No Reason To Expect More NFL Defections

Just after 11 a.m. Friday, an Alabama fan could breathe a sigh of relief. Three upcoming senior Crimson Tide football players had joined Coach Nick Saban in the Naylor Stone Media Suite in the Mal Moore Athletics Administration Building. The press briefing had been called specifically “regarding junior decisions with the NFL.”

So there they were. The three Alabama juniors everyone expected to announce they were going to forego their senior seasons in order to entr the NFL draft. Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban gave a positive testimonial to what safety Landon Collins, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and tailback T.J. Yeldon had meant to the program and how they had made a good “business decision” to make themselves available for the draft.

On numerous occasions Saban has outlined his philosophy on juniors leaving early for a chance at professional football. He encourages a junior to make that move if the feedback from pro teams is that the player will be a first round draft choice “or close to it.” For instance, Yeldon said he got a second round projection from the NFL Advisory Committee. (Collins and Cooper are both expected to go in the first round.)

A year ago the Tide faithful had expected safety HaHa Clinton-Dix and offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio to leave for the NFL with a year’s eligibility remaining. Clinton-Dix went in the first round and Kouandjio in the second. Bama fans were neither surprised nor particularly upset that linebacker Adrian Hubbard (who was not drafted) and defensive lineman Jeffrey Pagan (sixth) round departed.

But Vinnie Sunseri, who had missed half his junior season with a knee injury, leaving was a shock to everyone in the Alabama family, Even Saban seemed caught off guard by Sunseri’s decision. Sunseri was drafted in fifth round by New Orleans and made the team.

Why bring up history?

Because Sunseri’s decision came after Alabama had hosted its press day for the junior declarations last year.

And because there are two upcoming seniors who had been mentioned as potential early exits for the NFL – inside linebacker Reggie Ragland and defensive lineman Jarran Reed.

The deadline for players to make a final decision is Jan. 15, which is Thursday. No one would expect more Alabama players to jump, but the memory of Sunseri is a bit haunting.

One would think that Saban had a good handle on the decisions of the upcoming seniors and that there will be no surprises this year. With Reed and Ragland returning, the defense has a nice foundation.


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