MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron's fall in the NFL draft came as a surprise to a lot of people including Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.
Selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 164th overall pick in the fifth round, McCarron was the ninth quarterback taken. But Saban rates his former signal caller higher.
"I think AJ was probably the third or fourth best quarterback in this draft," Saban said Tuesday during his Crimson Caravan stop. "I don't study them all. And he did a fantastic job for us. And I certainly think he's going to be a great pro player and have a very good career.
"I think Eddie Lacy was probably a pretty good example last year when he didn't get drafted in the first round, to be a late second round pick and then make rookie of the year, that kind of proves the point that it's not where you get drafted, it's what you do with the opportunity when you get there, and I think AJ has a very good opportunity in Cincinnati.
"We want him to focus on that and do a really good job with the opportunity that he has."
On draft day, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that McCarron rubbed teams "the wrong way" during meetings before the draft. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said McCarron came off "cocky" and that there were questions about whether teammates actually liked him.
It's worth noting that along with linebacker C.J. Mosley and wide receiver Kevin Norwood, McCarron was voted a permanent captain by his teammates following the 2013 season.
"It does surprise me because he was never that way to me," Saban said. "And I think if you ask a lot of teammates they would probably say the same. I think AJ is a very good person. And regardless of what he ever said to you and whatever way he sort of left you with an impression, if he could do something to help you, he would be the first one to be there to do it. He is a good person and I think in the long run, he will have a chance, and he has an opportunity to prove he can be a good leader and a good quarterback in the National Football League."
During a recent interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio, McCarron said he "wasn't healthy at Alabama." He also said he "sacrificed a lot to play for coach Saban and that university" and that he "played through a lot of injuries" during his career.
"Well, he never said any of those things to me," Saban said. "All I know is he did a great job for us and he was a good leader on our team and a good person. I think sometimes people get characterized in the wrong way. I certainly think this was the case in some ways here. But we all have to be responsible for our own self-determination too. And evaluate what we did that might have created that. We just want to support AJ and his family in every way that we can. Wish him the very best in the career opportunity that he has."