Stuart McNair

Alabama is sure to lose a few players to the NFL draft early, but some key ones may return

A big question for Alabama football in 2016 is which players with eligibility remaining decide to leave for the NFL draft and which ones elect to return

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This is a busy and interesting time in Alabama football. Winning the national championship talk is still buzzing. Recruiting is huge (as always for Coach Nick Saban) and there is a big weekend coming up, and more top players to be enticed over the next few weeks.


Additionally, Saban is preparing to say goodbye to an Alabama senior class that won a national record 50 games, two national championships, and three Southeastern Conference championships.


And it is certain Saban will say goodbye to some juniors, too. In the next few days we’ll know exactly which players with eligibility remaining intend to forego their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft.


Some are almost certain, including tailback Derrick Henry, the Heisman Trophy winner, and defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson, expected to be at or near the top in the draft. Another defensive lineman, Jonathan Allen, is also being projected in the top 20 in the draft, which would make him a likely loss.


We have heard from two Crimson Tide players who have said they will return. Outside linebacker Tim Williams and safety Eddie Jackson have made social media declarations to return.


We have also heard that inside linebacker Reuben Foster will go the same route of two predecessors at inside linebacker, C.J. Mosley two years ago and Reggie Ragland from this past season. They elected to return for their senior seasons.


Speaking of the draft of juniors, Saban touched on the importance of players making the correct business decision. He said that since he had been at Alabama that 17 players had elected to go out early and only two of those had made a mistake. He has frequently said that he meets with the players and their families (Wednesday this week for this year’s group) to offer his advice.


That advice is not selfish. If a player is ready to go and will be a first round choice, that is basically no discussion. That player needs to go.


He also said that Ragland had probably made $12 million or more by returning for his senior season.  Defensive lineman Jarran Reed might have gone last year, but stayed, and he, too, probably gets a much better deal for the additional time spent at Bama.


That brings us to the so-called “coin toss” guys. It wouldn’t be a big shock to lose them, but they might do better to return for another year. That’s obviously what Williams and Jackson saw.


One of those who could go either way is tight end O.J. Howard, who was the most valuable offensive player in the 45-40 win over Clemson in the national championship game.


There hasn’t been as much speculation about outside linebacker Ryan Anderson as Williams, but he’s probably in the same area, meaning he could benefit greatly by returning.


It would seem there is no chance offensive guard Alphonse Jackson or back-ups like offensive lineman Korren Kirven or defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson would leave early.

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