Saban opens lid on NFL Draft policy change involving underclassmen
Alabama coach Nick Saban revealed Thursday at SEC Media Days the NFL Draft Advisory Board’s recent rule change that prohibits teams from asking for pre-draft grades for more than five underclassmen.
In addition, the NFL will now only give three levels of feedback — a first-round grade, second-round grade or a stay-in-school grade. Previously, the league provided five grades including third round, late round and not draftable.
“If you stayed in school, you’d have a much better chance of becoming one of those (early-round) guys by improving, developing and playing more rather than taking that gamble and that risk that you will be able to sustain a career by (not being) a high draft pick,” Saban said.
Most SEC coaches don’t appreciate players leaving their respective programs early, especially when the prospect perceives a higher NFL draft grade than reality.
The league-wide opinion in Hoover this week was that early exits are becoming increasingly more prevalent and there’s not much a coaching staff can do to stop it.
When a player’s tired of school and ready to go, he’ll leave.
“I think the frustration for all of us as coaches is for players that for the wrong reasons go out early,” said Missouri’s Gary Pinkel. “You see a significantly high percentage of players that don’t even get drafted. My concern is guys that leave early, don’t get drafted, they don’t make the team, they haven’t graduated. We need to try to help those kids make better decisions.”
A record 98 players submitted their names for early entry in the 2014 NFL Draft. Saban confirmed Thursday that the Crimson Tide had 11 players ask for early draft grades.
“All these players that went out for the draft, they went out for the draft late or didn’t get drafted, they were potential draft picks next year,” Saban said. “They’re not in the draft next year. They’re not playing college football either.”
Several featured underclassmen from the SEC took bad advice during the spring and went undrafted including Florida defensive backs Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy along with South Carolina corner Victor Hampton and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles.
All four would’ve benefited from another year at school and likely been mid or early-round selections in 2015.
Steve Spurrier’s advice to underclassmen eyeing an early departure to the NFL differed than most.
“Once they say they’re ready to go pro, that means, I’m tired of school, I want to go get paid to play football,” Spurrier said. “We shake their hand, wish them the best and hopefully they’ll have a good pro career. I think the days of a coach talking a kid into staying is not smart.”
According to Saban, he only gives a player his blessing if they receive a first or second-round grade. The former NFL coach knows a player’s shot at making a roster decline exponentially if selected in the later rounds.
He’s noticed a sudden increase in players accepting later-round grades to try and get to a second contract.
“There’s only a 25 percent chance you’re going to get a second contract,” Saban said. “Your chances of making the team are not nearly as good as a first, second or third-round draft pick.”
Les Miles was asked if LSU’s coaching staff now recruits highly-touted prospects as “three-year players” and takes into account that redshirting burns a season of eligibility they might not get back.
“We would like to have our guys give view to staying through and not approach a draft position where if you’re a third‑rounder that you would leave as opposed to wait and let that first‑rounder go ahead into the NFL and immediately move your draft status up,” Miles said. “Every year, there’s going to be a first round. Thirty-two teams are going to pick. They’re going to take them off the board. I would like to see some of those guys return.”