Michael Conroy, File, Associated Press
FILE - This Feb. 27, 2012 file photo shows Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower running a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis. Hightower is the most surprising of Alabama's five expected first-round picks. His stock seems to have improved significantly after a solid performance in the BCS championship game and strong pre-draft workouts.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama is becoming the kind of NFL draft factory that the Miami Hurricanes were a decade ago.

The national champion Crimson Tide is expected to have five players drafted in the first round Thursday night, which would be only the fifth time that has happened since the common draft began in 1967.

Add in last year's first-round quartet, and only the Hurricanes of the early 2000s have had more a prolific stretch in the draft.

Tide Tailback Trent Richardson, linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw and defensive backs Mark Barron and Dre Kirkpatrick are all projected as first-rounders.

Only Miami has produced nine first-rounders over a two-year period. The Hurricanes ultimately had 15 top-round picks over three years, ending in 2004.