Alabama’s Lacy, Milliner, Fluker to enter NFL Draft

By Marquavius Burnett

Running back Eddie Lacy and defensive back Dee Milliner announced they will forgo their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft on Friday. Right tackle D.J. Fluker is also entering the draft.

Lacy projects to be a second-third round pick. He battled nagging foot and leg injuries at the start of the 2012 season, but got stronger as the year went on. The Geismar, La. Native had his two best games of the year on the biggest stages; he earned Most Valuable Player honors in the Southeastern Conference Championship game (181 yards and two touchdowns) and was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player in the BCS National Championship game (140 rushing yards and two total touchdowns). Lacy said the thought of returning entered his mind, but his long-term health was the biggest factor.

“We don’t have a lot of years to play this position so you have to go while you can,” Lacy said. “I’d love to come back because this is a great place. We have the best fans, but I didn’t want to risk coming back and not having a good year or maybe even risking injury. I’ve had my share of injuries this year, so I figured I should get out while I can.”

Lacy led the team in rushing with 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns on 204 carries. He chipped in 189 receiving yards and two touchdowns. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. has Lacy as the No. 6 running back. The redshirt junior finished his career with 2402 yards and 30 rushing touchdowns on 355 carries. Lacy said he submitted paper to the NFL Draft Advisory Board before the national title game and was projected as a second round pick at best.

Milliner is the No. 10 overall prospect on ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s Big Board. At 6-foot-1 and 199 pounds, Milliner is considered the top defensive back in the country. He recorded 54 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and broke up 20 passes.

The Millbrook, Ala. native was a unanimous first team All-American, first team All-SEC and a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (defensive player of the year) and the Jim Thorpe Award (nation’s top defensive back). Milliner said he made the decision two days ago and receiving a first round grade was the only reason he left.

“If I felt like I wasn’t a first-round pick, I would have come back and developed more and had another good season,” Milliner said.

Fluker, who could not attend, is Kiper’s No. 8 offensive tackle and a mid-late first round pick. The redshirt junior was a part of a dominant offensive line that produced two 1,000 yard rushers. The Foley, Ala. native logged 35 career starts at right tackle and missed only 11 assignments (98.6 percent) in 728 snaps this season (only two penalties).

“D.J. is a really, really hard worker,” head coach Nick Saban said. “He’s the type of guy that really wants to please the coach. He works hard to do things the way you’d like for him to do them, personally, academically and athletically. I’m proud of what D.J.’s been able to accomplish in his career.”

Saban said he doesn’t expect any other juniors to declare for the draft, but said he’s been around long enough to know that surprises happen.

Following the 2011 national championship season, Trent Richardson, Dont’a Hightower and Dre Kirkpatrick all entered the NFL draft early and all three went in the first round of the draft.

Championship celebration

There will be a parade and a program on the stadium steps to honor Alabama’s 2012 BCS National Championship team on Saturday, Jan. 19, Saban said.

“This is a pretty quick turnaround, but our fans have always been great about coming out and showing their appreciation for the hard work and the sacrifices these young men have made,” Saban said. “We’re really excited about having a great turnout to honor this team.”

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