A record 98 players are leaving college early for the 2014 NFL draft.
This year was unlike any of Saban’s tenure at Alabama, as five players left early, and not all are projected as first-round picks. Since Saban arrived in 2007, 13 players have left for the draft with eligibility remaining with 11 being selected in the first round.
Glen Coffee was taken in the third round in 2009. Eddie Lacy, a projected first-round pick at the time, slipped to the second round of last year’s draft because injury concerns.
Of the five players leaving with eligibility remaining, only two are projected first-round picks in offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. Defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan said he received a second-round ground from the NFL draft advisory board, linebacker Adrian Hubbard’s grade ranged from the second to fourth round, with safety Vinnie Sunseri being projected as a fifth-round pick, according to CBSSports.com.
“If you’re a first-round draft pick, we’re very, very supportive of you coming out for the draft because of the business decision, the amount of money,” Saban said while speaking with reporters Tuesday at Senior Bowl workouts. “But if you’re not one of those guys, we certainly feel you should come back to school, graduate from school, use your senior year to develop as a player and try to enhance your draft status for the next year.”
Saban said he’ll be supportive of any player who ultimately decides it is in their best interest to leave the Tide. Still, he said he feels the high number of early entrees is affecting the sport of football in general.
“It starts with guys when they’re in high school,” he said. “They get a lot of attention. They get rated. They get a lot of expectation put on them. I think that the natural order of things is for a guy to graduate from high school, to develop as a player in college, graduate and develop a career off the field in college and in most cases that takes three and a half to four years.
“I think more and more we’re getting the basketball mentality in football that I can go right from high school to the NBA. More parents, more players are going to college with the idea that I’m going to be there for three years and I’m going to get out as fast as I can to get in the NFL.”
The numbers support Saban’s sentiments. Of the then-record 73 players that left school early for the draft in 2013, only 52 were drafted. Of those 52, only 25 were taken in the first two rounds -- first 64 picks.
“Which is not a very secure future for you in terms of what your career might bring for your, the number of years you might play as well as how much money you might make,” Saban said. “How can the NFL develop these players as well as we can develop them in college where they would have their probably most productive years in a college program. So, I don’t think the NFL really wants this. I don’t really think the colleges want this. I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the players. And I don’t know what the solution to the problem really is.”