Draft Thoughts

Boy the gigabytes are flowing on intrigue and drama at and near the top of the overblown spectacle of the NFL Draft, which commences tomorrow night from Radio City Music Hall. By the way, nice appropriate place for the draft, the home of the Rockettes, eh?

Newspapers, sports shows and Websites were all atwitter Friday with the possibility that MATT LEINART'S STOCK MIGHT BE FALLING!

Puh-lease. Maybe we've become so saturated with sports coverage that news entities have to megahype these minor developments, like the mere possibility Leinart might go from the third pick to the seventh. Sheesh.

Some of the same treatment is being doled out to Alabama's two highest-profile draft candidates: quarterback Brodie Croyle and linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

Sports Illustrated's online site saw fit last weekend to pronounce Croyle as the "most overrated" player in this draft. Your site doesn't get as many hits if you name some receiver from Clemson as your most overrated player, so I see where naming Croyle makes sense. To give you an indication of the kind of wizards working these draft Websites, I actually read somewhere online that a negative on Croyle was questionable arm strength. Arm strength and football savvy are probably Croyle's two best traits, fellas.

And here's a nugget from Friday morning from SI's Andrew Perloff: "(The Jets are) talking about Brodie Croyle, who is a lot like Tom Brady, minus the accuracy and leadership skills.''

Ryans, for some reason, has fallen into the "stock dropping" lane and that view is fairly widespread. To quote one site's critique of Ryans: "Not a great natural athlete ... Could stand to bulk up and add some weight ... Has some trouble shedding bigger blockers." Ryans saw somewhere that his stock is dropping because he changed agents. That came as news to him, as he signed originally with Kirk Wood and has stuck with him.

The cool thing about Croyle's and Ryans' take on these cyberspace musings: they don't really care.

Croyle has said he'll be "on the river" when the draft commences, and he might wander in front of the television some time in the second round. Ryans will be hanging with Wood and some friends during the draft, as he doesn't want his mother overly put out with anxiety during the seemingly interminable first round.

There are a few intriguing aspects of this draft from the Alabama perspective. Such as who will be taken first between Ryans, Croyle and under-publicized defensive end Mark Anderson. The guess here is Ryans.

Also, how many Crimson Tide defensive backs will be selected between Roman Harper, Charlie Peprah and Anthony Madison? Most projections like Harper as a second-day pick (between rounds four and seven) and the other two as probable free agents.

And what about Freddie Roach? The Tide middle linebacker is thought to be a late-round candidate.

No doubt this will be a down year for the SEC when it comes to its usual standard of first-round picks. Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler appears to be the only league player in the top 10 pool. Florida receiver Chad Jackson, South Carolina DB Jonathan Joseph, Tennessee DB Jason Allen, LSU RB Joe Addai, and Ryans look like the only other first-round possibilities.

Auburn's four-man first round of 2005 is most likely to be matched tomorrow by both Southern California and Florida State, as well as Ohio State, which could have as many as six first-rounders.

Switching gears...

Will Sewell-Thomas Stadium be the in place tonight and this weekend with Auburn baseball coming in for a three-game set with the number six Crimson Tide?

Last weekend's attendance for the Vanderbilt series was surprisingly low. The showdown between aces Wade LeBlanc and David Price, delayed from Friday night to early Saturday afternoon, didn't have as much of an audience as expected. This for a highly ranked Alabama team that was leading the SEC West at the time and had won series against two number one teams this year.

Now Alabama is two games up for the overall SEC lead and continuing to play like a team of destiny. It figures with Auburn on tap the attendance will increase dramatically tonight. However, cooler temperatures and the threat of rain Saturday and Sunday might also have a say in the crowd counts.

Alabama better play with more focus against the Tigers than it did on Wednesday against UAB at the Hoover Met. The array of misplayed balls, wild pitches, low throws and general sluggishness, lowlighted by UAB's four-run seventh inning that featured one hit, was stunning for a top 10 club.

"We were able to outslug them, but we weren't playing well," Tide coach Jim Wells conceded. "We certainly can't afford to do that on the weekends. I'm sure we'll bounce back and not make the mistakes, which are uncharacteristic of the way we've played most of the year."

Thomas Murphy is the Alabama beat writer for the Mobile Register and a contributor to 'BAMA Magazine and BamaMag.com.

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