This post is part of a continuing series in which we break down 13 2011 NFL Draft prospects - our Baker's Dozen - that should interest the Buffalo Bills. Previous conversations: WR Julio Jones, DT Nick Fairley.
We're back talking NFL Draft prospects with our friends from Roll Bama Roll, SB Nation's Alabama Crimson Tide blog. Today we speak once again with Paul Holley, who discussed Julio Jones with us a little over a week ago; today he's discussing Tide defensive lineman Marcell Dareus.
"He was effectively our everything player on the defensive line last year, a line that unfortunately was filled with nothing but disappointment outside of Dareus," began Holley in our conversation. "He was easily our best pass rusher, our most consistent player at the point of attack in the running game, and the most versatile player that we had in terms of being able to play him either outside or inside. Without him in the lineup, the defensive line would have been an outright train wreck a year ago, and I must admit he was the only defensive lineman we had a year ago that gave opposing coaching staffs any serious concerns. It was his play that acted as the glue that held an otherwise very shaky and inconsistent group together."
If the Bills are planning on running their hybrid attack built around Kyle Williams' strengths, Dareus' ability to play inside in a 4-3 alignment or outside in a 3-4 while providing a pass rush from both spots could be invaluable.
When discussing Dareus, you could almost feel the admiration Holley shared for the player. When asked about his ability to step up in big spots, Holley told me to "Google 'Marcell Dareus National Championship Game.'" In that game he knocked Colt McCoy out of the game with a clean and devastating tackle. Later, he intercepted McCoy's backup on a shovel pass and took it to the house for a 28-yard touchdown return.
"He'll be remembered as the best defensive end Alabama has had in almost twenty years, and given his play in the 2009 national championship game it's safe to say he'll never be forgotten by the Alabama faithful. He could live to be a hundred and people in the state of Alabama would still remember vividly what he did to Colt McCoy and Garrett Gilbert in Pasadena."
Not done with hyperbole, Holley summed up his comments to me with this nugget at the end of our conversation.
"If I were to arrange for my funeral as of right now those two plays would run in continuous loop on my video tombstone."
Not everything Dareus did at Alabama would endear himself to college football fans, though. In fact, the biggest concern from his time in Tuscaloosa were sanctions from the NCAA and the lingering character questions resulting from the investigation.
Holley explains: "Dareus went on two trips to Miami on an invitation from Marvin Austin, with whom Dareus had been friends with since they were prospects in the 2008 recruiting class. The monetary value of the trip constituted an impermissible benefit, and when 'Agentgate' broke later last summer, Dareus voluntarily came forward and reported what he did to UA compliance, who investigated the situation further and forwarded information to the NCAA.
"The NCAA originally imposed a four-game suspension on Dareus, but that suspension was reduced to two after the NCAA cited the honesty and openness that Dareus acted with when being interviewed by NCAA investigators. He repaid the value of the impermissible benefit to a charitable organization, sat out the first two games of the season, and that was the end of it.
"The violation did not involve any wrongdoing by the institution itself, and no UA players other than Dareus took the trips, hence no sanctions were imposed upon the university. It was merely an issue involving the eligibility of one student-athlete, and had no impact on the institution other than a two-game suspension of one of its student-athletes."
Citing Dareus' openness about the situation, Holley doesn't believe it will be a concern for NFL teams in the draft process.
"NFL teams will make of it what they will, but I don't see any reason to make anything of it. He wasn't aware his conduct constituted a rules violation, he came forward of his own volition when he found out when it was a violation, he was open and honest throughout the investigation, and he paid restitution and took his punishment without complaint. There is nothing about that fact pattern which suggests to me that this should concern an NFL team moving forward."
Many NFL teams might take is as a positive that he so willingly stepped forward. It was one of only a few incidents that many Alabama fans even remember of the Junior.
"Much like Julio Jones, he didn't really have much of [an off-field reputation]. Aside from the two trips to Miami, he never got into any trouble whatsoever, and he was generally just a guy who shied away from the spotlight and went about his business without attracting any attention to himself. Aside from him making the academic honor roll several times, I honestly cannot say there was anything else he did in Tuscaloosa that was non-football related which generated any news. No arrests, no academic misconduct, no embarrassing episodes on social media, no drug related issues, no kids, etc."
His off-the-field character and his solid play for not one but two seasons leads Holley to call Dareus "probably the safest pick in the draft."
"He's a hard worker, no real ego or off-field concerns, no injury history, and clearly the raw talent is there," continued the Bama blogger. "Combine that with his versatility, and it's hard not to see him playing in the NFL for a long time. If I had a pick in the top five or so of the Draft, he'd be my pick, and to be brutally honest I think he's a much more promising NFL player than either Jones or [Alabama running back and former Heisman winner] Mark Ingram. Quarterbacks are obviously enticing at the top of the draft and arguably demand greater consideration from franchises needing a high-end quarterback, but if you aren't going with a quarterback, I think Dareus should at least be the first non-quarterback off the board. As long as he can stay healthy I expect he'll be a very productive player in the NFL."
High praise from Holley. To hear more from him and other Alabama fans head on over to Roll Bama Roll. They've come up huge for us with two of our two prospects and we thank them profusely.