 guy, but ran in the 4.9s. Still, that was better than Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), who skipped most of the combine workouts and took heat for it. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), meanwhile, did well on athletic tests but many teams are blackballing him over character concerns. However, all three are expected to go in the top 10 picks regardless. McCarron’s competition is essentially Derek Carr (Fresno State), whose biggest hurdle to overcome is the fact his brother David was a draft bust, and LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, who has plenty of fans among teams thanks to his raw size and arm strength. McCarron got a big boost when Clemson’s Tahj Boyd ran a slow 40-time, and neither David Fales (San Jose State) nor Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois) did enough to really impact McCarron.

Teams needing QBs: Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Minnesota, Tennessee

Best fit: Houston picks first overall and is expected to take a quarterback with that pick, although if the Texas draft Jadeveon Clowney, McCarron could go to them in a later round. Jacksonville and Cleveland are expected to take QBs with their picks in the top 10. That leaves Oakland, Minnesota and Tennessee as the most likely destinations. Immediate playing time doesn’t really exist with any of the three; Oakland is still trying to figure out Terrelle Pryor, while Minnesota’s Christian Ponder and Tennessee’s Jake Locker aren’t being scrapped just yet.

TideFans.com’s pick: This is outside the box for sure, but Houston in the second round looks like a possibility. If the Texans select South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick, Bortles, Bridgewater and Manziel will go off the board quickly and no other QBs are expected to go in the first round. McCarron is the type of quarterback that new Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien loves. If Houston opts for Manziel or Bortles with the first overall pick, McCarron could end up in Oakland or Tennessee.

 

Kevin Norwood, WR

Projected round prior to combine: Round 5/Round 6

Projected round after combine: Round 3/Round 4

Summary: No Alabama player helped himself more than did Kevin Norwood, who went from being a fringe draft pick to possibly getting himself into the second round. The biggest obstacle in his path at the moment is something completely out of his control: This is the deepest wide receiver class in recent draft history. Norwood, though, more than did his part to get noticed. He ran a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash, then was a top performer in the three-cone drill. Norwood also received exemplary marks for character and leadership, and his game tapes in big games show key catch after key catch. He doesn’t have elite size or speed, but his toughness and character, along with his nose for the big moment, have him racing up draft boards.

Other players at this position: Norwood was ranked in the 20-30 range for WR prospects prior to the combine; afterwards, he rose to the back end of the top 10. Others around at slot include Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin, Jarvis Landry of LSU (who fell out of the top 5 with a poor showing) and Jeff Janis of Saginaw Valley State, whose 40-yard dash time alone caused eyes to pop. Norwood is not considered to be in the league of Sammy Watkins (Clemson), Marqise Lee (USC) or Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU), but he may have pulled even with or ahead of names like Allen Robinson (Penn State) or Paul Richardson (Colorado). If Norwood truly is sitting in the 10-15 range right now, he could be in the top half of the third round, possibly the bottom half of the second.

Teams needing WRs: St. Louis, Jacksonville, Oakland, Detroit, New York Jets, Kansas City, Carolina, San Francisco, Seattle, Indianapolis

Best fit: Norwood is not going to be an elite edge receiver in the pros, so the question is which of the above teams need a No. 2 or No. 3 guy who will play most of his snaps in the slot. Norwood fits perfectly, for example, the kind of player Pete Carroll loves to coach, but the Seahawks have a bunch of third receivers and no bellcow. Teams with established threats, like Detroit, Kansas City and San Francisco, become the most likely targets.

TideFans.com’s pick: Look for a team with the need for a tough inside receiver to go after Norwood. The San Francisco 49ers have three picks in the third round; look for them to use one on Norwood.

 

Kenny Bell, WR

Projected round prior to combine: Round 7/UDFA

Projected round after combine: UDFA

Summary: Bell didn’t participate in the combine, and will need a strong pro day to draw a draft pick. Bell was projected in the 35-45 range among wide receivers prior to the combine, but with Kevin Norwood’s ascendance in Indianapolis, Bell might draw more attention as a result. Unlike Norwood, however, Bell has question marks: He’s been injured quite a bit, briefly quit the team during the season last year and is seen mostly as a speed-only receiver.

