Here’s your NCAA shocker of the day.
Nick Saban thinks college football players should stay in college. Most of them anyway.
Saban addressed reporters after Alabama’s spring scrimmage on Saturday and pounced on a question about the effect underclass defection to the NFL draft has on spring practice.
Saban warns of ‘failed careers’
After pointing to statistics that state around 25 percent of underclassmen don’t get drafted while another 25 percent of them are out of the league in three years, Saban went on a nearly four-minute rant warning of the ills of early defection.
“That means 50 percent of the guys that went out early for the draft had failed careers,” Saban said. “But if you look at the number of guys that were first- or second-round draft picks, there were very few guys that had failed careers.
The whole thing can be seen in the below video starting at the 5:53 mark.
Saban: Stay in school, make more money
Saban went on to complain about players without premium draft grades who decide to leave early.
"Now, we have guys that have no draft grades, seventh-round grades, free-agent grades, fifth-round grades that are going out of the draft,” Saban said. “And the person that loses in that is the player.
“If you're a third-round draft pick, and we had one here last year — I'm not mentioning any names — goes and starts for his team, so he's making third-round money, which is not that great. He'd be the first guy taken at his position this year, probably, and make $15-18 million more.”
Not everyone’s stock improves
Saban paints a picture of an extra year in college as a panacea for low draft grades. What he doesn’t account for is these players’ financial situations. While some prospects certainly see their draft grades improve with more time in college, staying an extra year isn’t a magic formula to watch your stock rise. A fourth-round prospect may well be a fourth-round prospect next year.
Or he might not be a prospect at all next year. If that player needs money and sees an opportunity to make it now, then now just might be the time to go for it.
He’s certainly not going to get it from Alabama. Not on the books, at least.
Alabama does have a strong track record
To be fair, is playing at Alabama generally a path to NFL draft success? Yeah. Saban’s track record speaks loudly.
He was quick to tout it.
“We've had six or seven guys here that had second- or third-round grades that became top-15 and first-round draft picks and made a significant amount of money doing that, so there's some really good examples of guys that did it that way,” Saban said.
What’s good for Alabama is good for Saban
But let’s not pretend he’s coming from a place of altruism here. He said himself that he’s looking out for what’s best for the program.
“I’m all for every one of our guys that went out for the draft,” Saban continued. “I’m gonna do everything I can do to try and get them drafted as high as they can get drafted. Once they say they’re leaving, what benefits our program is that they do great.”
What benefits the program, of course, benefits Saban.
Maybe pay the players?
The solution to preventing professional-grade players from leaving earlier than is in their best interest is to pay them like the professionals they are. If they make the paychecks they earn at Alabama, then the lure of the NFL wouldn’t be so enticing or urgent.
But we all know the score there. That’s not going to happen. And Saban will never suggest it.
So we’re left with Saban preaching against the ills of leaving for the NFL draft because losing talent hurts Alabama.
And what hurts Alabama hurts Saban.
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