Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney do not like NFL draft grades

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Sean Landry

It started innocently enough. Dabo Swinney, head coach of a Clemson roster flush with NFL prospects, was asked about how his team has dealt with the specter of early declarations and draft evaluations, which the players have received already. 

“Yeah, I pretty much know what everybody is going to do already,” Swinney said. It’s one of the things that I don’t like the timing of all that stuff, but it is what it is, so no sense in acting like it’s not there. They’re focused on the game. All these guys understand that they have a tremendous opportunity, and they’ve done a nice job of focusing on getting themselves ready. But I think decisions or announcements or whatever, Tweets, whatever they do, will be pretty quick when the game is over.”

Then Nick Saban saw his opportunity and took it. 

Could I make a comment about that? Because I’m going to call Dabo after the game, and last year after our game against Ohio State, I tried to develop a little energy from college coaches who had players that are in this situation that you just asked him about, and the NFL moved the draft back,” Saban said. “I wish they’d move the declare date back. I wish they’d make a rule that says you can’t even give a player what his draft status is from the NFL playoff committee until they’ve finished their competition as a college player, so that you don’t put them and their family in this situation where there’s a big timing issue relative to competition.”

Saban has publicly advocated for delayed draft evaluations, and pointed to the draft grades his team received last season as an issue that helped fracture a locker room before a College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Ohio State. This year, the team has elected to leave their draft grades unknown until after Monday’s national championship game. Under his proposed plan, that wouldn’t be a problem.

“Now, if you finished your season on December 6th, you can make a decision,” Saban said. “If you’re finishing it on January 11th, then you get the 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 these players to play well in the game.”

And lest the accusations of whining and excuse-making for an embarrassing loss resurface, rest assured that Saban is far from the only coach worried about draft evaluations.

“There’s no doubt, it’s a distraction that all of us have to deal with,” Swinney said. “Obviously it’s just two of us left at this point. You get the grades, and some guys, they didn’t get the grade that they want, so they’re pouting a little bit, and got to pick themselves up. Then you get the guy that gets the grade he wants, so it’s just – I echo that 100 percent. It really should be when the season is over, whenever that is, and they should hold those things.”