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Nick Saban: I'm sure Reggie Ragland will be top-15 draft pick

How good of a call did Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland make when he opted to return to school for his senior season instead leaving early for the draft?

Alabama 45, Clemson 40
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According to his head coach, that decision was worth $12-14 million.

On Tuesday, Saban discussed the advice he gives underclassmen that are considering applying for early draft entry. He has used Ragland in the past week as an example of how staying in school can be a smart "business decision." Ragland received a second-round draft grade a year ago. Where will he go in the 2016 draft? On Saturday, Saban said he believed Ragland would be a first-rounder. On Tuesday, the coach went a step further, saying he's "sure" that Ragland will be a top-15 pick.

"Reggie Ragland last year had a second-round grade. I'm sure he'll be a top-15 pick this year," Saban said. "If you want to do the math on that, that's like a $12-to-14 million dollar decision."

Saban said he saw even more of a payoff for former Alabama safety Mark Barron, a first-round pick of the Buccaneers in 2012 who now plays for the Rams.

"Mark Barron did it a few years ago. He was a second-round guy who became the seventh pick of the draft," Saban said. "That was a $16-to-18 million dollar decision. Plus, he graduated."

As for Ragland, he led the Crimson Tide with 102 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, this season. Monday night's win over Clemson in the national championship game was not his best performance, as an Alabama defense that had often been dominant this season struggled against Clemson, but NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah still came away impressed with his power as a tackler.


» Title-game hero Howard to meet with Saban before making draft decision


Ragland isn't just a two-down masher, though -- Jeremiah is a believer in his ability to thrive as a three-down player at the next level.

NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein wrote this fall that while there's no consensus within scouting circles about how Ragland's play speed will translate to the NFL, he checks almost every box when it comes to doing what NFL teams want from an inside linebacker.

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