TUSCALOOSA — Alabama’s NFL draft exodus is complete.
Four Crimson Tide juniors declared for the NFL draft on Thursday, one day after receiver Calvin Ridley also announced he’d forgo his senior season, equaling the largest group of underclassmen to leave school early in coach Nick Saban’s 11-year tenure.
“Philosophically, we like for guys that are high draft picks, first-round draft picks, from a business standpoint this is a good decision for them,” said Saban, flanked on stage by running back Bo Scarbrough along with defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison.
Neither Ridley nor defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne were able to attend the news conference, Saban said, but the coach confirmed both will enter the draft, set for April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas. The five-man group is the largest since 2014.
“I can’t say enough about the contributions these guys have made,” Saban said. “It just seems like yesterday we were in their houses recruiting them. Time went by very quickly. But I can’t tell you or them how much we appreciate the contributions they’ve made.”
Harrison received a second-round draft grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Committee, he revealed afterward. Fitzpatrick only termed his grade as “yes,” while Scarbrough declined to reveal his grade.
The committee only renders three grades: “first round,” “second round” or “stay in school.”
Harrison acknowledged the decision was more difficult than he imagined.
“This was my dream growing up. I definitely thought about this before. I never thought it would come through Alabama like this, but I’m just happy for the opportunity and I’m blessed,” Harrison said. “The thought of staying was in my mind, but after talking with my mom and my coaches I’ve just decided that this was best for me and my family.”