Even though he will not get anything out of attending the first round of the NFL draft in New York other than being there for his former players and promoting the football program, this could be another record-setting day for Nick Saban and the University of Alabama.
As noted earlier this week in the Crimson Tide draft preview, by having 12 players invited to attend the NFL Scouting Combine, which is a pretty strong indicator for whether someone will get selected, Alabama appears to be on the cusp of at least tying the school record of 10 selections in a single draft. That dates back to 1945, when its last player went in the 32nd round.
Nowadays, the draft is just seven rounds, but Alabama had nine players taken last year and eight in 2012—the most chosen from a school that year.
But that’s just the beginning.
Through the 2013 NFL draft, 111 players Saban either coached or recruited had been selected over the years, an average of just under one per round (.933). Among them were 33 Crimson Tide players chosen between 2009-2013, whose initial contracts combined added up to more than $280 million.
During those same five years, Alabama led all teams with 14 first-round selections after not having any between 2000 (Chris Samuels and Shaun Alexander) and 2009 (Andre Smith), and no draft picks at all in 2008.
Who has been Alabama's best first-round selection during the Nick Saban era (2007-2013)?
The 11 first-round picks from 2011, 2012 and 2013 alone equaled the output of the previous six Alabama coaches and 22 years combined.
“Remarkable,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said last year about the back-to-back four first-round selections in 2011 and 2012. “It’s up there with one of the more impressive feats from a school that we’ve seen in a long time.”
With that in mind, here are six other ways Alabama and/or Saban can make history during Thursday night’s first round (Note: Draft statistics are credited to the coach from the previous regular season, so the 2014 draft counts toward the coach from 2013):
1. Most first-round draft picks by an active coach
Defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney will be a top pick for South Carolina on Thursday, but the only program that appears to be a lock to have more than one first-rounder this year is Texas A&M with quarterback Johnny Manziel, tackle Jake Matthews and wide receiver Mike Evans.
2. Highest career average of first-round selections by any active coach
Right now, Les Miles has a better career average at 1.17, compared to Saban’s 1.12.
Since Miles took over LSU in 2005, the Tigers have had 12 first-round selections, although at least six of them were were recruited by Saban. Miles also had two first-round selections at Oklahoma State (2001-2004).
Should wide receiver Odell Beckham be a first-round pick as expected, Miles will have 15 in 14 years, for a 1.07 average.
If Saban has two first-round selections Thursday night, his career average will be 1.17.
3. Most first-round selections for an Alabama coach
Should Alabama have only one first-round selection in this draft—and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, linebacker C.J. Mosley and offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio are all strong candidates—he’ll be Saban’s 15th first-round selection at Alabama, a program record.
Paul W. “Bear” Bryant had 14 when he was at Alabama (1958-1982), although Joe Namath was a first-round pick in both the AFL and NFL before the leagues merged.
Factor in the schools they coached previous to Alabama, and both Bryant and Saban have had 19 career first-round selections.
4. Longest consecutive streak of top-10 selections
If either Clinton-Dix or Mosley ends up as a top-10 pick, Alabama will set the record for longest consecutive streak of top-10 selections during the common draft era (since 1967).
It’s currently tied with Southern California (1993-1997) with five straight years, while LSU and Texas A&M both have active three-year streaks.
|Paul W. "Bear" Bryant||19|
Compiled from statistics on drafhistory.com
5. Unprecedented first-round numbers
Saban is averaging 2.33 first-round draft picks per draft at Alabama (2007-2013). No one in college football history compares.
Pete Carroll had a 1.6 average at Southern California, and Jim Tressel was 1.4 at Ohio State, but both programs ran into trouble with the NCAA.
Otherwise, only three other prominent coaches have averaged at least one first-round selection a year: Frank Leahy (1.23, mostly at Notre Dame), John McKay (1.13, USC) and Barry Switzer (1.00, Oklahoma).
6. Saban could move into the top five for all-time first-round selections.
Joe Paterno, who coached for 46 years at Penn State, had the most first-round players with 33, just edging Bobby Bowden’s 32 at Florida State.
At his current pace at Alabama, Saban will catch Paterno during the 2018 draft.
Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Draft pick statistics from DraftHistory.com.