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Nick Saban: Passing on AJ McCarron a 'huge mistake'

NFL clubs not sold on AJ McCarron as a high-end draft prospect, consider yourselves warned.

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Alabama coach Nick Saban apparently can't understand how McCarron isn't regarded as highly as any quarterback prospect available, and took up for his three-year, two-time national champion starter.

"I think anybody that doesn't take AJ in one of those earlier rounds is going to make a huge mistake because I think he's going to be a very, very good player," Saban said. "First of all, he has all the athletic talent to make all the throws that he needs to make at the next level. ... Guys who can make quick decisions, process the information and throw the ball accurately are the guys that usually end up being pretty good NFL quarterbacks."

Saban spoke to ESPN about McCarron, who has been projected primarily as a second- or third-round pick in the May 8-10 NFL draft. That would put him squarely in the second-day tier of prospects. McCarron certainly doesn't lack for confidence, saying he's the draft's best quarterback prospect. And after what NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt described as "an A-plus workout", it didn't take long for speculation to arise about which team might be most interested.

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Of course, any college coach will make a hard NFL sell for any player he likes, and McCarron is undoubtedly one of Saban's favorites at Alabama. That Saban is endorsing a quarterback who was 36-4 in his collegiate career should be expected, but that doesn't mean his assessment is insincere or inaccurate. The best-case scenario for McCarron might be as the fifth quarterback drafted, behind Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr of Fresno State. That would likely get him into the second round. The worst case for McCarron could be much further down the trough.

In either case, we can see the "I told you so" from Saban coming a mile away if McCarron is drafted late and ends up outperforming his draft slot.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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