Other players at this position: Jalen Saunders (OU) and Alex Neutz (Buffalo) are others projected to be taken either in the last two rounds, or signed to free agent contracts. Bell is smack in the middle of the two in terms of size (Neutz) and speed (Saunders). Basically, this all comes down to Bell’s pro day.

Teams needing WRs: St. Louis, Jacksonville, Oakland, Detroit, New York Jets, Kansas City, Carolina, San Francisco, Seattle, Indianapolis

Best fit: In even the best-case scenario, Bell is going to be on the outside fighting for a job. And because he will be either getting drafted at the tail end of the draft or signing a free agent contract, he won’t necessarily project to land with any specific team. Teams that need wideouts will have addressed that fact further up in the draft.

TideFans.com’s pick: TideFans.com does not expect Bell to be drafted, therefore we will not project a specific team during the free agent signing period. It would not be a shock, however, to see one of the region’s local teams (New Orleans, Tennessee, Atlanta, etc.) bring him to camp.

 

Cyrus Kouandjio, OT

Projected round prior to combine: Top-10 pick

Projected round after combine: Round 1/Round 2

Summary: Kouandjio has absolutely obliterated his draft stock lately, starting with the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma and then with one of the worst combine performances in recent memory. Kouandjio cost himself millions just against Oklahoma’s smaller edge rushers, but his combine performance – starting with a 5.59-second 40-yard dash, then adding a terrible bench press to the mix – may have knocked him out of the first round altogether. What a collapse this was, considering Kouandjio was in the running for the top overall pick in the draft prior to the 2013 season. Perhaps most disturbing were reports that several teams have x-ed out Kouandjio completely over concerns about the health of his knees, as at least one club reported a “failed surgery.”

Other players at this position: Although Kouandjio is falling down draft boards, there remains a floor thanks to his footwork, quickness, age and technique. Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews have now pulled solidly to the top of the tackle list, and Notre Dame’s Zach Martin and Michigan’s Taylor Lewin are knocking on the door. That leaves Kouandjio in a bracket with Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson and JuWuan James and Morgan Moses of Virginia. Thankfully for Kouandjio, Richardson looked as bad or worse as he did in Indianapolis and that was without an injury excuse to fall back upon. It seems fairly likely that Kouandjio is locked into being the fifth tackle off the board, unless something happens, good or bad, at his pro day.

Teams needing OTs: Houston, St. Louis, Jacksonville, Oakland, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Baltimore, Miami, Arizona, Carolina, Denver, Seattle, Indianapolis

Best fit: With so many teams needing offensive tackles, even if Kouandjio has been scratched off half the draft boards, it might not make a difference. The best fit of all, prior to the Sugar Bowl and the combine, would have been Atlanta. But the Falcons have dealt with so many injury issues lately that it wouldn’t be a surprise if Atlanta was one of the teams to have already DQ’ed Kouandjio from consideration. The best fit now is probably Miami – a warm-weather team (good for Kouandjio’s knees) that is having to rebuild its entire offensive line – but the Dolphins pick in the wrong spot.

TideFans.com’s pick: If the Dolphins had an earlier pick in the second round, we’d take them. We no longer expect Kouandjio to go in the first round. That puts his landing spot somewhere in the early second round, and there are a host of teams in the top third of that round vying for an offensive tackle. Jacksonville, with the 7th pick in the second round, looks about right. If the Jags pass on Kouandjio, however, look for Baltimore at 16 or Miami at 18 to hold their breath and wait.

 

Anthony Steen, OG

Projected round prior to combine: Round 4/Round 5

Projected round after combine: Round 4

Summary: There aren’t many good offensive guards available in this draft. Only one (Gabe Jackson, MSU) is thought to be worthy of a first-round grade. There were times during the 2013 season that Anthony Steen looked superior to Jackson, but a short arm measurement at the combine might have done some damage. Steen will need a good pro day, although he is safely in a solid spot in the draft and doesn’t need to wow anyone. Steen’s leadership, smarts and hard-nosed toughness are his calling cards, and he made a lot of fans during team interviews at the combine. Any team that likes their guards to be enforcers will find what they’re looking for here.

