Nick Saban Talks up his Five Potential First-Round Picks, Rips Pre-Draft Hearsay: “I Don’t Know How Anybody Drafts Anybody”

April 24, 2012 – 6:00 am by Brad Gagnon

The BCS national champion Alabama Crimson Tide might as well take full custody of the first round of the 2012 NFL draft. As many as five members of Nick Saban’s squad could be taken in Round 1 Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall. And if all five of the Alabama players in attendance — safety Mark Barron, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, running back Trent Richardson and linebacker Courtney Upshaw — are selected in the first round, it’ll be a team record … and only one short of a football record.

Nick Saban joined ESPN Radio in Dallas to talk about some of his players slated to be selected early in this week’s draft. He also expressed his displeasure regarding the quantity of information — both true and false — that he argues has hijacked the draft process.

On the potential for the Cowboys picking an Alabama player in Round 1:

“I think we’ve got five really good players that lots of people are looking at in the first round and it’d be great if Dallas could get one of them.”

What he saw in Mark Barron as the quarterback of his defense:

“Mark’s a — first of all — really good person. He’s got great character, very mature, very well-respected by his teammates. Doesn’t say a lot — a little bit quiet — but a very, very effective leader. Got great size and speed, has good ball skills, has some cover ability. Has a lot of flexibility as a player, a lot of diversity as a player. Can play safety, can play in the short field, in the deep field. He could play fifth defensive back of sixth defensive back and he’s a really good special-teams guy. So this is a good all-around guy, and he’s got the right stuff — believe me — to be a good player for a long time, God willing that he doesn’t get hurt. But he’s special.”

If Courtney Upshaw can be an elite pass rusher in the NFL:

“I think Courtney’s really a good player. First of all, good guys in the front seven are good players because they’re hard to block — and he’s hard to block. He’s a good outside ‘backer. He’s a good run player. I think he has enough pass-rush ability, not necessarily just a edge rusher that’s gonna just beat you with speed every time, but he can turn speed to power and he’s heavy-handed, and I think that’s always a key to being a good pass rusher. So I think Courtney’s going to have a very good career, too, especially if he gets with a 3-4 team and can play outside ‘backer.”

If Dont’a Hightower can move outside

“No doubt. He could play inside or outside ‘backer. He can play Mike or Will inside, strong side or weak side — he’s play ‘em both here. He can play outside. He’s been a designated pass rusher on third down for us. He’s also been a stand-up fourth rusher drop, X package when they put all the linebackers in there — he can play any one of those positions. He’s a very smart guy. He’s a signal caller that has really good leadership qualities and understands football extremely well and has a lot of diversity in terms of how you can use him. So…when you got guys that size, that speed and that athletic that do so many things, those guys don’t come around very often.”

On the information overload at draft time:

“I think one of the worst things about the draft now is how everybody gets beat up. Trent Richardson is the finest guy that I have ever been associated as a coach, in terms of a person — forget about a football player. I’m just saying, your daughter’s dating him and you love him. I mean, that’s how he is, and some team called (me) the other day and said, ‘Can you explain to us? They say Trent used to hang around the wrong people.’ I say, ‘Where in the heck did that come from?’ I mean, I don’t know how anybody drafts anybody. There’s so much information out there, how do you get the right information?”

Listen to Nick Saban on ESPN Radio in Dallas here

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