A year ago, Ronnie Harrison opted to join the growing ensemble of underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft a year early, much to the chagrin of Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Harrison, who went on to become a third-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, squandered an opportunity to be a higher round draft pick in the 2019 NFL draft, according to Saban’s comments this weekend.
“If you’re a third-round draft pick, and we had one here last year, I’m not going to say any names, goes and starts for his team, so he’s making third-round money, which is not that great,” Saban said (per BamaOnLine) when asked about not having players around the program that could be contributing this spring instead of leaving for the NFL a year early. Saban’s comments were certainly alluding to Harrison, who was the only Alabama player drafted in the third round of the draft last year despite various draft analysts projecting him for the second round. “He’d be the first guy taken at his position this year, probably, and make $15-18 million more. So, the agent makes out, the club makes out, and now they’ve got a guy that’s going to play for that kind of money for three more years.”
Saban has always had some gripes with the NFL, so his comments here are not particularly groundbreaking. The number of players who continue to declare for the NFL early and fail to get drafted or find a stable landing spot in the league continues to be a concern. Then again, the realization that players are playing the game of football and risking themselves without a chance to be compensated is also a rising concern. But Saban essentially singling out one of his former players as a negative example of the draft process, though, is striking.
Harrison wasn’t about to back down.
Harrison responded on Sunday with a statement on his Twitter account, in which he questioned the motives of Saban and, by extension, any other coach who gets upset over losing players early for the NFL.
We’re not exactly sure if Saban is in Harrison’s head or vice-versa, but it’s also entirely possible that both points of view have some merit to consider. A large number of players likely make the wrong decision declaring for the NFL early, but coaches who take a shot at a player for his decision also need to realize and respect the player’s point of view.