The NFL Draft begins tonight, a/k/a Nick Saban’s Process paying off at the individual level.
39 (and 106) – Since the 2009 NFL Draft, the Crimson Tide has produced 39 first-round picks and 106 total draft selections over the last 13 years. Those totals are the most by any program in college football during that span. Saban has coached more first-round draft picks than his teams have lost games (25). He has had 129 of his players drafted at Alabama and LSU, which gives him the most of any SEC coach, passing Ole Miss’ Johnny Vaught (123). With as many as 10 players set to be drafted, Saban will pad his lead to double digits this week.
And while this was touched in Gump Day, it’s worth looking at again: Charlie examined all of Saban’s 39 first-round selections at Alabama, and here I’ve highlighted what I think was the most important group of the bunch: The epoch-defining 2008 NSD Class that brought in the likes of Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, and Marcell Dareus.
Marcell Dareus, DT – Buffalo Bills, Pick 3
Julio Jones, WR – Atlanta Falcons, Pick 6
James Carpenter, OT – Seattle Seahawks, Pick 25
Mark Ingram, RB – New Orleans Saints, Pick 28
For the second year in a row, UA doubled its number of first-round draft picks. Dareus was first off the board to the Bills, followed by Jones three picks later to the Falcons, who traded up to take the talented wideout. Carpenter was a bit of a surprise at No. 25, while Ingram landed in New Orleans a year and a half after winning the Heisman Trophy. Ingram rejoined the Saints a year ago, while Jones and Carpenter remain free agents ahead of the draft.
A lot more teams are looking closely at Jameson Williams, his ridiculously ahead-of-schedule rehab, and are considering moving up, swapping picks and assets, and otherwise maneuvering to grab the speedster.
The Eagles are just one of the teams looking to go aggressive and draft Alabama’s game-changing Biletnikoff finalist.
Two years after spending a first-round pick on Jalen Reagor, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman just might be looking to swap the wide receiver out with another Day One pick at pass-catcher. Philadelphia is open to fielding trade offers for the 23-year-old Reagor, according to ESPN, while executives around the NFL reportedly believe the team is targeting Alabama wideout Jameson Williams with its No. 15 overall pick in the 2022 draft. Not only that, but NFL Media reports the Eagles have been “among the most notable teams making calls about moving up,” with two first-rounders at their disposal.
The talent gap between the SEC and everyone is growing, not diminishing, with the advent of the portal.
This offseason, the Cracker Barrel Belt has proven to the destination of choice for the highest value players seeking a new start: be that a Top 3 quarterback prospect at Ole Miss by way of USC, or the guy many considered the ACC’s best player landing in Tuscaloosa as a likely starter at running back. To say nothing of what it’s doing to bolster programs that are rebuilding or rebounding — South Carolina and Arkansas have especially been aggressive suitors on the newest meat market.
Dart wound up landing at Mississippi and in the SEC, along with a number of other top players in the transfer portal. In some cases, such as Alabama, the rich got richer. Other teams may have picked up a new starting quarterback, runner, pass rusher or receiver.
“I knew when I was going into the portal, I wanted to go to the SEC,” Dart said earlier this spring. “So those were some of my main schools. Because it gets you developed to play in the NFL. I feel like if you can be successful in the SEC, then it’s an easier transition to the NFL.”
Dart was one of 14 transfers for Ole Miss, which had 247Sports’ top portal class. LSU also nabbed 14 additions from other schools to rank third. The website ranked Alabama’s transfer class fifth, South Carolina’s seventh and Arkansas’s ninth.
If you’re already hauling in Top 10 recruiting classes, and then adding Top 10 transfer classes with proven players at needed positions, of course the rich are only going to get richer. And in College Football, that means the SEC.
Hey, you asked for this, not us.
We can almost be certain that Evan Neal will not be the first overall pick in tonight’s draft — nor will any other offensive tackle, for that matter.
CamRob’s contract had been a source of speculation leading up the Draft, but that is no longer the case, as the cornerstone of their offensive line is getting tagged: He got the Franchise tag, and a bump to $18 mill for the next 3 years, $54 million total. Get paid, son.
Keep an eye on this one: A lot can happen over the next 20 months or so.
Alabama continues to take its shot with the best athletes in the class of 2024. For the second time in as many days, the Crimson Tide offered a top playmaker, this time Daingerfield, Texas product Aeryn Hampton.
The four-star wide receiver and defensive back picked up his 16th offer on Monday, and third from the Southeastern Conference in the last month. Hampton said Holmon Wiggins, Alabama’s wide receivers coach reached out with the news. In a text with AL.com, Hampton said the interest meant a lot while also reiterating his commitment to Texas.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Hampton was originally committed to Baylor for two months, along with a teammate, but reneged in January. On Feb. 14, he announced his verbal to the Longhorns. The hometown dream of playing in the orange-and-white compelled Hampton, who defines himself as a versatile offensive threat and shut-down corner.
Given the slow-rolling disaster that is everything Austin, I’m not sure that Steve Sarkisian will even be around by the end of this season, much less for the 2024 class.