Other players at this position: Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson and Baylor’s Cyril Richardson are thought to be the only two guards with a chance at going in the first round. After they’re gone, on comes a group of four or five players, of which Steen is a member. The others – UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo, David Yankey (Stanford), Dakota Dozier (Furman), Brandon Thomas (Clemson) and Jon Halapio (Florida) – are in a similar spot to Steen, with Su’a-Filo and Yankey being the players from the second group with the best shot at moving up.

Teams needing OGs: St. Louis, Cleveland, Atlanta, Minnesota, New York Giants, Chicago, New York Jets, Miami, San Diego, Carolina, Seattle, Indianapolis, Washington

Best fit: With so many teams needing help in the interior line, Steen may be taken earlier than expected. Several teams in the above list already have Alabama linemen playing for them, and most seem to be happy with the results they’ve gotten. The teams most in need of help are the Jets, the Dolphins and the Falcons, with the Giants and the Seahawks also being interested.

TideFans.com’s pick: We like the Jets with the No. 15 pick in the fourth round as Steen’s ultimate destination. Steen’s demeanor best fits with Rex Ryan’s style of football. If not the Jets, look for the Seahawks at pick 32 in the round as a possibility.

 

Ed Stinson, DE/DT

Projected round prior to combine: Round 3/Round 4

Projected round after combine: Round 4/Round 5

Summary: Stinson didn’t do anything to really hurt his stock at the combine, but he didn’t do much to help, either. Both before and after the combine, Stinson was viewed as a solid worker, a good run-stopper and durable, but without a lot of flash. His lack of pass-rush tools will hurt him if he’s projecting as a defensive end, while he might not be big enough for defensive tackle. Those kind of questions – what position would he play, which scheme would he fit, etc. – might push him down draft boards a bit. On the flip side, several defensive linemen have questions surrounding them, perhaps more so than in most years.

Other players at this position: If Stinson projects as a 3-4 DE or a weakside DE in a 3-4 over/under, his primary competition will be Taylor Hart (Oregon) or Ben Gardner (Stanford). As a DT in a 4-3, the names to watch are Kelcy Quarles (South Carolina) or George Uko (USC). The real question is how far will players like Anthony Johnson (LSU) or Ego Ferguson (LSU) fall – both have work ethic issues – or whether players like Trevor Reilly (Utah) or Cassius March (UCLA) go shooting by him.

Teams needing DL: Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Tennessee, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, New England, San Francisco, Denver, Washington

Best fit: Stinson’s best option is to land with a team that flexes its defensive front; a 3-4 over/under scheme, the one Alabama ran, would help him greatly. Teams looking for speed ends will bypass Stinson, while questions about his bulk and ability to affect the pocket are going to hurt him with pure 4-3 teams.

TideFans.com’s pick: Several teams could use Stinson’s talent and versatility. San Francisco and New England would both be good landing spots, but the Patriots may be looking for more upside and the 49ers have more pressing needs. A team like the Washington Redskins, with the second pick in the fourth round, could be a good compromise. The Redskins need defensive help all over, and Stinson’s potential influence on other players makes him attractive.

 

Jeoffrey Pagan, DE/DT

Projected round prior to combine: Round 5/Round 6

Projected round after combine: Round 6/Round 7

Summary: Pagan needed to make an impact at the combine, and simply didn’t. While he didn’t do anything harmful, there are plenty of questions about his decision to come out early, and the fact he didn’t run for scouts didn’t go over well. Pagan rarely made big plays for Alabama despite being an impressive-looking athlete with tons of potential. Many observers thought he should have come back for his senior season. Pagan is more apt to find a spot inside at the next level, rather than at defensive end. His initial step isn’t as quick as it was prior to his injury coming out of high school, and while he has the strength to move the pocket, he doesn’t have elite strength.

