Typically cool and calm, Rolando McClain won’t step out of character — even on a day that will change his life forever.
After weeks and months of running through hoops, around cones and into film rooms, Alabama’s Butkus Award winning linebacker isn’t about to gnaw off any finger nails on draft day.
“I don’t know about being nervous,” he said. “I feel like it is what it is. If I can make somebody’s team better, I will bring my allegiance to that team as well as my physical ability.”
Instead of accepting an invitation to witness the NFL draft’s prime-time television debut in New York City, McClain opted to surround himself with family and friends in Decatur, Ala., when the ESPN telecast begins at 7:30 p.m.
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Though nothing is certain until NFL commissioner Roger Goodell calls his name, a few franchises are emerging as favorites to land McClain’s services according to a survey of 15 mock drafts done by major news outlets.
Of the projections, six have him going to the New York Giants with the 15th pick, five say he’ll be a Denver Bronco who has the 11th selection, three thought the Jacksonville Jaguars will get him with the 10th pick and one has him slipping to the 22nd pick belonging to the New England Patriots.
A few other former Alabama standouts have a shot at being selected today including Kareem Jackson, who appeared on five of the 15 first-round predictions, and Terrence Cody. Should one of them join McClain in the first round, the two would be the first Tide tandem taken in the first round since Chris Samuels and Shaun Alexander did so in 2000.
If not today, a herd of former Alabama players is expected to land somewhere during the new three-day draft format that still includes seven rounds. As many as eight or nine members of the 2009 national championship team have a shot at being taken, with several more as locks for a free-agent deal.
None has the NFL stock of McClain, though.
His size makes him a prototypical pro middle linebacker, but it’s his brain that has so many franchises interested in his services.
“He’s obviously been well-coached but even if you’re coached well, it takes another side to get to where he’s at,” Broncos coach Josh McDaniels told The Associated Press. “He’s obviously done a lot of listening, studying and understands the game at a level where most kids that come in as rookies will never be at.”
Considering Denver’s shift from a 4-3 defense to the 3-4 in which McClain thrived at Alabama, he would be a logical pick after some scouts questioned his ability to transition to the more traditional scheme. The Broncos have reportedly been interested in taking a receiver to replace Brandon Marshall who was traded to the Miami Dolphins, so names like Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant and Georgia Tech’s Demaryius Thomas have also been floated.
Should he fall to the Giants, McClain could fill a major gap left when New York cut former Pro Bowl middle linebacker Antonio Pierce.
There are also rumblings out of places like Oakland and Kansas City that teams with top 10 picks might be interested in McClain, so just about anything is possible this evening.
McClain’s busy pre-draft schedule included a 10-day span when he traveled to seven different franchises for meetings and interviews. That followed the March NFL scouting combine and the Alabama pro day a few weeks later.
“I was tired and fed up with airports,” McClain said. “It was killing me. It was rough, but I got some great experience, and I got to meet a lot of good guys — players and general managers and coaches.”
When and where he goes will have a big impact on much his bank account will swell.
The 11th pick in the 2009 draft, defensive Aaron Maybin signed a five-year deal with Buffalo for $25 million, with $15 million guaranteed. If McClain slips to that 15th pick belonging to the Giants, he will likely look at a contract similar to that of last season’s 15th selection who was guaranteed $10.435 million on his 5-year deal worth a total of $18 million.
Either way, McClain will be a rich man every soon.
Answers will come soon enough for the top high school prospect who worked his way to the top of the college game. Now, it’s time to play on an even grander stage..
Mock drafts say…
Washington Post: No. 15, New York Giants
Miami Herald: No. 11, Denver Broncos
Sports Illustrated: No. 11, New York Giants (from Denver)
Baltimore Sun: No. 11 Denver Broncos
Colorado Springs Gazette: No. 10, Jacksonville Jaguars
NFL.com: No. 11, Denver Broncos
Athlon: No. 22, New England Patriots
CBS Sports: No. 15, New York Giants*
FoxSports.com: No. 15, New York Giants
NBCSports.com: No. 10, Jacksonville Jaguars
Houston Chronicle: No. 11, Denver Broncos
Albany (N.Y.) Times Union: No. 11, Denver Broncos
Associated Press: No. 15, New York Giants
Chicago Tribune: No. 10, Jacksonville Jaguars
ESPN’s Mel Kiper: No. 15, New York Giants
NFL.com: No. 52 (second round) Pittsburgh Steelers
Baltimore Sun: No. 30, Minnesota Vikings
CBS Sports: No. 30, Minnesota Vikings*
FoxSports.com: No. 51 (second round) Houston Texans
NBCSports.com: No. 24, Philadelphia Eagles
Houston Chronicle: No. 24, Philadelphia Eagles
Albany (N.Y.) Times Union: No. 30, Minnesota Vikings
ESPN’s Mel Kiper: No. 24, Philadelphia Eagles
Colorado Springs Gazette: No. 28, San Diego Charger
NFL.com: No. 39 (second round) Oakland Raiders
FoxSports.com: No. 29, New York Jets
NBCSports.com: No. 28 San Diego Chargers
NFL.com: No. 88 (third round) Arizona Cardinals
FoxSports.com: No. 113 (fourth round) San Francisco 49ers
FoxSports.com: No. 80 (third round) Denver Broncos
FoxSports.com: No. 171, (sixth round) Atlanta Falcons
FoxSports.com: No. 229 (seventh round) New England Patriots
FoxSports.com: No. 248 (seventh round) New England
*Picked by two of four panelists
Where: Radio City Music Hall, New York City
Opening round: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Rounds 2-3: 5 p.m. Friday
Rounds 4-7: 9 a.m. Saturday
Tide first round picks
The 18 Alabama players taken in the first round in the past 30 years:
2009: Andre Smith (6th)
2000: Chris Samuels (3rd)
2000: Shaun Alexander (19th)
1999: Fernando Bryant (26th)
1997: Dwayne Rudd (20th)
1994: Antonio Langham (9th)
1993: John Copeland (5th)
1993: Eric Curry (6th)
1993: George Teague (29th)
1990: Keith McCants (4th)
1989: Derrick Thomas (4th)
1987: Cornelius Bennett (2nd)
1986: Jon Hand (4th)
1985: Emanuel King (25th)
1984: Joey Jones (9th)
1983: Mike Pitts (16th)
1981: E.J. Junior (5th)
1980: Don McNeal (21st)