What The Draft Says About Saban

The average income of University of Alabama alumni is going up a bit after the National Football League draft resulted in seven former Crimson Tide players being selected this week. And it could also mean good things for the future of Bama football.

Alabama had two men selected in the first round, linebacker Rolando McClain to the Oakland Raiders and cornerback Kareem Jackson to the Houston Texans. Both players had another year of eligibility remaining, but took the plunge. Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban will miss their considerable abilities, but the Bama coach has to be pleased because it is his position that a player who can be drafted in the first round has not made a mistake by going early.

Five other Alabama players who had completed their eligibility were selected in later rounds. Cornerback Javier Arenas went to the Kansas City Chiefs and nose tackle Terrence Cody was selected by the Baltimore Ravens, both in the second round. Offensive lineman Mike Johnson was a third round pick of the Atlanta Falcons. In the seventh round, cornerback Marquis Johnson was a choice of the St. Louis Rams and defensive end Brandon Deaderick was drafted by the New England Patriots.

Just a few years ago, Alabama players were not a part of the NFL draft. It's a big jump from no draftees to two in the first round. It's quite a change from no players taken to something of a substitute (Marquis Johnson) being drafted.

One thing it says a lot about is Saban. And it was notable that three cornerbacks were selected from the Crimson Tide (though when Marquis Johnson was at cornerback, Javier Arenas was at nickel).

It was also telling that press conferences by Alabama players who had been drafted almost always included questions about playing for Saban, about the things they had learned under him.

From the standpoint of Alabama's football future, there are at least two thoughts.

One is that Saban knows how to select players and he knows how to coach them. Bama has to replace its cornerback corps this year, but the reason for that is that Saban coached the cornerbacks who will be playing on Sundays next year. He has been recruiting men to play cornerback and has already begun the process of having them prepared to play at a winning level.

The other point is that virtually every player recruited by a team at the level of Alabama thinks in terms of eventually being professional football players. It is well established that only a small percentage of young men who play college football—even for a team like the Crimson Tide—will make it to the NFL. But when those recruiting wars are taking place, Alabama will be able to point to success in putting players into those high-paying jobs.

That becomes something of a self fulfilling prophecy. Alabama recruiters say, "We can put you in the pros." And so Alabama gets the best players.And it is the best players who are selected by the businessmen running NFL teams.

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