Tide athletes wait on NFL draft

With the NFL draft set for this weekend, Alabama fans--and especially last year's seniors--anxiously wait and wonder. <br><br>How many Tide players will be drafted and in what rounds?

There are as many different scenarios as there are football fans, with scores of "experts" and mock drafts weighing in with their opinions. But of course the truth is that even the general managers themselves can't predict with any real accuracy. Every year surprises of one sort of another impact the draft. So the only thing that's guaranteed is that no one knows for certain how things will play out.

Scouts like King's ability to play inside or out.

But BamaMag.com has talked to sources close to the Tide team, several of which talk with NFL coaches and scouts on a regular basis. Without doubt we'll be wrong about some things--maybe a lot. But in this article we pass along what we've heard.

The number of Tide players drafted could range from three to possibly as many as eight, with Bama's D-Line trio of Jarret Johnson, Kenny King and Kindal Moorehead considered certain to be selected.

At this point all three are expected to be taken the first day, probably in rounds two or three. Tackle Jarret Johnson, a tenacious athlete whose motor is always running, will likely be the first Tider chosen. Kenny King has impressed the scouts with his versatility and intelligence and would likely be second with Kindal Moorehead third. Moorehead's status has been hurt somewhat by his history of injuries in college, but if healthy he definitely has NFL talent.

Past injuries hurt him a bit, but Moorehead should be taken the first day.

After those three, Santonio Beard and Alonzo Ephraim are probably Bama's best bets for the draft. Both will probably have to wait to the second day and would be taken in the later rounds.

Beard of course had been saying privately for some time that he was going to declare early, and he followed through on that plan by leaving school last December. He has very good size and solid speed, skills the pros are looking for. But questions about his commitment to getting in peak condition hurt his status with the scouts and are expected to delay his selection until the later rounds.

A two-time All-SEC selection for the Tide at center, similar questions surrounded Ephraim early on. He's very smart and a good athlete, but his weight had crept up over 300 pounds, and scouts were sure that hurt his mobility. However, Ephraim has worked himself into very good shape and will definitely get a chance to play on Sundays.

Three other Tide players have a solid chance to be drafted, though it's a good guess that they may begin their pro careers as free agents instead.

Beard declared early for the draft.

Tailback Ahmaad Galloway is a tough, dependable runner who will definitely get a chance to play. But his knee injury prevented him from taking part in the early pro workouts, and the follow-up session in Tuscaloosa early in April brought more tough luck for Galloway. He pulled a muscle, which meant he lost his best chance to prove to the scouts he was fully recovered. There's no room for sentiment in the pros, and Galloway's most recent injury--though minor--may have dropped him off the edge of the draft bubble.

An outstanding all-around athlete, safety Waine Bacon helped himself in the post-season all-star games. Several teams are impressed by his talent, though that may or may not be enough to get him drafted.

With a prototypical offensive tackle's frame and good natural footwork, Dante' Ellington has not gone unnoticed. He has yet to get himself into peak condition, which is an obvious concern for scouts. But based on potential alone, it's possible that a team could spend a late-round pick on Ellington. More likely though is he'll be signed as a free agent and quickly shipped off to NFL Europe to develop.

Ephraim should be a late-round selection.

Several other Crimson Tide athletes are almost certain to be signed and brought into camp by a particular team. In some cases, individual scouts like them a lot. But draft status is all about supply and demand. If only a couple of teams are seriously interested in a given player, then the more likely strategy is for those teams to wait until after the draft concludes and then sign the athlete to a free agent contract.

It's not as bad as it used to be, but NFL scouts still have preconceived notions of minimum size to go along with each position. A powerful run blocker despite his relatively short (6-1) stature, Marico Portis was hurt by that reality. However he's worked himself into peak condition and has impressed enough teams to guarantee that he'll be at least a free agent.

Receiver Sam Collins is a good example of the hard realities of draft day. A dependable athlete with very good straight-ahead speed, a couple of teams definitely like him (reportedly including the Atlanta Falcons). But Collins will likely have to wait until after the draft to sign as a free agent.

Bacon helped himself in the all-star games.

Defensive backs Gerald Dixon and Hirchel Bolden both endured their share of hard times at The Capstone, but each is a good enough athlete to warrant a chance at the NFL. The key for athletes like them is to hook up with a team where they have a legitimate chance of making the club. Pro teams are notorious for bringing in free agents as really nothing more than training camp bodies and then cutting them loose before the season. Deciding which team to sign with as a free agent is one area that a good agent with ties around "The League" can be invaluable to an athlete.

A good workout during Pro Day last March had many fans excitedly predicting that Tyler Watts might get a shot as a safety, but don't expect the veteran Tide quarterback to change positions. He's been working out diligently since the draft, and someone is expected to bring him into camp.

‘Smoke' Dixon should get his shot. (AP)

Watts' former roommate, Lane Bearden, has a different problem. He's still not completely healed from his knee surgery. And so far Bama's former captain has not been able to properly work out for the scouts. But based on athleticism alone, he's expected to sign as a free agent.

The key for Bearden (and indeed for all the free agents) will be choosing a team willing to give him an honest shot at making the roster.

NOTE: This information came from reliable sources, who talk with NFL personnel on a regular basis. But that hardly means that any of it is set in stone.

And to be clear, it's BamaMag.com's fervent wish that all of the Tide's athletes get drafted. In that regard, we'd like nothing better than to be proven wrong on some of these projections.

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