Alabama coach Nick Saban was at the podium Wednesday as part of the SEC’s preseason media days, but his comments weren’t limited to the college game.
Saban also discussed the league’s procedures for giving draft grades to players considering leaving school early so they can enter the NFL draft. Those grades were handed out on December 15 last year, well before the Crimson Tide played Ohio State in the college playoffs and Saban believes that date is too early.
Mark Schlabach of ESPN reports that Saban said he had underclassmen on his team that played not to get hurt and ran out of bounds in the team’s loss to the Buckeyes, presumably so that they could be in top shape when it came time to work out for NFL teams. Saban said the date for giving out those grades should be moved back until after the college season is over.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper, safety Landon Collins and running back T.J. Yeldon all left Alabama after last season and all were off the board before the end of the second round. Ohio State had plenty of NFL hopefuls of their own, of course, so there’s a chance that Saban’s just looking for a convenient excuse for why his team lost.
The NFL has generally done what it can to have good relationships with top coaches and programs in college, but there’s a lot of differing motivations at work when it comes to this issue. Saban and other coaches are focused on winning so that they can keep their jobs, increase their salaries and continue recruiting high level players while the players are eager to know if it is the right time for them to start getting paid any salary for their work on the gridiron.
Given that the league is evaluating these players well before they declare their intentions, pushing the date back probably wouldn’t change much for NFL teams and that could lead to a change in the current system.