The NFL Draft and “Avengers: Endgame” both get started on Thursday night (yes, the movie officially opens Friday but there are those late-night sneak previews for the die-hards.)
Given the spectacle and sheer length of both events — although the Thursday night portion of the draft is just the first round — there is bound to be some mental overlap, so if I tweet that Jonah Williams has been chosen by the Guardians of the Galaxy, just ignore it. Although when you think about it, Williams might be a pretty good fit, since he could both defend the blind side and cook delicious meals during intergalactic journeys.
Like Thanos, Nick Saban will be bringing five rings (if you just count the ones he has won at Alabama) to the party. He is scheduled to be present in Nashville, depending on when his hip replacement surgery takes place and how quickly he has recovered.
Saban’s usual routine, though, has included being present for his ever-growing number of draft choices. His current total at Alabama is 77 players chosen — and that’s without a single player picked picked in the 2008 draft. Consider that again: Alabama didn’t have a single player chosen in an entire draft. Last year, a school record 12 were taken. This year will probably end up at around seven or eight, and by the 2021 draft, it is entirely possible the number of Saban/Alabama players chosen will edge up over 100.
Not to dredge up last month’s overbaked controversy, but the fact is Saban does care about the players who go in the draft, which is one reason why he likes to be on hand as they start the next phase of their career. Yes, there is a certain publicity factor that carries over into recruiting, but it’s not just about that.
Lots of people took a short clip out of a long answer and made it sound like Saban was against players coming out early, which he assuredly is not. He only pointed out there are cases where coming back to school can enhance a player’s value, sometimes to the tune of several million dollars. That is a far cry from saying players with a first-round grade shouldn’t go. This year’s draft will yield some first rounders — maybe two or three, maybe a fourth — and it might also see some players taken in the situation Saban described. Regardless, he will be ready to support them all.
There is also some draft trivia at stake, as always.
Depending on what happens in the later rounds, Alabama has a good chance of passing Nebraska and moving into sixth place all-time in the number of players picked. The Crimson Tide has 355 players chosen since the NFL draft began, while the Cornhuskers have 359. USC is the all-time leader with 506.
Ohio State will almost certainly see its streak of 37 years without a first-round quarterback selection snapped, as some team will pick Dwayne Haskins and hope his saga ends better than that of Art Schlicter (1982). Alabama’s streak without a first-round quarterback is even longer — this weekend will make it 43 years (and eight national championships) since Richard Todd was selected in 1976.
Most Alabama fans — and NFL mock-draft Nostradamuses — expect that streak to finally end in 2020. And, chances are, Saban will once again be there to watch.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.