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NFL Draft 2014: Buyer Beware

Should NFL teams, specifically the Dallas Cowboys avoid drafting players from one of the most high profile and successful college football programs in the nation?

Streeter Lecka

Chance Warmack, DJ Fluker, Jesse Williams, Dee Milliner, Eddie Lacy, Mark Barron, Dont'a Hightower, Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Courtney Upshaw, Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, & James Carpenter.

What do all of these players have in common?

Each of these guys is a player from the University of Alabama who was selected in the first few rounds of the NFL draft from 2011-2013 or who was expected to be taken early leading up to the process. That's 14 players from one school drafted (or projected to be taken) early in just a three-year span. It makes sense considering the three national championships since 2009, and the consistently high level of play at the school since Nick Saban became head coach in 2007. This championship pedigree is extremely attractive to NFL personnel men as they seek to build winning programs at the professional level.

However, there is another trend within these players that is extremely bothersome to evaluators and teams alike.

There is a remarkable trend of players having injuries coming out of the university of Alabama. Adam Schefter highlighted the trend late last year, and I've summarized the trend on the table below.

Player Position Team Injury
Chance Warmack OG TEN Knee
DJ Fluker OT SD Shoulder
Jesse Williams DT SEA Knee
Dee Milliner CB NYJ Torn Labrum
Eddie Lacy RB GB Hamstring
Mark Barron S TB Dbl Sports Hernia
Dont'a Hightower LB NE Knee (2009 surgery)
Trent Richardson RB CLE/IND Knee
Dre Kirkpatrick CB CIN Knee
Courtney Upshaw LB BAL Shoulder
Marcel Dareus DT BUF N/a
Julio Jones WR ATL Foot
Mark Ingram RB NO Knee (2010 surgery)
James Carpenter OL SEA N/a

That's 12 out of 14 players who faced significant injuries either in their later years at Alabama, or between the end of their career with the Tide, and before the start of their rookie season.

Now combine that history with this year's class:

  • Cyrus Kouandjio failed several team physicals at the NFL Combine due to an arthritic condition in his knee from a failed surgery while at Alabama.
  • CJ Mosley has hip, elbow and shoulder concerns, as disclosed by Bryan Broaddus on this week.
  • Anthony Steen is recovering from labrum surgery.

That leaves only AJ McCarron and HaHa Clinton Dix as players from 'Bama without known injury concerns who are expected to be drafted in the first half of the 2014 draft.

Knowing this trend, NFL teams have to tread carefully when expending the highly coveted early round picks on these players who come out of a program that clearly leaves their players beat up. The other question is, how long until this begins to impact Nick Saban on the recruiting trail?

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