ATLANTA — Between outgoing seniors and draft-eligible juniors, Alabama football will look like a completely new team in the 2018 season.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said he spent some of his time following the Crimson Tide’s 26-23 overtime national championship win over Georgia talking with draft-eligible players.
“I did some thinking about next year’s team, talked to players after the game, seven of them, that may consider going out for the draft,” Saban said. “Probably have several that should and probably have several that shouldn’t, from a business perspective.”
As there is every year, there are some no-brainers and some guys who’ll have tough decisions to make.
Four of the seven are easy to figure out: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley, Ronnie Harrison and Da’Ron Payne.
Asked about how he’ll handle the process, Payne said he wants to take it slow, talk to his family and celebrate with his team before making a decision about the NFL.
Fitzpatrick is a slam-dunk first round pick and could go in the top-5 of the 2018 NFL Draft. Ridley is considered the top receiver in this class. Harrison can get overlooked at times because he’s in the defensive backfield with Fitzpatrick, but he’s been mentioned as a first-round pick.
Beyond those four, running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough are both potential early draft entrants. Harris has rushed for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons as the Crimson Tide’s feature back. Scarbrough didn’t put up big numbers this year, but he’s a fourth-year player who’s dealt with a lot of injuries throughout his playing days.
The seventh player is a bit trickier. Draft-eligible players who are possibilities include Anfernee Jennings, Christian Miller and Isaiah Buggs.
Jennings was hurt in the Sugar Bowl win against Clemson. Miller was hurt in the season opener before returning for the Iron Bowl and playoff run. Buggs, a junior college transfer in his first season at Alabama, flashed down the stretch of the season for Alabama’s defense.