You know who you don’t mess with? One of the Top-5 defensive tackles in the NFL and the heart and soul of the Washington Football Team (I refuse to use “commanders” blech).
Daron Payne did so last year quite publicly, and guess who’s not getting their fifth-year option picked up, despite their productivity? There are some real salary cap concerns too: Laurin and Chase are due to get paid, Allen just got paid. And eventually WAS will need to spring for some offensive players, right?
Speaking of Jonathan Allen, I had been meaning to link this the last two weeks. But no time like the present. Want to hear the no-nonsense former Nagurski and Bednarik winner talk about just how hard it is to play at Alabama? What it means to be a professional at age 18? What other pros think of Saban’s system?
This is outstanding stuff. I’m not sure I could have done it — nor could even most of the nation’s elite prospects. It takes a different kind of player to grow up this hard, this fast. It’s a miracle Alabama doesn’t lose even more players than they do, TBH.
Safe to say, when you’ve impressed TO, you’re doing something right.
Finally, Mark Emmert the Destroyer of College Sports, is stepping down from the cushiest job imaginable: a $3 million-per-year gig at the NCAA doing absolutely nothing except wringing his hands, letting college athletics implode, being a tone-deaf dishrag, and deeply corrupting the entirety of the collegiate model.
There will be many circumspect pieces on Emmert’s legacy, but I’m just a regular guy who doesn’t have to curry favor for access, so I don’t have to be that mindful.
His was a decade-plus disastrous tenure that oversaw the destruction of the NCAA, that punted the toughest decisions to people far below his pay grade, that took a wrong turn at every major inflection point, that passed the buck whenever possible, that created or exacerbated rolling crises, that failed to meaningfully advocate for everyone’s interest, that oversaw the bifurcation and then growth of the Power 5-vs-everyone-else model, that dug in his heels on the wrong battles while not waging the right ones.
If there was an indefensible position to be taken, Emmert would do so. If there was a way to be a chickenshit, he would find it. When there were health and safety considerations for the players, he ignored them. In a difficult decade for the NCAA, when bravery was most needed, we got a craven careerist. When consistency was to be expected, we found none. If there was a way to turn the thumbscrews of the majority so as to streamline payouts to the Power 5, he was on it.
That was Emmert’s “gift.” When there was money to be made, that is where Emmert shined — assuming you were an NCAA crony or a major conference administrator. His was a leadership with absolutely no understanding of the job other than “money good,” as though a protected monopolistic non-profit had shareholders to appease. And he got there largely by selling everyone else’s principles down the river — because, lord knows, he demonstrated none — by antagonizing the have-nots, by looking for the quickest buck to be had to the detriment of the century-long trust he inherited, by political expediency, by failing to evolve to changing legal landscapes, by playing favorites with big market and big money teams.
Pick anything involving college athletics that has been manifestly unfair, inconsistent, presented a controversy without resolution, or that has been myopic, and you will find his venal, grubby, grasping paws on it:
- Penn State’s banhammer on the one hand, and then letting Baylor skate on the other?
- For that matter, taking a strong stand on the NCAA’s morality clause with Penn State, then immediately backing down with the slightest pushback? Emmert.
- Willful blindness of the rampant sexual assault incidences that proliferated under his watch? Emmert.
- Digging the NCAA’s heels in against even modest NIL propositions until a decade of court losses forced him to deal with it? Emmert.
- Repeatedly botching eligibility determinations? Emmert.
- Leveling vindictive sanctions on small programs and good faith actors, while giving Blue Bloods a pass? Emmert.
- Failing to address deeply criminal actions in college basketball then passing the buck to others? Emmert.
- Creating working groups for pressing matters then all-but ignoring their findings and suggestions? Emmert.
- Abdicating leadership during the COVID crisis? Emmert.
- The cynical major conference cash-grab that is the College Football Playoff? Emmert.
- The cynical major conference cash-grab that is basketball’s NET? Emmert.
- Trumpeting player safety with rules like targeting while doing nothing to address pace of play, or the vastly increasing number of games and number of snaps players are subjected to? Emmert.
- Most recently, the NCAA’s non-handling of the trans debacle in the Ivy league that in a very real sense threatens to destroy the fabric of Title IX — and that’s not my opinion, BTW. That’s federal law? Emmert.
And those are just the ones that I can bang out with literally no in-depth research.
He is the Platonic exemplar of every superannuated Boomer jackass you’ve met over the last few decades: A man addicted to power, unwilling to step aside or let go of the past, while at the same selling out the future for his own immediate monetary enrichment and to the benefit of a select group of predetermined winners.
He may as well be a US Senator.
His is the face of the banal evils of a bloated technocratic class, too smug in their own power, too comfortable in their own graft, too distant from the real harms they enable, and too isolated from the walls crumbling around the führerbunker of their own design.
His name is Mark Emmert.
And he was the gravedigger of the NCAA.
As for taking over that job, don’t look to Greg Sankey to save you either. He’s “busy”.