Other players at this position: To an extent, Pagan is competing with former teammate Ed Stinson for attention. Unlike Stinson, though, scouts expect Pagan to have to move inside in order to have much of an impact, whereas Stinson might yet be able to do both. George Uko (USC), DeAndre Coleman (California) and Shamar Stephen (Connecticut) are others with similar builds, although Uko and Coleman are expected to go off the board well ahead of Pagan. Pagan, Stephen and Bruce Gaston (Purdue) are players who project in the 6/7 range, along with more one-dimensional players like Derrick Hopkins (Virginia Tech) and Jacobbi McDaniel (Florida State).

Teams needing DL: Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Tennessee, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, New England, San Francisco, Denver, Washington

Best fit: It’s hard to say where Pagan projects, as he’ll likely be going in the part of the round where teams are looking for competition for slots deep down their own depth charts. Teams that have a definite need for defensive linemen will likely have already found who they’re looking for.

TideFans.com’s pick: Restricting ourselves to the teams known to be looking for defensive line help, Kansas City and New England both have been known to take fliers on SEC players without a clear position. But we like Tampa Bay with the third pick in Round 6 to look to Pagan, as the Buccaneers will be searching high and low for any kind of defensive help up front.

 

Adrian Hubbard, DE/OLB

Projected round prior to the combine: Round 4/Round 5

Projected round after the combine: Round 4/Round 5

Summary: As we’ve talked about ever since Hubbard signed with Alabama, he ruled the athletic competitions at the NFL combine. Hubbard ran a 4.69 40-yard dash, was the top performer in vertical jump at his position group (38.5 inches) and posted a 117-inch broad jump. But Hubbard was rarely able to translate these raw numbers into show-stopping performances while in Tuscaloosa, and one analyst, NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki, had harsh words for Hubbard’s character: “Has a quirky personality, inflated opinion of his ability and carries a sense of entitlement that could be difficult to manage and require a patient positional coach.” Hubbard’s draft stock will be determined almost entirely by what teams think they can get out of him, now what he’s already done.

Other players at this position: DeMarcus Lawrence (Boise State), Trevor Reilly (Utah) and Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas) are the names that most frequently come up alongside Hubbard’s, given their ability to play up or down. Hubbard projects as a rush end in a 4-3 at the next level. Teams wanting to take him at OLB will have to hope he gets better in coverage and shows more burst.

Teams needing DEs: Jacksonville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Tennessee, Dallas, Philadelphia, Arizona, Kansas City, Cincinnati, San Diego, New Orleans, New England, Washington

Best fit: If Hubbard truly needs a patient hand to develop his talents, he’ll need to land somewhere he isn’t expected to start immediately. New Orleans, Philadelphia and Tennessee would seem like the best landing spots, although Jacksonville and Washington could both be options. San Diego, which has been spending draft picks on high-potential pass rushers for years, could take a late-round chance on Hubbard.

TideFans.com’s pick: This will be a test of combine numbers versus production. Hubbard’s combine numbers are good enough to lift him into the second round, but it’s highly unlikely he goes there. Until teams get a better gauge on what type of person they’re getting – which may or may not come during Alabama’s pro day or subsequent team interviews – Hubbard seems stuck in the middle rounds. Jacksonville with the fourth pick in Round 5 seems as good as a spot as any.

 

C.J. Mosley, LB

Projected round prior to the combine: Round 1

Projected round after the combine: Round 1

Summary: Mosley is regarded as the top inside linebacker available in the draft, and because of his coverage abilities, he’s getting a look at outside linebacker from some teams. In addition to his ability, teams value his character and work ethic. Inside linebackers often get the short end of the stick in the NFL Draft, but Mosley is expected to land solidly in the middle of the first round, and could go even higher depending on how some teams view him.

Other players at this position: There really is no one else of note in Mosley’s stratosphere. Carl Bradford of Arizona State might get himself into the tail end of the first round, but Mosley essentially has no competition among pure inside linebackers. Adding in players projected to go as outside linebackers, Khalil Mack (Buffalo) and Anthony Barr (UCLA) join the discussion. Mack and Barr are both projected to go in front of Mosley.

Teams needing ILBs: Buffalo, New York Giants, Green Bay, Kansas City, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Washington

Best fit: Green Bay, Kansas City or New Orleans would all be ideal, from a scheme and fit perspective. The only question is whether Green Bay – which picks first among those three teams – would opt for Mack or Barr if either fell that far. Barr is expected to go within the first 10 picks, but Mack very well might be available when the Packers send in their card. Given how well RB Eddie Lacy worked out for the Packers last year, Green Bay might decide to double down on its Alabama connections and pick Mosley.

TideFans.com’s pick: If Mosley is available when Green Bay picks at 21, look for the Packers to take him. As stated above, only the presence of Mack or Barr at that point would change things. If the Packers do find Mack or Barr available and went that direction, Kansas City at 23 seems to be the bottom-out point for Mosley. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility for New Orleans to trade up to get him.

 

Deion Belue, CB

Projected round prior to the combine: Round 6/Round 7

Projected round after the combine: Round 7/UDFA

Summary: Belue didn’t run at the combine and only had 11 reps on the bench press. Given the lengthy adjustment period of other Nick Saban-coached cornerbacks at the NFL level, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Belue fall out of the draft entirely. His injury history is his greatest obstacle to overcome, coupled with his slight size. Still, Belue was all but automatic as a senior after improving over the course of his junior season. He is thought to have good instincts and football intelligence and is another high-character player. It is paramount that Belue run well at Alabama’s pro day.

Other players at this position: Carrington Byndom (Texas), Ciante Evans (Nebraska) and Auburn’s Chris Davis are considered three of many that are in relatively the same boat as Belue. Byndom has the build for the position but has struggled against top competition. Evans, like Belue, is seen as being too small. Davis’ career at Auburn was erratic at best, although he had a nose for big plays – and then Senior Bowl week hit, where Davis was badly shown up. If Belue wants to move up, he’ll need better pro days than all three, plus names like Ricardo Allen (Purdue) and Dontae Johnson (NC State).

Teams needing CBs: Detroit, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, Dallas, New York Jets, Arizona, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, San Diego, New Orleans, Carolina, New England, San Francisco, Denver

Best fit: Belue’s best chance to make an impact is as a nickel corner, special teams player or on a team that plays multiple sub packages within its defensive set, such as Pittsburgh or Seattle. He is unlikely to find a home with a team that needs an every-down starter at cornerback. He also would do well to work with coaches more accepting of his smaller size.

TideFans.com’s pick: Given the Steelers have had good luck with Alabama DBs in the past – both Deshea Townsend and Anthony Madison had productive seasons there – we like Pittsburgh to take Belue with its seventh-round pick, 15th in that round.

 

Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S

Projected round prior to the combine: Round 1/Round 2

Projected round after the combine: Round 1

Summary: While cornerbacks under Nick Saban have struggled to make immediate impact in the NFL, Bama’s safeties have endured no such hardship. Mark Barron became an immediate impact player for Tampa Bay, and Robert Lester became one of the biggest success stories in the NFL last season after joining Carolina as an undrafted free agent. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix has the chance to go as highly as Barron did, although he lacks Barron’s hard-hitting nature. Clinton-Dix is seen as more of a coverage safety than was Barron, and he posted decent numbers across the board at the combine. Given that several teams are in the market for safeties, Clinton-Dix should land in the top third of the first round.

Other players at this position: As far as peers go, there is only one, Calvin Pryor of Louisville. Pryor and Clinton-Dix are expected to go within a few picks of one another. USC’s Dion Bailey could wiggle his way into the tail end of the first round.

Teams needing safeties: Houston, St. Louis, Detroit, Tennessee, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Washington

Best fit: Barring a trade-up into the top of the first round, concern yourself with three names: St. Louis, Detroit and Tennessee. The Texans need a safety badly, but won’t take one with the first overall pick. The Rams pick twice and like both Pryor and Clinton-Dix.

TideFans.com’s pick: Unless Detroit opts for a receiver, the Lions are expected to take a safety. At any rate, don’t look for Clinton-Dix to fall beyond Tennessee at pick #11. If he does, St. Louis will probably snatch him at 13.

