Alabama stars Collins, Cooper headed for first round

Wide receiver Amari Cooper and safety Landon Collins are the projected first-round picks from the Alabama group.

The rest of the group included running back T.J. Yeldon, quarterback Blake Sims, linebacker Trey DePriest, fullback Jalston Fowler, wide receiver Chris Jones, offensive guard Arie Kouandjio, offensive tackle Austin Shepherd and wide receiver DeAndrew White.

Some of the recent defensive backs from Alabama have struggled in the NFL. Dee Milliner, the ninth overall pick of the 2013 draft, is off to a slow start with the New York Jets. Safety Mark Barron, the seventh pick in 2012 by Tampa Bay, was traded to St. Louis on Oct. 28 for fourth- and sixth-round picks.

Cornerback Kareem Jackson was the 20th overall by the Texans in 2010. He’s been a solid starter of 71 of 74 games.

Collins pointed out that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the 21st overall pick last season, had a strong rookie season with the Green Bay Packers.

“He made a big impact when he got in the league,” Collins said. “It’s just the mindset you have to go into the game with. You can’t just think because you’re an Alabama player you’ll just live up to some status. You have to work hard like you’ve been working hard since you were four-years-old.”

Before attending the combine, Collins sought advice from Clinton-Dix.

“We caught up,” Collins said. “We’re going to catch up after this because I’ll have more time after my meetings and stuff like that. So, we’re definitely close.”

Collins likes playing closer to the line of scrimmage.

“There’s not much room to cover and it’s easy,” Collins said. “If a running back tries to beat me in the hole, I’ll definitely be there to bring him down.”

Collins patterns his game after former Miami and Washington safety Sean Taylor. He’s hoping to hear from the Redskins.

“It’s actually my favorite team because Sean Taylor played there,” Collins aid. “Him and Clinton Portis were my favorite two players. I’d love to play there if I got the opportunity.”

Cooper, West Virginia’s Kevin White or Louisville’s DeVante Parker will be the first wide receiver taken in the draft. Cooper reminds NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock of former St. Louis Rams wide receiver Torry Holt.

“I certainly want to be the best receiver, not just in this class, but overall, wherever I go, and I’m going to work hard to try to be that,” Cooper said.

Cooper ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds and had a 33-inch vertical jump. White was clocked a little faster at 4.35 seconds.

“I take good pride in the way I release off the line and coming out of my breaks,” Cooper said. “That’s really the only two ways you can get open. I think that’s probably what would separate me from someone else.”

Yeldon, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds, was a productive college back. Mayock believes he’s a third- or fourth-round pick.

“I feel pretty sure I can help any team that selects me in the draft,” Yeldon said.

He was hampered by injuries at times.

“I had a toe, ankle and hamstring,” Yeldon said. “My hamstring was the worst one, but it’s back 100 percent now.”

After playing for Nick Saban, Yeldon believes he’s ready for the NFL.

“Coming from Saban, he’s been an NFL coach and he kind of brings it to the University of Alabama,” Yeldon said. “His style as far as how he prepares us gets us ready for the NFL.”

Sims, of Gainesville, is considered a developmental quarterback prospect.

“I have talked to Philly, Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas, New York Giants and Tampa Bay,” Sims said. “They were very proud of the way that I overcame a lot of things at Alabama, and what my story was. They didn’t know a lot of guys that would have done what I did, coming from running back and going straight to quarterback for my last year.”

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