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Signs point to Alabama's AJ McCarron sliding in NFL draft

Former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron helped lead his team to two national championships and is the most productive passer in Crimson Tide history, but that doesn't guarantee him a spot in the early rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft. After seeing his draft stock float from the middle rounds to as high as the 16th overall selection, at least according to McCarron, and back, he's expected to go on the second day (Rounds 2-3) of the draft.

While it's possible McCarron will be drafted earlier than expected, NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah reported Thursday on NFL Network's "Path to the Draft" that he has not been hearing much buzz about the quarterback and cautions a slide down the board could happen.

"I heard a while back, maybe the Arizona Cardinals at No. 20, but I haven't heard that as much," Jeremiah said. "More than likely you're talking about later on in the second round, maybe in the third round. If I had to set a sweet spot for AJ McCarron, it would have to be in that early third-round mix.

"I did have one person tell me there's a very real chance McCarron could be this year's Matt Barkley, a guy we saw slide down in last year's draft."

Barkley slid to the 98th overall pick, where the Eagles traded up to pick him as the first selection of the fourth round.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound McCarron posted a 36-4 career record with Alabama, and while he doesn't have the strongest arm in the draft, he is an accurate passer who is an appealing choice for some franchises because of his familiarity with pro-style offenses.

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NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock recently dropped McCarron out of his top five at quarterback in his position rankings, and NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday on "Path to the Draft" that there's concern around the league about how McCarron will fare when things break down at the next level.

"One of the real questions for him is what is it like when he sees things go wrong? What is he like when there's trouble on the field?" Rapoport said. "He had such talent at Alabama. He really has not faced adversity very much on the field. The problem is how to solve that riddle in a private workout."

McCarron has tried to shake the "game-manager" label for several years and was busy over the past month making visits and working out for teams, including the quarterback-needy Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars. His ability to start in the NFL earlier than some other rookies should be appealing to some clubs, but it all comes down to how he grades out and where they can take him in the draft.

The good news for McCarron is that the sometimes maddening pre-draft process is coming to a close and he'll be able to move on shortly to worrying about playing football once again.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.

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