The double-edged sword of college football rears its head yet again as the deadline for eligible juniors and redshirt sophomores to declare their intentions looms closer: Either decide to stay for a senior season of not getting paid and potentially increase your standing with NFL scouts or injure yourself, or abandon ship, wish your teammates well and take your talents to the next level.
The more successful a college program like Alabama becomes, the more that players will receive national attention and decide to jump into the paid ranks of the NFL a year early. The annual rite of passage for Nick Saban’s players is no different this year as four underclassmen have filed their paperwork before Jan. 15 and will be available to be drafted by some mediocre teams in the early part of the first round.
Saban meets with each player before they eventually decide on going pro or not, giving them a fair assessment of the round in which they will most likely be taken. And Saban is rarely wrong about this: 11 of the 13 players who have left early under Saban were first-round picks, which obviously speaks to the talent of the players and the quality of the coaching, but also shows that players who leave early receive sound advice on this decision. Alabama has had 11 first-round picks in the last four years, more than any other team.
Besides graduating senior stalwarts quarterback AJ McCarron, offensive lineman Anthony Steen and linebacker C.J. Mosley, losing these clearly extraordinary underclassmen could damage a program. The Crimson Tide will, of course, reload for next season with yet another top-ranked recruiting class, replacing these players might be harder said than done.