PHOENIX -- Alabama coach Nick Saban called for the NFL to restructure its calendar with regard to college underclassmen Sunday.
In advance of Monday's College Football Playoff championship game against Clemson, the former Miami Dolphins coach said the league should push back the deadline by which underclassmen must apply for early draft eligibility (this year's deadline is Jan. 18), and for the NFL Draft Advisory Board to withhold the delivery of feedback on draft status for underclassmen until after they've played their final college game of the season, be it a bowl game or, in Alabama's case, the CFP playoff.
"The NFL moved the draft back. I wish they'd move the declare date back. I wish they'd make a rule that says you can't even tell a player what his draft status is through the NFL committee until they've finished their competition as college players. So that you don't put them and their family in this situation where there's a big timing issue relative to competition," Saban said. "Now if you finish your season on Dec. 6, you can make a decision. If you finished it on Jan. 11, then you get your (feedback) information after that, but you have a significant amount of time to make that decision when you finish playing so you can stay focused on what you need to do to play well, because it benefits all those players to play well in the game."
Last year after Alabama was beaten by Ohio State in a CFP semifinal, Saban lamented on the distraction that draft feedback appeared to be for some of his underclassmen. Tight end O.J. Howard said Saturday that Alabama's players voted to not look at the feedback underclassmen have received from the NFLDAB until after Monday night's game. Howard is among a number of Crimson Tide underclassmen considering early draft entry. None have announced a final decision; Alabama typically holds a news conference after the seasont to make all underclassman announcements at once.
Clemson's players, by contrast, are announcing their intentions on their own individual terms, in their own ways, and with their own timing. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney supported Saban's advocacy.
"It's a distraction all of us have to deal with ... You get the grades, and some guys that don't get the grade that they want, so they're pouting a little bit. Then you have the guy who gets the grade he wants ... I echo that 100 percent. It should be when the season is over, whenever that is, and they should hold (feedback). But that's the system we're dealing with right now."
Alabama underclassmen considering early draft entry include Howard, DL A'Shawn Robinson, DE Jonathan Allen, RB Derrick Henry, and DE Tim Williams. Clemson's top underclassmen considering early entry include DB Jayron Kearse, TE Jordan Leggett and CB Mackensie Alexander. Defensive end Shaq Lawson and LB Travis Blanks have already announced he intends to enter the draft early. Kearse has already looked at his feedback, and told College Football 24/7 Saturday that he received a second-round grade and will announce his decision after the game.