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NFL Prospect Focus: Alabama Offense

Which 'Tide players could make a splash in next year's NFL draft? Greg Gabriel

Print This September 19, 2013, 11:30 AM EST

Alabama’s offense put up 42 points (the defense scored 7) against Texas A&M and controlled the ball for over 35 minutes. With that kind of output, you would think that there are a number of seniors who are NFL prospects. While yes, there are a number of prospects on offense, only 4 are seniors. Some of the top players, like running back J.J. Yeldon and tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, are underclassmen. The senior prospects are quarterback A.J. McCarron, wide receivers Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell, and guard Anthony Steen. The top prospect in that group is, of course, McCarron who had an outstanding game against the Aggies.

A.J. McCarron – Quarterback

I wrote up McCarron for the NFP a few months ago so I am not going to repeat what I wrote then. As much as I liked him over the summer, I like him more now. McCarron is not a flashy player like A&M’s Johnny Manziel, but he is a very steady winner who rarely makes mistakes and is just about flawless managing a game.

McCarron is a 5th year senior and a three year starter, and if things go the right way, may be the only quarterback in college football to win three National Championships. He has very good size at 6’4-215 and good overall athleticism. Being that he plays in a pro style system, that helps him to be ready for the next level. He is patient, poised, and an excellent leader. While he doesn’t have a rocket arm, it is more than good enough. He has very good mechanics, a quick release, and is very accurate. He has very good vision, is a good decision maker, and makes plays when they are needed. He is a good enough athlete to make or extend plays with his feet. In the Texas A&M game, he completed 20 of 29 passes for 334 yards and 4 touchdowns. He did not throw an interception. In his career, he has thrown only 8 interceptions in 490 passing attempts. You don’t lose games when you don’t turn the ball over.

In order to be a winning quarterback in the NFL a player has to possess intangibles. He has to a have a strong passion for the game, be a leader, make good decisions, and have the respect of his coaches and teammates. McCarron has all those traits. There is not a doubt in my mind that he will be a winning quarterback in the NFL and start early in his career.

Anthony Steen – Guard

Steen is another 5th year senior and three year starter at right guard. He doesn’t impress you form a physical standpoint. He has a very average frame and is maxed out as far as size. He has short legs and a long torso and looks to have just average arm length. He isn’t overly quick and lacks speed, but he is efficient, productive, and is seldom off his feet. At the end of the game, you count up the plusses and minuses and he has an awful lot of plusses.

Steen has good snap reaction along with good initial quickness. He gets to his block with quickness. While he isn’t what I would call an explosive athlete, he is strong and consistently works to finish every block. He is an all-out competitor. He gets to the 2nd level and makes productive blocks because he always takes good angles. He knows how to play the game. In this game he wasn’t used to pull. In pass protection he can set fairly quickly and knows how to use his hands. He has a compact punch and can mirror his opponent. He is an alert player who is good at seeing and picking up stunts and blitzes.

This is the type of player that I would try at center. If he can play both positions, he carries more value. While he isn’t a “trait” athlete, he is a competitor and doesn’t make mistakes. Guys like that find a way to play in the league and eventually start. They may not be pretty but they get the job done.

Kevin Norwood – Wide Receiver

Kevin is a 5th year senior and a two year starter. Alabama doesn’t have a true number 1 receiver so they rotate a number of receivers and Norwood plays in the rotation. In this game, he was thrown to 3 times and had 3 catches for 52 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came on a go route with the ball thrown to his back shoulder. He made an excellent adjustment to the ball to make the grab at the goal line.

Norwood has good size at about 6’2 – 195. He is a very good athlete with great body control. He plays fast (4.5 range) and can get separation when he makes a cut. He has good hands and, like I said about the TD pass, can adjust to the ball. After the catch he is quick to turn up field and shows good run skills. On run downs he shows a good willingness to block.

This is a talented player, but at this time, I don’t have a good feel for him. I will need more tape to see how he plays the rest of the season. With that said, my initial impression is that he is a solid mid-round type, but I may be understating that.

Kenny Ball – Wide Receiver

Just as with Norwood, I didn’t get a lot of exposure of this player in the Texas A&M game. He did not start and did not play that much. Through his career, he has been a part-time starter, and going into this season he only had 36 career catches and 4 touchdowns. He was only thrown to only once in this game but he made the catch on a bubble screen and took it 51 yards for a score. That is his only catch this season. I do know that he is fast and athletic, but I need to see more before I can give him an accurate and fair grade.

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