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April 28, 2011The University of Alabama placed a school-record four first-round choices in the National Football League Draft Thursday with the selections of Marcell Dareus (No.3 overall), Julio Jones (No.6), James Carpenter (No.25) and Mark Ingram (No.28).
Dareus was chosen third overall by the Buffalo Bills. Just three picks later, the Atlanta Falcons traded up with the Cleveland Browns to draft former UA wide receiver Jones. And while running back Mark Ingram was expected to be the third, it was the offensive lineman Carpenter going to the Seattle Seahawks at No.25 in one of the draft's biggest surprises. The New Orleans Saints subsequently traded up with the New England Patriots to choose Ingram.
But the shocker was Carpenter, who had been projected as late as the fourth round, and no higher than late second round, by draft services.
"It's crazy. It shocked me. I thought I thought I was going in the second round," Carpenter told Tidesports.com. "The GM called me, and I just told him I'm excited to be a Seattle Seahawk."
Carpenter, unlike the other three UA first-round picks who were at the draft in New York City, spent Thursday with his family in Hephzibah, Ga. Although he was a two-year starter at left tackle for Alabama, Carpenter was considered a guard prospect by some NFL clubs, and practiced at guard during Senior Bowl week.
"The Seahawks talked to me at the combine, and the offensive line coach talked to me a lot, too," Carpenter said. "We haven't talked about whether I'm playing guard or tackle. I'm just going up there to compete."
Asked about his thoughts on playing so far from home in the Northwest, Carpenter said he is unconcerned.
"It's not a problem - I was in Kansas (in junior college) for two years. It's all one flight away," he said.
Dareus was widely considered the top defensive lineman in the draft.
"Where I like him the most is head-up over the center, where he can shed blockers and make tackles," said ESPN draft analyst John Gruden.
The Falcons traded the Browns multiple draft choices, including first-round picks in the 2011 and 2012 drafts, for the right to acquire Jones.
"This kid's got enormous strengths. ... He can really break some tackles after the catch," said ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. "... The dropped passes have to be eliminated, the concentration has to improve, (he must) stay healthy over the long haul. Atlanta will be counting on him big-time. They are on the cusp of a Super Bowl winner."
Jones will join former UA teammates Mike Johnson and John Parker Wilson with the Falcons. Neither Dareus nor Jones was immediately available for comment.
Last year's No.3 overall pick, Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, received a five-year, $63 million contract from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, $35 million of it guaranteed. Based on the NFL's slotting system for rookie contracts, Dareus can expect a contract similar, and probably in slight excess of McCoy's.
Most draft experts had projected Dareus to be chosen No.2 overall by the Denver Broncos, who instead chose Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller.
Alabama's previous record for first-round draft choices was three, when John Copeland (No.5 overall pick), Eric Curry (No.6) and George Teague (No.29) were first-round picks in 1993.
Jones' model for a contract will be that of former Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung, who was drafted No.6 overall by the Seattle Seahawks last year. Okung received a six-year, $46.5 million contract with a guarantee of $29.5 million. Tim Tebow was selected in Carpenter's spot at No.25 a year ago, and got a five-year deal worth $11.25 million ($8.7M guaranteed).
Penn State's Jared Odrick, a defensive tackle, was chosen in Ingram's slot a year ago and received a five-year deal worth $13.07 million ($7.13M guaranteed) from the Miami Dolphins.