Thursday, December 13, 2012

Scouts: AJ McCarron wise to return for senior year

image Alabama’s junior quarterback AJ McCarron made the right move in deciding to return for his senior season, according to most NFL draft scouts and analyses of his 2013 draft prospects.

In a media conference call last October, ESPN’s Todd McShay estimated that if McCarron bolted early, he’d probably land somewhere in the third round. In another conference call about a month later, McShay’s partner Mel Kiper didn’t even mention McCarron as a 2013 prospect. Finally,’s Matt Miller (a legit BR writer) provides an objective evaluation of McCarron’s attributes and estimates that he’s probably a third-rounder.

Part of the reasoning behind speculation that McCarron might jump is that the 2013 is an allegedly weak QB class. There are no Cam Newtons, RGII’s or Andrew Lucks in this class. But don’t buy this weak class meme completely.

Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Tyler Wilson are all graduating seniors. All three are likely first round draft picks. EJ Manuel and potential early entry Aaron Murray could also sneak into the first round, depending on how the draft order shakes out after the NFL season ends.

It’s doubtful that McCarron would have edged out any of the above and gotten first round money. That likely pushes him into the second or third round, which is where McShay and Miller have him.

Draft gurus like Kiper, McShay and Miller don’t always get it right when it comes to who is taken by which teams in the draft. There are always surprises because only the teams’ coaches and front offices know exactly what they need. But when there’s consensus among the talking heads about what round a certain player is taken, they’re right more often than they’re wrong.

Head Coach Nick Saban has earned a reputation for getting his players ready for the NFL and it’s a major selling point on the recruiting trail. Part of the plan includes counseling players and getting sound advice on draft status. Saban has said he uses contacts in the league to get a fair assessment of an underclassman's prospects. If their is a strong chance that the player will be drafted in the first round, he advises them to forego their senior season and enter the draft. If there is a high likelihood that he falls to the second or third round, he recommends that they return for another year.

That is almost certainly what took place since the SEC Championship Game on December 1. Saban asked his contacts for information about current underclassmen and got solid assessments. He then shared those assessments with the players and made his recommendations on jumping early or returning. We’ll learn what other underclassmen decide in the weeks to come. But for AJ McCarron, the draft evaluation works best for both him and Alabama. Assuming something special happens on January 7, he’ll have the opportunity to make history again next season and go down as one of the best and most successful quarterbacks in the game of college football.

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