Have Recent Alabama First Round NFL Draft Picks Been Busts?
It's the week of the NFL Draft, which means two things: Nick Saban will produce another crop of talented young players and said players will be written off as overrated immediately.
That reminder came early on Monday when this tweet was sent out by Andrew Siciliano of the NFL Network.
You can probably guess the overall theme in the responses to this stat. If not, here are a few examples of the follow-ups.
I could continue, but you get the idea.
So how accurate is this stereotype? Is it a result of a few bitter fans or are top Alabama players underachieving at the next level?
The best way to figure that out is to look at each of the first round picks mentioned in Siciliano's original tweet and see how they've progressed since being drafted.
2010 - This year started the run of first round draft picks and the results are mixed five years later.
Rolando McClain (8th overall, Oakland Raiders) - If you judge McClain strictly on his Raiders career, there are very few positives. But after leaving football for the 2013 season, the Cowboys traded for his rights and he became a major reason for Dallas' success defensively last season. He finished second on the team with 108 tackles and was re-signed earlier this month.
Kareem Jackson (20th overall, Houston Texans) - One of Nick Saban's first signees at Alabama, Jackson went higher in the NFL Draft than many expected, but he's started for the Texans since day one. He's played an average of 15 games per season during his five-year career and was one of the top free agent defensive backs to hit the market this offseason. Houston locked him up quickly with a four-year, $34 million contract when he became a free agent this offseason.
2011 - This class has produced five combined Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl championship.
Marcell Dareus (3rd overall, Buffalo Bills) - Despite some issues away from football, Dareus has performed at a high level for the Bills. In four seasons, the former BCS Championship Game MVP has compiled 28.5 sacks, was named a first-team All-Pro in 2014, and has appeared in two straight Pro Bowls.
Julio Jones (6th overall, Atlanta Falcons) - Even with an injury-plagued 2013 season, Jones would be in the conversation for best wide receiver in the NFL. He set career highs in receptions (104) and receiving yards (1,593) last year, both of which led the NFC. Jones earned Pro Bowl honors in 2012 and 2014.
James Carpenter (25th overall, Seattle Seahawks) - Seattle surprised most people when it selected Carpenter in the first round, but he was a fixture on that offensive line when healthy. He started the first nine games of his pro career before suffering an ACL injury. Most recently, Carpenter started in consecutive Super Bowls for the Seahawks.
Mark Ingram (28th overall, New Orleans Saints) - Alabama's only Heisman Trophy winner didn't factor into the Saints offense as much as many people expected him to early in his career. But that all changed a season ago. New Orleans made Ingram a priority and it paid off. He started 13 games, rushing for 964 yards and 9 touchdowns. The team re-signed him in March for $16 million over four years.
2012 - If there's one class that might deserve some of the criticism, it would be this one.
Trent Richardson (3rd overall, Cleveland Browns) - Fairly or not, Richardson has become the poster boy for Alabama's perceived underachievement in the NFL. His career began as well as expected. He started started 15 games and nearly eclipsed 1,000 yards, but things went south in a hurry after the 2012 season. Richardson was traded to the Colts two games into his second season and never got in sync with Indy's offense. He was released following the season and signed by the Raiders last month and has another opportunity to turn his career around.
Mark Barron (7th overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) - You could make the argument that Barron is the player that has done less with more. Most analysts considered him the next hard-hitting, impact safety when the Bucs selected him in the top 10. He was named to the All-Rookie team but was traded to St. Louis last October for a 4th and 6th round draft pick, and the Rams probably won't be keeping him around for more than another year. In three seasons, he's accounted for 248 tackles and three interceptions.
Dre Kirkpatrick (17th overall, Cincinnati Bengals) - Injuries slowed the start of Kirkpatrick's career, but he also had a number of veterans ahead of him in the secondary. Fans have been quick to label him a bust, but he has improved each of his three seasons while having a knack for making big plays in key moments. Withhold any judgement on Kirkpatrick until the next few seasons play out because his opportunity is arriving now.
Dont'a Hightower (25th overall, New England Patriots) - For every Mark Barron that gets mentioned, many people forget a name like Hightower's. He's quietly been a solid defender for the Super Bowl champions, and you can even argue that he's overachieved since being drafted. Hightower stepped in and started 13 games his rookie year, finishing 5th on the team in tackles and 3rd in sacks. He followed that up with a team-leading 97 tackles in his second year, and ended last season second in both tackles (89) and sacks (6.0).
2013 - Overall, this class has lived up to the billing through two years and could be even better in the upcoming season.
Dee Milliner (9th overall, New York Jets) - Milliner started the first game of his rookie career but struggled for much of that year. The cornerback finished the 2013 season on a high note, intercepting three passes in the final two games and earning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors. An Achilles injury six weeks into the 2014 season sidelined him for the year. The upcoming season will likely determine whether the Jets look back on this pick favorably or not.
Chance Warmack (10th overall, Tennessee Titans) - While the Titans have been very unimpressive the past two seasons, they couldn't have asked for much more out of their first round pick. Warmack has started all 32 games of his NFL career and The Tennessean still rates him the team's best pick from that draft.
D.J. Fluker (11th overall, San Diego Chargers) - The mammoth offensive lineman has started all 31 games he's played in for the Chargers. Two years later, the team still raves about his ability and work ethic.
2014 - There's no doubt that his draft class has already paid huge dividends for their respective NFL teams.
C.J. Mosley (17th overall, Baltimore Ravens) - The Ravens arguably got the biggest steal of the 2014 NFL Draft by selecting the linebacker. He practically won every award but the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. On a team loaded with defensive talent, Mosley led the way with 133 tackles and two interceptions, which earned him a Pro Bowl invite.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21st overall, Green Bay Packers) - The safety stabilized the Green Bay secondary and finished his rookie year with 94 tackles, which was second on the team. He started 10 games and was firmly entrenched in the secondary by the end of the season.
When you look through the accomplishments of Alabama's 15 first-round draft picks since 2010, a few of the high-profile names have fallen short early in their career but the majority of Nick Saban's players have been very productive. Even guys like Milliner and Kirkpatrick, who haven't contributed substantially to this point, will have every opportunity to do so in 2015.
This year's NFL Draft will likely include two more Alabama first-round picks - Amari Cooper and Landon Collins - who should continue to change the negative perception that continues to exist.