By BOB MCGINN, SunHerald.com:
Courtney Upshaw and Dont’a Hightower have an advantage on their fellow linebackers in this draft class. They played for Nick Saban. They played at Alabama. Their four-year affiliation with the Crimson Tide certainly isn’t the main reason both are expected to be selected in the first round Thursday night. However, it sure didn’t hurt. Ask Thomas Dimitroff, general manager of the Atlanta Falcons. A year ago, he risked his own and the Falcons’ future trading away a slew of draft choices for the sixth overall selection and the chance to choose Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones.
“We obviously think highly of Saban players because we made a monumental move up for one of his players last year,” Dimitroff said. “It seems as though most people in the NFL take a good, hard look when it’s an Alabama guy given Nick’s coaching prowess and the type of players he produces. “For the most part, they are no-nonsense guys who are very driven about football. We feel very strongly about Nick’s ability to get them to where they are very NFL-ready.” The Tide runs a standard pro-style offense that is becoming almost passe in the wide-open collegiate game. Alabama is one of a handful of major-college teams using the 3-4 defense that is utilized by almost half of the NFL. [More]