Chad Reuter of NFLDraftScout.com thinks five Bama players could be Round 1 picks in next spring's NFL Draft. He lists cornerback 'Dre Kirkpatrick, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and safety Robert Lester as probable first-rounders, with nose tackle Josh Chapman and linebacker Courtney Uphaw ranking as possible first-rounders. Moreover, Reuter tabs safety Mark Barron and linebacker Nico Johnson as Round 2 prospects.
Reuter is not alone in his high regard for Tide talent. Andrew Perloff of SportsIllustrated.com recently posted a 2012 NFL mock draft that has four Bama players projected in Round 1 - Kirkpatrick going eighth overall, junior tailback Trent Richardson going No. 15, Upshaw going No. 18 and Hightower going No. 22.
That's an awful lot of premium picks from one program, especially one that just lost defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (No. 3), wideout Julio Jones (No. 6), offensive tackle James Carpenter (25) and tailback Mark Ingram (No. 28) in Round 1 of the 2011 draft.
If Reuter and Perloff are correct, Saban's 2010 Alabama team featured between eight and 10 first-round draft picks, including one (Richardson) who was a backup at his position.
The Gamecocks, coming off an SEC East title in 2010, have three players Perloff projects as first-rounders for the 2012 NFL Draft. They are cornerback Stephon Gilmore (No. 12), wideout Alshon Jeffery (No. 21) and defensive end Devin Taylor (No. 27).
All told, Perloff projects nine SEC players going in Round 1 next April. In addition to the four from Alabama and the three from South Carolina, he sees LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne going No. 16 and Arkansas running back Knile Davis going No. 17.