April 26, 2013 10:53:47 AM
The University of Alabama football team's dominance once again carried over to the NFL draft.
The two-time defending national champions became the first college team to produce three consecutive first-round picks since the common draft started in 1967 Thursday night. The New York Jets selected cornerback Dee Milliner at No. 9, then guard Chance Warmack went to the Tennessee Titans and the San Diego Chargers picked tackle D.J. Fluker.
"I believe we just made history," Fluker said. "It's exciting."
The back-to-back-to-back picks from one team had only happened once before, according to STATS, Inc. The University of Southern California's Stanley Havili, David Ausberry, and Malcolm Smith were picked with seventh-round picks 240-242 in 2011.
"That's a pretty special thing to happen," Warmack said.
The Crimson Tide had four first-rounders each of the previous two years. Tailback Eddie Lacy and defensive lineman Jesse Williams are projected as early-round picks but couldn't extend that streak.
Tailbacks Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson had been first-rounders the past two years.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said an early run on tackles helped Fluker, while Milliner and Warmack went about where he thought.
"Chance would have been a good player anywhere," Saban said. "There aren't many guys that are as powerful as he is, and plays with the kind of consistency that he plays with. I kind of knew those two guys were going to be picked right in there, and I was happy it happened that way. It is a great pick for Tennessee."
The former Miami Dolphins coach said Milliner will benefit because Jets coach Rex Ryan uses a similar style in the secondary.
"I think Dee will fit right in. They do a lot of (the same) stuff, and he is a smart guy," Saban said. "I think it is a good fit for him."
Alabama's tally under Saban rose to 13 first-round picks since 2010 and 14 since 2009 after the three-peat of sorts. The program didn't have a player picked in the 2008 draft.
With Fluker's pick, ESPN announcer Chris Berman proclaimed "Welcome Everyone to the Alabama Network."
Former Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy of the New York Jets posted on Twitter "3 in a row for Bama?!?! I could get used to saying that."
Milliner and Fluker skipped their senior seasons to enter the draft, as did Lacy.
"It's great," Milliner said. "We needed one more to make it four, but it's great anytime you have teammates selected that high in the draft, knowing the quality guys that they are."
The Tide still were sure to fall short of the three-year high-water mark for the opening round. The Miami Hurricanes had 15 players selected in the first-round from 2002-04.
Warmack was known in Tuscaloosa for sporting undersized jerseys leaving his belly bare, a practice which generated a nickname. His Twitter bio credits him as "Inventor of Warmackin."
"It's time to start Warmackin' in Titans Blue," he wrote on Twitter.
The three first-round selections gives Alabama 11 first-round picks in the last three drafts. In 2011, Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones, James Carpenter, and Ingram all went in round one while Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dont'a Hightower were taken in 2012.
Milliner, a native of Milbrook, Ala., is the third Tide cornerback drafted in the first round since 2010. The first-team unanimous All-American led the nation with 20 pass breakups in 2012. He had 54 tackles, two interceptions, and four tackles for loss.
Warmack, a native of Atlanta, was a unanimous All-American selection and one of the most dominant interior linemen in college football. A three-year starter at left guard, Warmack helped the Tide rush for 227.5 yards a game in 2012 while blocking for 24 100-yard rushing games in his career.
Fluker, from Foley, Ala., was a three-year starter at right tackle for the Crimson Tide. He helped Alabama win the 2011 and 2012 BCS National Championships. He led the Tide with 35 pancake blocks in 2012.
The second and third round of the NFL draft will continue tonight. Rounds 4-7 will be Saturday. Barrett Jones and Nico Johnson also hope to hear their names called today.