Seven good questions for Alabama's Nick Saban in his NFL draft analyst role | Goodbread

Legendary Alabama football coach Nick Saban will serve as an analyst for ABC's coverage of the 2024 NFL Draft next week, and he'll be at the table with some familiar faces in hosts Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Rece Davis, with whom he'll be working this fall on ESPN's College GameDay. Several of his former players are candidates for first-round selection, including offensive tackle JC Latham, cornerback Terrion Arnold, and linebacker Dallas Turner, and he'll also be central to analysis of draft prospects who faced the Crimson Tide. As a coach, Saban was quick to admit that he paid little attention to college football outside of his own team and those on Alabama's schedule, so it will be interesting to see how he adds to coverage of draft prospects who didn't face UA.

Here are seven draft questions for which the retired coach could provide compelling answers:

1. What triggered Terrion Arnold's transformation as a draft prospect?

The Crimson Tide cornerback saw a lot of playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2022, making seven starts. However, he was inconsistent at times and didn't always judge the ball in the air effectively. He returned in 2023 as a completely different player, showing more confidence, tighter coverage and elite run support. After drawing two penalties in a home loss to Texas, he was flagged only once more over Alabama's next 12 games. NFL scouts took notice, and his draft stock soared accordingly. He eventually became regarded more highly by scouts than teammate Kool-Aid McKinstry. What prompted the improvement? Nobody could answer that question better than Saban, who worked closely with cornerbacks.

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2. What separates the quarterbacks?

Saban coached against three of the draft's top quarterback prospects in LSU's Jayden Daniels, Michigan's J.J. McCarthy and Oregon's Bo Nix. Granted, he hasn't been across the field from Nix since 2020, when Alabama trounced Auburn 42-13 in the Covid season (Nix, then a freshman, threw two picks without a touchdown pass). But Saban drew up game plans to stop Daniels and McCarthy as recently as November and January, respectively. Quarterbacks dominate first-round analysis at the NFL draft, understandably so, and Saban will add plenty to the discussion.

3. Why was JC Latham not moved to left tackle?

Alabama's former right tackle enjoyed a dominant junior campaign, but over the first half of the season, opposing pass rushers had a much easier time getting to QB Jalen Milroe off the left side against freshman tackle Kadyn Proctor. With the left side being Milroe's blind side as a right-handed passer, it was curious that Latham didn't flip sides, especially given Alabama's history of doing so with its best tackles (two examples: Evan Neal, Jonah Williams). Saban was asked this during the season, but his answer didn't shed much light on the reasoning. As a retired draft analyst, he'd likely offer a bit more insight.

4. How do the draft's top pass catchers rate?

It's remarkable how many of the draft's top pass catchers ran into Saban on their college schedules. The wide receivers among them: LSU's Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas, Texas' Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell, Georgia's Ladd McConkey and Michigan's Roman Wilson. For good measure, throw in top tight end prospects Brock Bowers of Georgia, Ja'Tavion Sanders of Texas and Ben Sinnott of Kansas State. And don't forget, he coached a likely mid-round pick in Alabama WR Jermaine Burton. Saban should have plenty to say about the pass catchers.

5. How does Dallas Turner compare to Will Anderson?

Moments after Turner crosses the draft stage and hugs NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Saban is bound to be asked this question. Both edge pass rushers and former Alabama teammates, Turner and Anderson spent six years between them under Saban's program. Saban didn't care much for comparing one player to another as a coach, but as a draft analyst, he could be a little more open to discussing similarities and differences between Turner, a likely first-round pick, and Anderson, the No. 3 overall pick last year who went on to be named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.

6. What impact does NIL and the NCAA transfer portal have on the draft?

The number of college players who enter the draft as underclassmen has dropped precipitously since the advent of NIL, as the money players now make in college can sway them to stay in school for another year. Meanwhile, the transfer portal can be both good and bad for draft prospects; transfers often result in the task of evaluating a prospect getting passed from one NFL scout to another, but they also expose players to different schemes and concepts. As the draft moves into Day 2 and Day 3, panel discussion often drifts from player-driven to topic-driven, and Saban could have plenty to say on this.

7. Kool-Aid McKinstry: NFL punt returner, or nah?

The Alabama cornerback will be a prized pick for his pass coverage, but what about punt returns? His track record at Alabama was a mix of explosive returns that will intrigue NFL clubs, and issues with ball security and catch judgment that won't. McKinstry averaged 15 yards per return in 2022, but in 2023, he lost the role mid-season to freshman Caleb Downs. Saban could be asked about McKinstry's pro potential in the return game.

Tuscaloosa News columnist Chase Goodbread is also the weekly co-host of Crimson Cover TV on WVUA-23. Reach him at Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread.

Tuscaloosa News sport columnist Chase Goodbread.
Tuscaloosa News sport columnist Chase Goodbread.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Seven questions for Alabama's Nick Saban in his NFL draft analyst role