Nick Saban has been an NFL assistant coach and head coach of the Dolphins. (Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)
Alabama coach Nick Saban has an idea on how the NFL could reduce the record number of college underclassmen declaring for the draft -- and it involves big changes for the NFL Combine.
Saban told SiriusXM NFL radio host Phil Savage the NFL should allow underclassmen to perform at its annual predraft scouting combine prior to deciding whether to turn pro early. Saban, whose resume includes stops as an NFL assistant coach and a term as head coach of the Dolphins, said the opportunity would provide a reality check for many underclassmen who give up their college eligibility too soon.
A record 98 underclassmen have declared for this year's NFL draft. Saban believes the league could also reverse that trend by limiting NFL Combine invitations to players evaluated to be third-round picks or higher.
"The way it's going right now, I don't think the NFL really wants all these guys coming out for the draft. They know they can develop better in college if they stay and play more, unless they're going to be high draft picks," Saban said. "It's difficult for them to develop players the way they practice now, so if a player's not a high pick, it's much more difficult for them to develop as an NFL player. I even made the point that if we're not going to do something like (an underclassman combine), maybe if a guy doesn't have at least a top-three-round grade, you don't even invite him to the combine."
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Saban's third-round prospect cutoff would reduce the more than 300 players who participated in this year's combine by about two thirds -- a number the four-time national championship coach believes is more realistic for underclassmen with delusions of NFL grandeur.
"More guys go down at the combine than go up, because they're not as fast," Saban added. "And they don't have a very good feel in comparison to all the other competition in the draft at their position. And when they come to that realization, it's too late, the way we do it now."