NFL decision makers love to grade prospects from Alabama. They love to sign them and they love to toss them into the starting lineup as soon as the calendar enables them to do it.
Not like. Love. After all, Nick Saban runs his Crimson Tide program, in terms of on-field expectations and the content of the playbooks, much like an NFL team does its business.
Saban recruits those who are among the most gifted and the most committed players in the nation. They have won three of the last four national titles playing the kind of overwhelming physical, power football that has loaded the trophy case in Tuscaloosa.
Last season there were four of Saban's players selected in the first round of the NFL draft and eight were selected overall, tying the program's highest total. And this year figures to be much the same with players such as cornerback Dee Milliner, offensive linemen Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker and Barrett Jones, linebacker Nico Johnson and running back Eddie Lacy dotting the board.
There is no disputing the results and the potential.
However, to say those calling the shots in personnel around the league have no concerns about what the future may hold for those on that immensely talented list would be false. Those paid to worry do feel like there is a component they have to factor in for the Tide players as they break down the boards.
And it has to do with workload. There is a feeling some of the Tide's prospect, in the relentless pursuit of titles in the ultra-powerful Southeastern Conference may have a few more football miles already on the odometer than some others simply because of their success.
That they may hit more in practice than most teams, play in an elite league and play deep into the bowl season because of their consistent proximity to the No. 1 ranking.
Or as Johnson put it at the combine;
"Before the SEC championship, we were beat up, we were beat up bad. By losing to Texas A&M — because we were beat up throughout the whole year — it reminded us how important everything was for us. We were beat up that Texas A&M week and we lost. Going through that taught us a lesson. No matter how bad we feel, we still got to go and perform our best. That's what we did. We went out and tried to perform our best and push through that game. After that, everybody kind of got healthier and went out in the national championship game and did our best."
"I feel like we practice way harder than the game situations so like I said, it's hard but we do it and we're very prepared when game day comes," Lacy said.
This year cornerback Dee Milliner worked out at the NFL's scouting combine, but will have shoulder surgery March 12. Lacy did not work out because of a hamstring injury, and Johnson didn't work out because he had surgery to repair a sports hernia.
Last year, safety Mark Barron didn't work out at the combine because of sports hernia surgery and Trent Richardson didn't work out because he had just had the meniscus repaired in his left knee — he had an additional surgery on the left knee during Browns training camp to remove a piece of cartilage. Dre Kirkpatrick didn't do the bench press at the combine because he said he had right shoulder injury, then suffered a knee injury just before Bengals training camp opened and eventually finished the year on injured reserve.
Courtney Upshaw missed one of the Tide's pro days because of tendonitis in his knee and had not worked out at the combine, telling teams he needed more time to train.
Last year it didn't affect the draft status of Barron, Kirkpatrick or Richardson — all three were picked among the first 17 picks. And this year Milliner's status won't be affected as he and most of the Tide's offensive linemen will dot the opening round, as Lacy and Johnson will still be good bets as second-day picks.
And they wouldn't change a thing. They played, they won and did what folks do in college, prepared themselves to enter the workplace with the best résumé possible.
But when all is said and done in creating grades for NFL prospects, it has become at least a small part of the process for those who have won the biggest games for college football's best program.