There is a misconception that the NFL is the only major professional sports league that lacks a farm system (NBA has the D-League), but there is little truth to that. As the 74th annual NFL draft approaches in less than 24 hours, I can’t help but feel like a little child on Christmas. Who will trade up? Who will go where? Will my NY Jets do something crazy and insensible as usual?
Nobody will be able to predict the top 10 picks accurately. Not Mel Kiper. Not Todd McShay. Not Mike Detillier. Not anybody. That is because there are always surprises year in and year out, but there is one golden, infallible truth about the NFL draft- it will be filled with talent from Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge.
Without question, the annual Miles-Saban Bowl is the single most important
event for anybody in the NFL who considers themselves to be a “scout.” Sure, the NFL combines and Wonderlic tests have some meaning, but it will never compare to the what can be learned by studying this annual SEC war.
When everything is said and done, there will have been at least eight Tigers and Crimson Tide chosen in the first round this Thursday evening in New York City.
LSU will see their star cornerback Morris Claiborne chosen within the first eight picks. DT Michael Brockers will go mid-first round and WR Rueben Randle will be chosen towards the end of round one.
From Alabama, there could be five taken in the first round alone. This would certainly be a personal record for head coach Nick Saban who would potentially have nine first round picks in two years. RB Trent Richardson is a top five or six pick. SS Mark Barron is slated to go early to mid first round, followed by LB Courtney Upshaw and CB Dre Kirkpatrick in those middle rounds. LB Dont’a Hightower will be taken before round one is over too.
That’s eight of the 12 SEC players projected to go in the first round. Defensive end Melvin Ingram and cornerback Stephen Gilmore of South Carolina are also first round projections along with Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and Georgia offensive tackle Cordy Glenn.
Nobody else does it like these two men when it comes to grooming NFL talent, especially Saban. “The Saban Effect” has seen fifteen first round draft selections and a half dozen second round selections over seven seasons between his days at LSU and Alabama. That’s astonishing and I can’t think of another coach living on this planet who has touched that mark.
Regarding the 2013 NFL draft, Bama will likely have five players chosen in round 1: OL Barrett Jones, LB Nico Johnson, FS Robert Lester, LB C.J. Mosley and OT D.J. Fluker.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith on Saban:
“You get a guy that is accustomed to the NFL system,” Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith said at February’s NFL combine in Indianapolis. “Coach Saban’s offensive and defensive schemes are very conducive to performing in the National Football League. The way Coach Saban has prepared his guys, you know they’re going to be prepared. They understand the importance of preparation in the workweek.”
New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin on Saban:
“(The Alabama player) is used to tough, hard-nosed coaching and good, tough, physical football,” New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “That’s how he was trained in college, and it won’t change when he comes into the pro game. They never stop rolling them out.”
Miles may not be on Saban’s level yet when it comes to the NFL draft, but he’s gaining ground quickly. Having seen CB Patrick Peterson get drafted in the first round last year, The Mad Hatter is projected to have six first rounders in the 2013 NFL draft (Sam Montgomery, Chris Faulk, Barkevious Mingo, Tyrann Mathieu, Bennie Logan, Eric Reid), making it a total of nine first round selections including this year’s draft. Two are expected to go in the second round next year (Tharold Simon and Alex Hurst). Not too shabby, huh?
The NFL does have a farm system and its way down south in Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge. No matter which way you spin it, accept the fact that LSU and Alabama are the big wigs of that NFL farm system and it will stay that way for a very long time.