Ravens Draft Tracker: Dont'a Hightower

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 22: Matt Simms #12 of the Tennessee Volunteers has the pass batted down by Dont'a Hightower #30 of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 22, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Dont'a Hightower #30, linebacker Alabama. 6'4" 260 lbs.

A red shirt junior, Hightower is in his fourth season at Alabama during what has already been an interesting career. As a freshman, he was as highly-touted as fellow Crimson Tide linebacker Rolando McClain (who was taken eighth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft). Midway through the 2009 campaign, however, Hightower tore the ACL in his left knee and got a medical red shirt.

Hightower bounced back nicely in 2010, leading the team with 69 tackles and being named to the All-SEC Second Team by both the Associated Press and the coaches.

In 2011 as a junior Dont'a Hightower was a returning captain and a leader of the Crimson Tide's vaunted defense that ranks No. 1 nationally in all five major categories ... UA leads the country in scoring defense (8.8 ppg), first in total defense (191.3 ypg), first in rushing defense (74.9 ypg), first in pass efficiency defense (83.9 ypg) and first in pass defense (116.3 ypg) ... a consensus first-team All-American by the Associated Press, AFCA and Walter Camp as well as Rivals.com and Pro Football Weekly ... a finalist for the Lombardi Award, Chuck Bednarik Award, the Butkus Award and the Lott Trophy ... a leading candidate for first-team All-America honors ... leads the team with a career-best 81 tackles, including 37 solo stops ... has three sacks (-16 yards) and 9.5 tackles for loss (-35 yards) ... also has eight quarterback hurries, one interception, one blocked field goal and three pass breakup.

(Statistics from www.rolltide.com)

Hightower has a great combination of size and speed at 6'4'', 260 pounds. He has been clocked as fast as 4.67 in the 40-yard dash, a number he should be able to improve upon at the combine and enhance his draft stock. When he is at 100 percent, there is no denying that Hightower is a first-round talent. He can play rush linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL while also having the ability to play inside.

With the retiring of Ray Lewis looming in the near future for the Baltimore Ravens it may serve them well to start looking for his replacement in this years draft. Hightower is an extremely versatile player. He can play inside or outside and rushes the passer very well. His ability to pass rush may draw interest from Baltimore as they are still trying to find someone to be a legitimate threat opposite Terrell Suggs. The Ravens have said on numerous occasions that they are happy with who they have if Lewis were to retire but you have to think they will need someone else that can be a bit more dominant than Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe.

We talked about Vontaze Burfict a few days ago and I believe both of these players should be on the Ravens radar as perhaps a 1a and 1b option. We all know that Ozzie Newsome does not typically draft for need in the early rounds but these two dominant linebackers would by no means be a stretch at the end of the first round if they make it that far. At this point Hightower is projected as a mid to late first round prospect. We all know how Ozzie loves those 'Bama boys too..

Ravens Draft Tracker:

Each weekend I will highlight three different college prospects in my "Ravens Draft Tracker" posts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday I will post a poll to see which of the three our loyal readers would like to see in the purple and black the most. Then, at the end of each month we will pit the four weekly winners against each other in a poll. Right before the draft we can will take a poll featuring each monthly winner and see who the fans want the most. I am definitely open to any ideas anyone has for these stories, especially if there are some players I have failed to mention as the draft approaches.

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