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February 17, 2013

Draft experts high on Chance Warmack

TUSCALOOSA | It will be of little consolation to Chance Warmack if he slips in the first round of the NFL Draft because of the position he plays, but the former University of Alabama offensive guard just might be the best pro prospect in the country.

ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay each heaped significant praise on Warmack last week, but McShay's description of Warmack as perhaps the best player available regardless of position was no doubt the most glowing.

"Chance Warmack may be the best player in this draft, forget positions, just in terms of grade," McShay said. "He graded out the highest of any player I did in the preseason. And he's still right there with the highest grade."

Unfortunately for Warmack, offensive guard is not a premium position for NFL clubs, and that means the draft could be well into the first round before a team with a glaring-enough need for a guard sees fit to spend its first pick on one. Kiper said he has graded Warmack as the ninth-best player available in the draft but suggested his position caused him to slide.

McShay indicated the Arizona Cardinals or Buffalo Bills, with the seventh and eighth picks, respectively, might be teams with a top-10 pick compelled to draft a guard.

Another guard prospect McShay and Kiper described as "elite" is North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper. Both believe it's conceivable for Cooper to be the first guard drafted, but both have rated Warmack slightly ahead of Cooper at the position.

"They are different styles of players. Warmack is a dominant, power guy. Cooper is the athlete, he gets down the field making a block, can pull and trap and do lots of things," Kiper said.

Kiper said another top prospect from the Alabama offensive line, tackle D.J. Fluker, should be a first-round pick as well.

"I would be shocked if come April 25 he's not in the first round mix. I think he's a heck of a football player. People keeping saying, 'Well, he's not a great pass-blocker,'" Kiper said. "Well, at right tackle, if you watch some of those games, against some skilled pass-rushers, he did a heck of a job. He's got incredibly long arms, he's got good enough feet and he's certainly a dominant run-blocker."

Kiper projects Fluker to be chosen by the Chicago Bears with the 20th pick.

Cornerback Dee Milliner is expected to be the first Alabama player drafted, most likely in the top 10 picks. Kiper projects Milliner as the Philadelphia Eagles' choice with the fourth pick.

"Not the elite skill set, but that doesn't mean he won't be a heck of a player. ... You think about where Dee Milliner is right now, as the fourth pick overall to Philadelphia. That's where I project him. Fifth pick to Detroit, sixth pick to Cleveland. That's where he's going to go," Kiper said. "Somewhere in that range. ... He's more fundamentally sound. He's a guy coached well technically by Nick (Saban)."

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.

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