HOOVER, Ala. – With a record number of players entering the NFL draft early, Alabama coach Nick Saban doubled down on the idea of an underclassmen NFL combine.
“I think people are listening,” Saban said. “There was a lot of support at our conference meetings. I think the NFL is very interested in this. We have a meeting discussed in the near future.”
Saban’s plan, which Ohio State coach Urban Meyer spoke about last week, would give underclassmen an opportunity to showcase their times and measures in front of NFL scouts before declaring for the NFL draft. Saban also spoke about the issue at May’s spring meetings in Destin, Fla.
“I think everyone understands philosophically why we would do this,” Saban said. “From an NFL and college experience, we have a lot of kids making poor decisions about whether to leave for the draft.
“There’s a cross section of people out there who maybe aren’t giving young people responsible information, which is indicated by the 107 guys going out early for the draft last year. About half of those guys should not have made their decision, they would have enhanced their draft prospects by staying in school.”
This model would compare favorably to the new NBA structure. College basketball recently started allowing underclassman players to return to school after participating in the NBA draft combine, so they could get a better idea of how teams feel about their pro prospects.
“The NFL’s issue is that they don’t have underclassmen’s full information,” Saban said. “We ask them in December to give a grade on a player they might not have seen and certainly have not measured or timed.”
Saban did clarify that he did not feel that the basketball model would work with signing day just a month after the season ends. He proposed potentially a preseason combine, where underclassmen could get their numbers and know where they stand.
With Saban and Meyer, two of college football’s biggest hitters, backing this idea so firmly, it will be a storyline to watch as football season comes closer.