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All 'Bama, all the time


No wonder Alabama won the national title last season.

Judging by the results as we approach the end of the 2012 reader mock draft, it's hard to see how 'Bama lost at all last season. Or the year before that . . .

Or the year before that.

And while from that lead-in the astute among you might deduce that there was a Crimson Tide player selected by either the Denver Broncos or Houston Texans on this day – the fourth-to-last day of a mock draft that began way back early last month – we're actually talking big picture here.

Trent Richardson. Dre Kirkpatrick. Mark Barron. Courtney Upshaw.

All have gone in Round 1 of this mock, and it's a relatively safe bet that all will go in the first round when the real first round rolls off Commissioner Roger Goodell's tongue in New York City April 26. Now, with the Broncos and Texans on the clock, perhaps it's no surprise that yet another Alabama player is getting some serious mention, either.

It shouldn't surprise anyone, either, that the moderator mentioned nothing of that Crimson Tide player – inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

That's the stage of the mock we've reached – that point where teams get increasingly hard to predict and where, honestly, it sort of doesn't seem like the first round anymore.

But we digress. For now, we have four days remaining, with this day being about a pair of teams that made the playoffs in 2011 before losing after one post-season victory.

What can the Broncos do to improve on that?

A strong argument can be made that they took Step One last month by adding quarterback Peyton Manning, and once the readers got down to analyzing whatever step the draft will be they quickly dismissed the moderator's offering of Stephen Hill.

Hill, a wide receiver from Georgia Tech, has dazzled our reader/mockers enough with his speed to get a lot of mention in the last few selections of the mock.

But on this day he dazzled not a bit, with one reason being the mockers see running back as a major need for Denver.

"The Broncos will pick Lamar Miller," James from Jacksonville wrote of the Miami running back. "In the past, Manning's teams that were able to get off to a good start had running backs ready to go. Now that (Knowshon) Moreno is facing suspension and (Willis) McGahee is showing signs of slowing down, the Broncos will defer to Miller."

Good theory, and James wasn't alone, but there were those who believed the Broncos' already strong defense will get stronger on draft day.

"The Broncos want a DT and have even stated it," Gary Cislo wrote. "Devon Still (of Penn State) or Michael Brockers (of LSU) are great fits and Brockers has the edge here being more athletic. Brockers will be the selection."

That's not a bad spot for Brockers, who came out of the combine in late February highly rated and who seems to have lost some ground since.

"I don't see the Broncos going for a WR, though the thought is tempting just because of the Manning factor," Matt wrote. "I think they continue the Steelers trend and go after another DT by picking up either Brockers or (Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel) Worthy.  Ultimately I think Brockers' stock is a little bit higher, so he'll be the pick should he still be on the board."

Aside from making his selection, Matt also spent time relishing in his promise early this week to eat his own shoe if one of the moderator's selections came to be. Matt's diet notwithstanding, he made a good decision here – a better offering than the moderator, certainly – and the Broncos' first post-Tebow era selection will indeed be the talented tackle from LSU. It will in this mock draft, anyway.

That brought us to the Texans at No. 26, where our reader/mockers were pretty well-convinced that the Texans had built a good enough roster that it was easy to get an idea about their possible draft direction.

"The Texans are a complete enough team that their needs are distinct," Fred Barnes wrote. "Defensively, they need a couple of linebackers. They need an ILB to replace DeMeco Ryans and a rush 'backer to replace Mario Williams. Dont'a Hightower looks like a perfect fit as a guy who can handle either role as needed with tremendous value this late in round one."

Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams got mentioned here, and Cislo gave defensive tackle Nick Perry of Southern California serious consideration. Hill also was a popular choice for some, but with Ryans leaving and the Texans already pretty good, Hightower made as much as sense as anyone.

"They go with Hightower due to his ability solidify a group that is now missing Ryans and Super Mario," Michael Morgan wrote.

Indeed they do, and that means after 26 selections the reader mock draft looks like:

1.Indianapolis | Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

2.Washington | Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

3.Minnesota | Matt Kalil, OT, Southern California

4.Cleveland | Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

5.Tampa Bay | Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State

6.St. Louis | Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

7.Jacksonville | Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

8.Miami | Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

9.Carolina | Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

10.Buffalo | David DeCastro, G, Stanford

11.Kansas City | Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

12.Seattle | Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

13.Arizona | Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

14.Dallas | Janoris Jenkins,  CB, North Alabama

15.Philadelphia | Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

16.New York Jets | Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

17.Cincinnati | Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

18.San Diego | Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia

19.Chicago | Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

20.Tennessee | Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

21.Cincinnati | Mark Barron, SS, Alabama

22.Cleveland | Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama

23.Detroit | Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

24.Pittsburgh | Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

25.Denver | Michael Brockers, DT, Louisiana State

26.Houston | Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama

That brings us to Nos. 27 and 28, and that means we really are close to the end. Tantalizingly close. Teams-that-went-deep-in-the-playoffs-and-think-they're-doing-it-again – that kind of close. We'll give the Patriots Perry at No. 27 and we'll send Still from Penn State to the Packers. We're sure each franchise will thank us for that. Have at it.

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