Alabama football: 5 juniors announce decisions to enter NFL Draft

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football had five juniors declare their intentions to enter the NFL Draft on Thursday afternoon.

Wide receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, running back Bo Scarbrough, defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne and safety Ronnie Harrison will all forego their final year of eligibility to chase professional dreams.

Ridley, Fitzpatrick, Harrison and Payne were all members of Alabama’s productive 2015 class. The group leaves with two national championships (2015, 2017) and two SEC titles (2015, 2016).

Fitzpatrick, Scarbrough and Harrison all attended a news conference on Thursday. Ridley and Payne couldn’t make the news conference, but Alabama coach Nick Saban said they’re going pro.

“I love that so many our players come back for the games,” Saban said, getting emotional. “It gets a little crowded on the sideline, and I always want to put them in the game. … I’ll want to put these guys in the game one day too.”

Ridley is considered by many to be the top receiver in this draft class. Fitzpatrick has been mentioned as going as high as top-five in the draft.

The good news for Alabama fans is that key juniors Damien Harris and Isaiah Buggs are returning for one more year.

Harris, the Crimson Tide’s top running back, is only the second player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons (T.J. Yeldon, 2012-2013).

He returns that backfield that will be high on talent with guys like Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris and Brian Robinson, but low on experience.

Harris’ leadership will be big for the entire offense, which is losing guys like Bradley Bozeman, Cam Sims, Robert Foster and Ridley.

Harris finished the year with 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 135 carries.

Buggs should lock in one of the top defensive line spots along with rising junior Raekwon Davis. Buggs, a junior college transfer, flashed down the stretch of his first year in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama loses Payne and Da’Shawn Hand (senior), but getting Buggs back should help with leadership and key depth. Buggs finished the year with 51 total tackles, including 4 for loss and 1.5 sacks. He also added 7 quarterback hurries.

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