2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Alabama's Hightower sees draft stock climb

By JOHN ZENOR - AP Sports Writer
    2012-04-20 13:30

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Dont'a Hightower insists he's right where he expected to be all along: A projected first-round NFL draft pick.

The former Alabama star just had to convince NFL teams that he was worth such an investment, and that he was fast enough to play middle linebacker at that level.

``I always knew I was going to be a first-round draft pick,'' Hightower said Friday. ``That's the way I've always worked. I pride myself on going out and doing the best I can to the best of my ability. I might have started slow during the season but whenever my teammates needed me to make a play or make a call, I was always there and did my job.

``It's not about what the media thinks. It's about what the team thinks.''

Teammates Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Courtney Upshaw and Dre Kirkpatrick just had to prove their first-round projections were on the money before next week's draft.

Hightower needed to change a few minds.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay called Hightower ``the guy I'm most surprised with'' after studying tape in the weeks leading up to the draft.

``I think he's a Top 20 player in this draft,'' McShay said. ``I know he had the knee injury (in 2009), and he doesn't have elite speed. But he's 265 pounds, somewhere in that range, great versus the inside run. Pass rusher that can get off the edge, which was an addition to his game this past year.

``It's not just something that he did that was cute to help out for Alabama this year.''

Hightower's agent, Pat Dye Jr., thinks the 6-foot-2 linebacker has improved his stock by 20-25 spots since regular season's end.

Dye said the teams that have expressed the most interest in Hightower are the Chargers (No. 18), Bears (19), Titans (20) and Steelers (24). He said several teams who pick later with needs at linebackers and are high on him include the Ravens, Patriots and Giants.

He said teams have commented on his ability to line up at end in three-man fronts, like another client, the Dallas Cowboys' Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware.

Hightower was a finalist for four national awards last season and had career-highs in tackles (85) and sacks (four). He also was responsible for play calls and checks.

He capped the season with a sack in the BCS championship game against LSU, when coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart also gave him more freedom to get the front seven into the right formations with quick on-the-field judgments.

``(NFL officials) know coach Saban and they know coach Smart, and the fact that they gave me that much leeway in the national championship game against a big time team like that, kind of opened their eyes,'' Hightower said.

Hightower feels he's resolved uncertainty about whether he would be moved to defensive end because of his speed.

``All those questions are kind of in the past now about can I do it,'' he said. ``It's more about am I going to be able to apply myself to learn a new playbook that's different from what I've known for four years.

``The defense I played in at Alabama is a lot more complex than a lot of defenses that a number of defenses in the NFL. A lot of teams have told me that.''

Hightower was an almost instant starter for the Tide and a two-time team captain, but missed most of the 2009 national championship season with a knee injury. He opted not to seek another year of eligibility from the NCAA.

His Alabama coach doesn't think he had anything left to prove in college.

``I think that he's really done it all here,'' said Saban, a former NFL assistant and Miami Dolphins coach. ``He's got a lot of diversity as a player because he's played a lot of different positions. I think he's going to offer the same thing at the next level - inside backer, nickel backer, defensive end, odd rusher. There's not very many other things that you can do, and I think he does all those things very well. He's very smart and has leadership qualities. I think people are starting to recognize that the more they're around him.''

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Adrian PetersonApr 16 02:22p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has been informed that he will be reinstated from the commissioner exempt list starting Friday, April 17.

Sammy WatkinsApr 15 11:33p

Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins (hip) is able to work out in some capacity during the team's offseason program, although head coach Rex Ryan indicated Wednesday, April 15, that [ More ]

Kai ForbathApr 15 10:53p

Washington Redskins restricted free-agent PK Kai Forbath posted on social media Wednesday, April 15, that he has re-signed with the team. The club has not yet confirmed the signing.

George JohnsonApr 15 08:33a

Detroit Lions DE George Johnson was acquired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wednesday, April 15. Tampa signed Johnson to an offer sheet that was disputed by Detroit, but the [ More ]

Philip RiversApr 15 12:13a

San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers is under contract for one more season, and he has expressed a desire to play out his deal. However, the Chargers might be [ More ]

Josh GordyApr 14 06:03p

Free-agent CB Josh Gordy (Colts) signed a veteran minimum deal with the New York Giants Tuesday, April 14, according to a source.

