FAIRHOPE, Ala. -- While the number of draft-eligible juniors who returned to Alabama may have come as a shock to many, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said he believes all of those players ultimately made the correct business decision.
Tight end O.J. Howard, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, safety Eddie Jackson and outside linebackers Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson all decided to stay in school for their final seasons.
"We've had a significant number of guys that have been in that second to third round range when they get their draft grades from the junior committee, and also the information that we gather from other NFL teams that are kind enough to give us the information," Saban said Tuesday at the Senior Bowl during his time with reporters. "But we've had six or seven guys that had those kind of grades that have ended up being top-15 picks or first-round picks, and it's made a huge difference in how they affected their draft status from their junior to senior year."
Alabama only lost Derrick Henry and A'Shawn Robinson early to the NFL draft. Henry is projected to go in the second round, while Robinson has received first round consideration. Saban said he believes those two made the correct decision.
To further drive his point, Saban pointed to Reggie Ragland and Jarran Reed as examples. Both are participating in the Senior Bowl this week, along with Cyrus Jones, Jake Coker and Kenyan Drake.
Both could have come out for the draft after the junior seasons (Ragland received a second-round grade. Reed received a third- or fourth-round grade). But both stayed for their senior seasons, graduated from Alabama, won a national championship and are projected to go in the first round.
"The outcome of that is that it was a much better financial situation for them," Saban said. "I think a lot of our players see that and understand it. For those who can't improve their draft status based on what they get, it's probably the best thing for them to come out. The guys that should've (come out) did. And all of the guys that have an opportunity to improve themselves at Alabama stayed, and are going to take advantage of that."
Saban was all smiles as he spoke with reporters with a Alabama staff member holding up an umbrella to keep the rain from touching the coach.
He caught up with the Tide's five Senior Bowl players, hugged them and posed for photos after he schmoozed with NFL buddies.
"It's good to be here watching football practice, you know, rather being riding in an airplane or riding in a car someplace," Saban said. "I love recruiting, I love seeing prospects, but I sure do like seeing football practice too.
It's fun to watch."
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