 

Vinnie Sunseri, S

Projected round prior to the combine: Round 7/UDFA

Projected round after the combine: Round 7/UDFA

Summary: Sunseri should not have come out early, period. Whatever the reasons were for his departure – his injury, separation from his father, displeasure over the attitudes present in last year’s team – Sunseri was roundly panned for not taking the opportunity to come back in 2014 and show his knee had recovered from in-season surgery. Sunseri was projected as high as the fourth round prior to the knee injury, but uncertainty over his rehabilitation will likely hurt his draft stock. On a positive note, so many teams are looking for safeties, he might get drafted by default.

Other players at this position: Vanderbilt’s Kenny Ladler slid way down draft boards after a so-so 2013 season. Ty Zimmerman (Kansas State) and Isaiah Lewis (Michigan State) are two other players who share similar builds – and speed concerns – as do Sunseri and Ladler. One of the biggest concerns for all four players is that there are as many as two dozen safety prospects grouped up together in the middle-round draft grade category.

Teams needing safeties: Houston, St. Louis, Detroit, Tennessee, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Washington

Best fit: This is a hard call, because Sunseri is at his best when he has the responsibility for the defensive call. The likelihood of a low-round draft pick getting that responsibility is low, to say the least. Sunseri would need to sell teams on his intangibles and potential rather than his resume. His play in 2012 was uneven and exposed him as a coverage risk on slot receivers. He would be locked into a special teams position in the NFL at the start of his career, or possibly as a dime safety over the top. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility to see him move to outside linebacker and with package responsibilities similar to what Sam Mills had during his NFL career.

TideFans.com’s pick: Even though there are a bunch of safeties bundled in the middle rounds, the list of safety prospects stops rather abruptly around the 30-mark. With a dozen or more teams known to be looking for safeties, Sunseri could draw a sixth- or seventh-round selection. Green Bay, Philadelphia and Tennessee are possibilities, but we think Sunseri will ultimately end up going the free-agent route.

 

Cody Mandell, P

Projected round prior to the combine: UDFA

Projected round after the combine: Round 6/Round 7

Summary: Mandell improved his position immensely at the combine and might have lifted himself into the draft as a result. There are no bona fide superstars at the punting position this year, so anyone who is drafted will have it done late in the process. Mandell received high marks at the combine for his athleticism, and his ability to kick off is a major plus mark.

Other players at this position: Mandell outshone Ray Guy Award-winner Tom Hornsey (Memphis), and also rated out ahead of Pat O’Donnell (Miami) and Steven Clark (Auburn). All four players, along with Cody Webster of Purdue and Kirby Van Der Kamp of Iowa State could have a draft future.

Best fit: Any team that wants to upgrade its punting position, or provide competition for its incumbent starter. Teams typically fill these holes via free agency.

TideFans.com’s pick: Projecting kickers and punters is typically such a crapshoot that TideFans.com declines to make a prediction. We do, however, expect Mandell to be drafted in a late round.

 

Other Alabama players eligible for the NFL Draft

Tana Patrick, LB: Patrick filled a key bench role the last two years as backup to C.J. Mosley. A key stop and forced fumble in the LSU game forever cemented his memory, but Patrick never received enough snaps to make an impression to NFL teams. He was not invited to the combine, and would need to have a major showing at Alabama’s pro day in order to grab the attention of a NFL team. Most likely, Patrick would need to reach the NFL via the free-agent route. He has the size and speed required to play the position at the next level.

Kellen Williams, OL: Williams was the sixth man on Alabama’s offensive line for much of the year, although the emergence of Grant Hill and Leon Brown late in the season affected his playing time somewhat. Williams was regarded as a solid prospect coming out of high school but battled injuries early on and didn’t have the athleticism of some of his peers. He’s a long shot to continue his career at the next level.

Cade Foster, PK: Foster was having a solid senior season and might have even gotten a combine invitation, were it not for the Auburn game. Foster’s leg strength has never been in question, and his ability to help cover kicks was a welcome bonus. But his accuracy was never the best, and his performance in big-game situations left something to be desired. He would need a standout performance at a pro day or on a workout invite to have any chance to make an NFL roster.

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