Ricardo LocketteApr 14 05:23p

Seattle Seahawks WR Ricardo Lockette signed his exclusive-rights tender Tuesday, April 14.

Ike TaylorApr 14 09:32a

Free-agent CB Ike Taylor (Steelers) announced his retirement Tuesday, April 14.

Wade SmithApr 14 02:12a

Free-agent OG Wade Smith (Eagles) announced his retirement after 12 years in the National Football League.

Michael CrabtreeApr 14 01:13a

The Oakland Raiders are giving free-agent WR Michael Crabtree (49ers) a one-year, $3 million deal with another $2 million in incentives, a source said Monday, April 13.

Eben BrittonApr 14 01:03a

Free-agent OT Eben Britton (Bears) has been suspended four games by the NFL for an unspecified violation.

Matt ForteApr 13 08:02p

Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte was not present for the start of the offseason workouts Monday, April 13, according to sources. Forte is entering the final year of his [ More ]

Cody LatimerApr 13 08:02p

Denver Broncos WR Cody Latimer, who is expected to line up across from WR Demaryius Thomas in 2015, has been praised by WR Emmanuel Sanders, who figures to move [ More ]

Joe MaysApr 13 04:32p

Free-agent LB Joe Mays (Chiefs) signed an undisclosed deal with the New York Jets Monday, April 13.

Zackary BowmanApr 13 02:22p

Free-agent CB Zack Bowman (Giants) signed an undisclosed deal with the Miami Dolphins Monday, April 13.

Sean RichardsonApr 13 02:02p

Green Bay Packers restricted free-agent SS Sean Richardson will remain with the Packers after the team decided to match the one-year, $2.55 million offer he signed with the Oakland Raiders, according to a source.

Sean RichardsonApr 12 10:02a

Green Bay Packers restricted free-agent SS Sean Richardson signed an offer sheet with the Oakland Raiders, and the Packers have until Monday, April 13, to inform him if they [ More ]

Jason CampbellApr 12 07:02a

Free-agent QB Jason Campbell (Bengals) is considering retirement, according to sources close to the team. Campbell has rejected multiple opportunities to sign a contract for 2015, including offers from [ More ]

James CaseyApr 11 01:02p

Free-agent TE James Casey (Eagles) agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Denver Broncos Saturday, April 11. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Johnny ManzielApr 11 12:22p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel has been released from his rehab facility.

Victor ButlerApr 10 03:22p

New York Giants LB Victor Butler has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs.

Anthony SpencerApr 10 01:12p

Free-agent DE Anthony Spencer (Cowboys) signed a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints Friday, April 10. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Charles TillmanApr 9 04:02p

Free-agent CB Charles Tillman (Bears) signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers Thursday, April 9. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Rob HouslerApr 9 12:42p

Free-agent TE Rob Housler (Cardinals) has agreed to terms with the Cleveland Browns on a one-year deal, according to a source. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Le'Veon BellApr 9 09:52a

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell was suspended three games and fined an additional game check after violating the league's substance abuse policy, according to league sources. He has appealed.

Stevan RidleyApr 8 07:53p

New York Jets RB Stevan Ridley signed a one-year deal with the team.

Amobi OkoyeApr 8 04:53p

Dallas Cowboys DT Amobi Okoye was released Wednesday, April 8.

Emmanuel LamurApr 8 03:43p

Cincinnati Bengals LB Emmanuel Lamur officially re-signed Wednesday, April 8, to a one-year, $2.356 million deal.

Adrian PetersonApr 8 01:33p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is 'highly unlikely' to face more suspension from the league when he's finally off the Commissioner's Exempt List, according to a source. Peterson's next [ More ]

George JohnsonApr 7 10:23p

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed restricted free-agent DE George Johnson (Lions) to a three-year offer sheet Tuesday, April 7. Financial terms are undisclosed. The Lions have five days to match the offer.

Le'Veon BellApr 7 05:23p

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell is expected to be suspended for the first two games of next season, according to sources. Bell is being suspended following an arrest last [ More ]

Erin HendersonApr 7 05:13p

Free-agent LB Erin Henderson (Vikings) agreed to terms on an undisclosed deal with the New York Jets Tuesday, April 7, according to a source. Henderson didn't play last year [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group