3 Crimson Tide Juniors Declare For NFL Draft
When Alabama starts its 2015 season, it will be doing so without a few of its top players.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper, safety Landon Collins and running back T.J. Yeldon will all forego their senior seasons and enter the 2015 NFL Draft, the trio announced Friday. According to reports a day earlier, all three were expected to declare.
“We are very supportive of what each and every one of these guys has decided to do,” coach Nick Saban said. “We make business decisions for our student-athletes when it comes to their future. The program here is to help them develop personally, academically and athletically, so that they can have more success in the future. So when it comes to these decisions they have to make, we try to help them make business decisions.”
Cooper and Collins are among the top-rated players overall and are expected to be first-round draft picks. Yeldon, who is one of the top players at his position, said he received a second-round grade from the NFL.
All three likely will receive invitations to partake in the NFL Scouting Combine held next month from Feb. 17-23 in Indianapolis. Cooper, Collins and Yeldon all leave Alabama as true juniors.
“I think in each one of these cases, each one of these young men have made an excellent decision in what they want to do,” Saban said. “Basically it's always been our philosophy if a guy's a very high first round or very near that, draft pick based on the information that we can give them and the education that we give them relative to the NFL.”
Cooper had 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, shattering numerous Alabama and SEC records along the way. He was also a unanimous All-SEC and All-American and won the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation’s top wide receiver.
Cooper thanked the number of influences in his life, particularly during his time at Alabama. He noted Saban by name.
“I came here as a 17-year-old who wanted nothing more than to be able to play football at a high level,” Cooper said. “But in the process so much more has happened, and I think I’ve become more mature, a better person, a better Christian.”
Collins, who also was named an All-SEC and unanimous All-American selection this season, made 103 tackles (4.5 for loss), three interceptions and seven pass breakups.
“Now that the time as come for me to take the next step in my journey I will dearly miss all my teammates who I sweat, cried and laughed with,” Collins said in a prepared speech. “I have no doubt it is true when they say the best time of your life is when you are playing college football and I wouldn't have picked a different group of guys to spend that time with.”
(Read the letter Collins read from during his announcement on his Instagram page here.)
Yeldon was the least likely of the three to declare, making the decision only after learning of his draft grade. He had 979 yards and 11 touchdowns this season and 3,322 yards (fourth-highest in Alabama history) and 37 touchdowns for his career.
“These past three years, I’ve had a great time here with all the coaches and my teammates, and I wouldn’t change it for anything,” Yeldon said. “I’ve become a better man that I’ll be able to carry on into my future.”
Prior to Friday, Alabama has had 18 players leave early for the NFL Draft under Saban with 12 going in the first round.
Watch video of the announcements, as well as post-presser interviews below: