Published April 26, 2012 - 11:21am
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It’s not often you hear of one program thrusting five players into the first round in one year’s NFL draft, but this year, that will likely be the case with Alabama.
Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron, Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw are all projected not to make it out of the first round. Four are sure-fire first rounders, with Upshaw being the only one in question right now – that’s four defensive players and one all-world running back. This would only be the fifth time that has happened in the common draft since it began in 1967.
Nick Saban has this program becoming an NFL draft factory, much like Miami was a decade ago, and the Tide are poised to make another strong run next year. But can they? Can a team in such a tough league actually stay the course after losing so much talent in one season?
Let’s take a look at some past programs that had at least five first-round draft picks – there are only four other schools in history that managed to accomplish such a feat – and how they faired the following season.
1967 USC Trojans
USC had five first-round draft picks in the 1968 NFL Draft (’67 playing season). In 1967, the Trojans were 10-1 and finished the season ranked No. 1 overall after being the consensus National Champions. The very next year, in 1968, the Trojans still finished 9-1-1 because they had some running back named OJ Simpson toting the rock. Simpson was a dynamic playmaker and eventually went on to be the No. 1 overall selection in the ’69 draft. Of those five first-round draft picks in ‘68, four players were on offense and one was on defense.
2001 Miami Hurricanes
The ’01 Hurricanes had an insane amount of talent, and the run they had in the early 2000s was historic. After winning the National Championship, five Hurricanes were selected in the 2002 Draft. The following year, in 2002, Miami finished 12-1, eventually losing to Ohio State in the National Championship. (We all remember that game!) Of the five draft picks in ‘02, three played on defense and two on offense.
2003 Miami Hurricanes
The ’03 Canes had another crazy talented team, and this team produced six first-rounders – the most ever for a first round. That year, the Canes finished 11-2 with an overall No. 5 AP ranking to conclude the season. During the following season, in 2004, Miami had a letdown, finishing 9-3 overall with a No. 11 AP ranking to conclude the season. Of Miami’s six draft picks from the ’03 team, two were offense players and four were defensive players.
2005 Ohio State Buckeyes
The ’05 Buckeyes had five players drafted in the 2006 Draft, which finished 10-2 as Big Ten Co-Champions. The very next year, the Buckeyes made it to the National Championship and were trounced by Florida in the Fiesta Bowl 41-14. Of the five first-round Buckeyes from the ’05 team, two were offensive players and three were defensive players.
What does history tell us?
The sample size is rather small, with only four other teams ever scraping the surface of such a feat, but we’re talking about premier college football programs in Miami, USC and Ohio State.
All of the above four teams had at least one first-round draft pick the following year as well. So, there was returning talent already assembled and ready to take over.
But there’s this conference called the SEC. And losing four All-SEC defenders, plus two others in later rounds, how much talent is really left at Alabama?
With the consistent success in recruiting, Nick Saban has new talent ready to step into the holes left by these future NFL studs. A major letdown is not to be expected considering the combination of fresh recruits and outstanding coaching that gets these young men ready for prime time. However, it’s tough to imagine there is not some degree of impact from losing so much top tier talent.
Undoubtedly, Alabama looks poised for another strong season in 2012. But, will it be a Championship season? That might be a difficult wager at this point considering the names of the young men from Alabama that you will hear announced tonight.