Defending national champions Alabama will be the top team in the college football rankings when the season begins because they have one of the most talented rosters in college football and Nick Saban will be patrolling the sidelines.
Despite his team being able to reload even after losing some of their best players to the NFL Draft or graduation, Saban believes that there are too many players leaving college early, which in turn jeopardizes their NFL careers. Saban feels that there is a better way for the NFL to deal with early draft entrees.
In the past, Saban has declined to comment on players leaving early for the draft. This year, he has been more open about discussing players leaving school early and how it affects his approach to team building.
Despite Alabama being the best team in college football over the last decade, and having numerous players drafted in the first round, Saban believes that players need to be told the realities of declaring early for the draft.
The NFL invites players that are projected to be top draft picks to the NFL combine, sometimes, players see their draft stock drop after the combine and go from projected top picks to middle of the draft picks.
Saban said he tries to explain to his players that declaring early and being taken in the middle of the draft is not a smart decision because they likely won’t get a lot of playing time and will be released after a few years in the league.
Saban used a few of his players as examples. Last season, defensive end Jarran Reed and linebacker Reggie Ragland returned to the team and ended up winning a national championship. Before they decided to return, they were projected to be picked in the second or third round of the NFL Draft. By coming back to play one more season, both players improved their draft stock and are now projected to be taken in the first round.
This year, Heisman winning running back Derrick Henry is an underclassman that was contemplating returning to school or declaring for the NFL Draft. After his dominant season, Saban felt Henry was ready for the next step and told his star player that he should declare for the NFL because he doesn’t have anything left to accomplish in college and staying one more year will likely hurt his draft stock more than help it.
AShawn Robinson, another Alabama player projected to go in the first round decided to enter the draft instead of returning for one more season.
Other Alabama players that weren’t projected to go in the first round of the draft elected to return to school for one more year to improve their stock in next year’s draft.
Saban said that the problem for a lot of the guys that declare early is that they are only focused on the short term and don’t think about the big picture. Saban believes that if some of the players that declare early returned to their schools for one more year, they will enter the NFL more ready to contribute, which would help them have a longer career than if they declare early and have to sit on the bench because they are still learning the ropes.
A lot of the players that declare early do it for financial reasons but Saban said he tells his players that they will be able to do more for their families financially if they stay in school to polish their game for an extra year and get an opportunity to play immediately than if they declare early and find themselves out of the league in three or four years.