It’s an annual rite of passage for Alabama’s best underclassmen: Nick Saban sits down with his third-year players to help them decide if they should leave.
The NFL requires college players to wait three seasons out of high school before entering the draft.
Seniors have no choice to make; they’re headed for the draft process by default. But what about the redshirt sophomores, true juniors and redshirt juniors? Alabama has a handful of guys — most notably Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry — who can either leave for the league or stay in T-Town for another title run.
Making the wrong choice is an expensive mistake.
“If you’re a first-round draft pick, the business decision is you should go out for the draft,” Saban said. “If you can’t enhance your value by staying in college, then maybe you should go out for the draft.”
Last year, linebacker Reggie Ragland had a second-round grade, according to Saban. Now Alabama’s coach believes “sure he’ll be a top-15 pick” next spring.
“If you want to do the math on that, that’s, like, maybe a $12 to $14 million decision,” Saban said.
He also mentioned former Alabama safety Mark Barron, who improved from a second-round grade to the No. 7 overall pick.
“That was a $16 to $18 million decision,” Saban said. “Plus, he graduated.”
The coach added: “I know every player that’s a good player on our team has aspirations and goals and wants to play in the NFL. But you can sort of minimize your value if you get antsy and go out for the draft early. Because now you’re gonna sign a three- or four-year contact for a lot less money, and you’ve gotta play with that. To me, your value and security as an NFL player is based on how much they pay you.”
Alabama’s potential underclassmen losses include Henry (a near lock), tight end O.J. Howard, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, linebacker Reuben Foster, safety Eddie Jackson and defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson.
As of Tuesday afternoon, none of them had announced their official plans.
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