Five players leave early for the NFL DraftBy Cody Estremera | 01/11/2018 6:33pm
Twenty-five players have left Alabama early for the NFL draft since 2009.
Since head coach Nick Saban took over in 2009, he has had 25 players leave the program early for the draft. He had five more make that decision this year.
Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne, defensive back Ronnie Harrison and running back Bo Scarbrough all announced that they would submit their names for the NFL Draft on Thursday, while wide receiver Calvin Ridley announced on Wednesday via Twitter.
“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.”
The five juniors helped lead Alabama to two national championships and two SEC titles, while going 41-3 in their three years at Alabama.
“We've accomplished a lot together, a lot of things that not many people can say they've accomplished as a family and as a unit,” Fitzpatrick said. “We've won two national championships together and I've attended one of the greatest universities in the world. I've been coached by some of the greatest coaches, coach Saban and the rest of the coaching staff and I've played with some of the greatest players, including Ronnie, the last couple of years, I've done a whole lot.”
Saban said Fitzpatrick should graduate in August, while Scarbrough and Harrison should graduate in May.
“I mean no one can take a piece a paper away from me, so of course I’m going to get my degree,” Scarbrough said. “That was my whole plan, coming to college and I wanted to major in criminal justice and be an FBI agent, and I’m going to pursue that dream.”
Ridley leaves as Alabama’s second all-time leader in catches, 220, and receiving touchdowns,18, and third all-time in receiving yards with 2,749 yards. Ridley is ranked as the fifth best wide receiver in the draft and the No. 37 overall prospect according to CBS sports’ rankings.
Fitzpatrick finished as one of Alabama’s best defensive backs all time. He holds the Alabama record for most interceptions returned for touchdowns with four. Overall, he had nine interceptions and 171 tackles. He won the Chuck Bednarik, given to the best defensive player, and Jim Thorpe, given to the best defensive back, awards this season. CBS sports has him ranked as the No. 6 overall prospect and the No. 1 free safety in this year’s class.
Payne finished his Alabama career on a high note. Payne finished as the defensive MVP of the Sugar Bowl and the national championship. The Birmingham, Ala. native finished with 102 total tackles and three sacks. CBS sports has him ranked as the No. 27 overall prospect and the No. 4 defensive tackle in the class.
Harrison leaves Alabama after a strong junior campaign. He finished with 74 tackles, which was tied for the team lead, this season. He finished his career with 177 tackles and seven interceptions, three of which came this year. CBS sports has him ranked as the No. 3 strong safety and the No. 74 overall player. He said his draft grade was first or second round.
Scarbrough leaves Alabama with 20 rushing touchdowns and 1,512 career yards. He really broke out during Alabama’s last three games of the season in 2016. In those games, he totaled 364 yards and four touchdowns. He was selected as the offensive MVP against Washington in the Peach Bowl last year.
“I also want these guys to know they're always part of the family here, they're always welcome back,” Saban said. “One of the things that makes me happiest about our program here is how many guys come back. It gets a little crowded on the sidelines sometimes. I always want to put them in the game. I'd want to put these guys in the game someday too.”