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March 18, 2010

Jackson's draft stock continues to rise

When it comes to the upcoming NFL Draft, ESPN analyst Todd McShay has left no doubt about where he stands regarding certain former University of Alabama players.

He's bullish about cornerback Kareem Jackson and cautious regarding nose tackle Terrence Cody.

"For some reason people have not caught on to him," McShay said about Jackson during a conference call with reporters Thursday. "He might be the most underrated player in the entire draft right now."

Actually, as teams continue to sort through all the data from the NFL Combine and attend Pro Day workouts across the country, Jackson's draft stock has never been higher.

For example, ESPN colleague Mel Kiper promoted him to his "Big Board" this week, listing the 6-foot, 193-pound cornerback as the 24th best player in the draft and wrote: "Physical defensive back with improved cover skills."

Whether that translates into a first-round selection remains to be seen because of the high number of quality cornerbacks, with many expected to fly off the board in the second round.

Also apparently on the first-round bubble is Cody, who helped himself dramatically by reporting to Alabama's Pro Day weighing 348 pounds early this month, but remains a top prospect for teams in need of a nose tackle for the 3-4 scheme.

Cody's name continues to be associated the most with the San Diego Chargers, who have the 28th overall pick. That's also where Bucky Brooks of NFL.com projected him Thursday: "The release of Jamal Williams threatens to cripple the Chargers defense unless they find a suitable replacement in the middle. Cody's strength at the point of attack will free up the team's linebackers to make plays against the run."

Kiper also projects him to the Chargers, but McShay doesn't agree.

"If you're going to draft Terrence Cody you're going to have to have a plan to keep motivated, keep him in shape and get the most out of him because it's a legitimate concern," McShay said. "He comes in as a junior college transfer, uncommonly, I mean he's a good athlete for that size.

"But the weight fluctuation concerns you. He didn't always play at the level he should have, and he's got to be comfortable that he's going to have to come in and you're going to have to work at it, you're going to have to motivate him and get him on the right diet, nutrition and so forth. I do think he's going to be drafted in the second round, there are too many teams looking for 3-4 nose tackles and there are too few of his kind. But certainly I think Terrence Cody is going to be one of those bigger risk-reward players from this entire draft."

As for Rolando McClain, the recent public disclosure of having Crohn's Disease doesn't appear to have deterred teams, which had already been informed of his ailment. Most mock drafts still have him selected between No. 11 by Denver and No. 15 by the New York Giants, who are in serious need of an interior linebacker.

Jacksonville is also a possibility at No. 10. Although Miami was previously thought to be an ideal fit at No. 12, the Dolphins have since signed free-agent Karlos Dansby.

"He can step in right away and be a starter," McShay said about McClain.

With the draft roughly a month away (April 22-24), here's where the Tide players stand:

RB: Roy Upchurch running a 4.5.1 on Pro Day might have been enough for a team to take a chance on him in the draft. The best guess here is seventh round.

TE: Colin Peek's durability is becoming a concern and he wasn't pleased with his performance at Pro Day when he was still limited by a hamstring injury. He's expected to participate in at least one of Alabama's makeup Pro Day sessions (March 23 and 30), but the guess here is that he's slipped to the sixth round.

OL: Mike Johnson's versatility is a huge asset and some teams even had him snap some balls during Pro Day. He's still looking like a third-round selection.

DL: Brandon Deaderick is the big question mark as he wasn't able to do any drills during Pro Day due to an injury. His size and versatility will likely land him in the NFL, but draft estimates range from the fifth round on. His performance at the Pro Day makeup sessions could greatly affect his status. Lorenzo Washington appears to be on the bubble for being drafted.

LB: Eryk Anders' 40 time on Pro Day probably wasn't enough to get him drafted. He'll try for a faster time but like Cory Reamer is most likely looking at free agency.

CB: Javier Arenas missed Pro Day with a torn hamstring, but has probably done enough for scouts and is still likely a high third-round selection. Marquis Johnson wasn't 100 percent at Pro Day after having knee surgery, but still on target to be drafted.

S: Justin Woodall is still looking at being a Day Three selection, probably sixth round.

ST: Leigh Tiffin has as good a chance of any kicker to be selected.


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