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April 24, 2010The University of Alabama football team hoped to have a record-setting weekend during the 75th NFL Draft.
It did, but no one expected it to happen Friday, on day two of the three-day event.
With cornerback Javier Arenas selected 50th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs, and nose tackle Terrence Cody going seven slots later to the Baltimore Ravens, the Crimson Tide had four players picked in the top 57 for the first time in program history.
Offensive lineman Mike Johnson was also the final pick of the third round, No. 98, by the Atlanta Falcons.
"It was a long wait, it was real nerve-wracking and stuff trying to figure out who I was going to," Cody said. "But it all ended up good and where I wanted to be and where I'm supposed to be."
The only other time Alabama had four picks in the first two rounds was 1994, when Antonio Langham was selected ninth overall by the Cleveland Browns and followed by Kevin Lee, David Palmer and Jeremy Nunley in the second round. However, Nunley was the 60th overall selection by the Houston Oilers.
Alabama's record for most players selected in a single draft was 10 in 1945, when the draft went 30 rounds and NFL teams were struggling to fill their rosters near the end of World War II. The modern record is eight in 1987.
With Rolando McClain (No. 8, Oakland Raiders) and Kareem Jackson (No. 20, Houston Texans) taken in the first round, Alabama has already had five players picked, after four last year and none in 2008.
Although Cody fell after being considered a borderline first-rounder, Arenas' draft stock rose after five cornerbacks were selected Thursday, including Jackson. With the pick acquired in the trade to send away veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez, he was the second cornerback picked in the second round after Virginia's Chris Cook to Minnesota at No. 34.
Arenas is expected to step in immediately at nickel cornerback alongside starters Mike Richardson and Maurice Leggett, and also return punts. Kansas City, which already selected Tennessee safety Eric Berry, was 30th in pass defense last year.
"That position in particular needs a smart player," said Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli, who targeted speed and versatility in the draft and also took Dexter McCluster of Ole Miss in the second round. "He's also one of the best blitzing defensive backs I've seen in a long time."
Meanwhile, Cody's addition has Baltimore fans thinking back to Super Bowl XXXV, when the Ravens had massive defensive tackles Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams. That team allowed the fewest points (165), and was the first defense in NFL history to limit opponents to fewer than 1,000 rushing yards during a 16-game season.
It prompted NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock to proclaim: "I think (Baltimore) is sending a message, you're not going to be able to run the football against the Ravens," and former Baltimore head coach Brian Billick to say "When you create that inside presence, go back to our Super Bowl, you don't even try (to run)."
Cody is expected to spell aging defensive tackle Kelly Gregg and line up alongside Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata.
Five defensive tackles went in the second round before the All-American. His wait was likely due to just that, his weight. At 345 pounds he needs to play in a 3-4 scheme and most teams didn't consider him an every-down player.
"A lot of teams have missed on a lot of things because I'm not just a run-stopper," Cody said. "I do more than just that. I can push the pocket I can collapse the pocket."
General manager Ozzie Newsome, a former Alabama All-American receiver, said Cody's weight "has been going south. I think he understands that he has to control it if he wants to have a career in the league."
Baltimore also selected Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle and Oregon tight end Ed Dickson, who along with Cody were among five players the Ravens were targeting Friday.
"The biggest thing is that we got guys that we wouldn't want to play against," Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said. "We've had success in the past with massive run stuffers. Terrence Cody is that guy.
Johnson's selection was a compensatory pick for the Falcons, believed to be for cornerback Dominique Foxworth signing a four-year, $28 million contract with the Ravens
"We are fired up that he was there," Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff said.