PHOENIX -- Alabama coach Nick Saban believes Crimson Tide linebacker Reggie Ragland's senior season has bolstered his draft stock into first-round status. Ragland, a two-year starter, received a second-round grade last year as a junior, but opted to return to college for another year to show NFL scouts he can play effective pass coverage on third down and thus be an every-down player in the NFL.
"There's a business decision involved in all of this, that just because a guy can be a second-round draft pick, if he has the potential to come back and enhance his draft status to be a first-round draft pick, which I think Reggie certainly has done that," Saban said. "There's a huge economic impact from that standpoint, as well."
Ragland has made 97 tackles this season to lead Alabama's vaunted defense as it enters Monday's national championship game against Clemson. And as for his pass coverage, he's broken up seven passes on the year -- as many as Alabama's top cornerback, Cyrus Jones. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah is a believer in Ragland's ability to play on third down in the NFL, as well.
Along with being better on passing downs, Ragland said he's improved in his pre-snap reads as well.
"I'm now able to help guys line up, move them around and call things better," Ragland said. "I took more pride in being a smart player. Pre-snap, I recognize formations better now."
Here are eight other things we learned Saturday during media day for the national title game:
2. Watson watches Tide losses. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson isn't just watching film of the 2015 Alabama team he'll have to face Monday in the CFP Championship Game. He's gone back as far as 2010 to watch a pair of future first-round NFL draft picks -- both of whom are dual-threat quarterbacks like himself -- who beat Alabama in college.
Newton beat Alabama, 28-27, in his only season at Auburn, about five months before he became the No. 1 overall draft pick of the Carolina Panthers. Both Manziel and Newton did significant damage as rushers in those games, something not lost on Clemson's athletic sophomore. Watson has rushed for more than 100 yards in five of his last six games.
3. Second-round grade for Kearse. Clemson safety Jayron Kearse (6-foot-5, 220), the nephew of former Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans star pass rusher Jevon Kearse, told College Football 24/7 he received a second-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. However, Kearse said he hasn't yet decided whether he will apply to enter the 2016 NFL Draft. "I was definitely happy to see how my grade came out," Kearse said. "It definitely plays a role in the decision."
That decision will come Tuesday, as Tigers TE Jordan Leggett said all Clemson underclassmen must decide by then because it's the last day to drop classes for the CU spring term.
4. Williams undecided. Although Alabama's designated pass rusher, Tim Williams, had previously indicated he would return to Alabama in 2016, he's no longer 100 percent certain he won't apply for 2016 NFL Draft eligibility.
"When and if I do come back -- there really hasn't been a final decision made -- I want to show people that I can be a first- and second-down player," Williams said. "I want to show (scouts) I can play the whole game. I love getting to the quarterback, but who doesn't want to be out there all the time? ... But as of now, I'm coming back."
Williams is second on the team in sacks with 10.5 despite playing almost exclusively as only a substitute on obvious passing downs this year.
5. Lawson excited to face Robinson. Assuming Clemson DE Shaq Lawson is able to play with a knee injury, he's looking forward to squaring off against Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson, who is one of the top tackles in the SEC.
"He's a great tackle. A physical guy, very strong, probably the second-best tackle I've played this year (behind Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley). He's going to be a first-rounder next year. No question -- top five," Lawson said of Robinson, who won't be draft-eligible until 2017 or 2018. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney called Lawson, who intends to enter the 2016 draft as a junior, a first-round pick as well.
As for Lawson's readiness to play, he said he's getting treatments on his knee at least twice per day, including icing and electric stim therapy.
6. Kelly in town. Alabama coach Nick Saban confirmed reports that former Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly visited the program earlier this week.
"Chip is a good friend of myself and other coaches on our staff," Saban said, "and he just happened to be in the area and he stopped by and visited with us for a little bit, and not really anything of significance relative to this game."
If UA offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin were to take another job for 2016, keep this in mind: prior to Alabama's Sugar Bowl appearance against Oklahoma two years ago, Kiffin -- who was a couple months removed from a midseason firing at USC -- visited Tuscaloosa, as well, and was hired soon thereafter.
7. Leggett told of draft status. Clemson junior TE Jordan Leggett is considering applying for early NFL draft eligibility after catching 35 passes with seven touchdowns for the Tigers. But how highly he's rated at his position and where he might land in the draft are two different things that make his decision a tough one.
"They've got me as maybe the third-best tight end in the draft, but with a fourth-round grade," Leggett said of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney's NFL sources. "We'll just have to see what happens. I think this game against Alabama can do a lot for me."
8. The "other" guy. Clemson junior DE Kevin Dodd, the Tigers' "other" pass rusher who doesn't get deserved notoriety because of Lawson's presence on the other side, is considering applying for 2016 draft eligibility. While Lawson has 10.5 sacks on the year, Dodd (6-5, 275) isn't far behind with nine. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah called Dodd the most underrated player in the CFP title game.
9. Holding off. Alabama junior DE Jonathan Allen said he doesn't know what his official draft grade is, and it's no wonder why: according to Crimson Tide TE O.J. Howard, who is also considering early draft entry, the team voted not to open letters from the NFL Draft Advisory Board until after the game.