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Words of wisdom from Nick Saban on how to maximize draft stock

As the 2021 NFL Draft nears, Peter King breaks down the back half of his mock draft, which sees two AFC contenders draft the running backs they hope will complete their offenses.

Nick Saban has a new twist on Conjunction Junction, with a focus on two of the choices: And or but.

Though his two years as an NFL head coach didn’t go very well, the not-going-to-be-the-Alabama-coach Alabama coach has created a flood of great NFL players during the past 14 seasons with the Crimson Tide. He recently shared a simple assessment of the things that set college players apart. And it comes down to those two key words.

“I spent eight years in the NFL, which means I sat through eight drafts,” Saban said during a Q&A with the Louisiana Football Coaches Association. “Which meant it’s not just the draft. It’s two weeks of preparing for the draft. Then two weeks of getting questions answered and then two more weeks of getting ready for the draft. So I’m talking about listening to 1,000 draft reports.

“And I tell our players all the time, the two most compelling words in the draft report is ‘and’ and ‘but.’”

“So they read the player, and I’ll take a defensive back. He’s got quick feet, change of direction. He’s got good long speed. Can play man to man. He’s a good tackler, he’s got toughness. Got really good ball judgment and really good ball skills -- and he’s a good person, he was a leader on the team, he graduated from school, coaches loved him.

“Read the same player, -- but he got a positive drug test, . . . he got a domestic violence incident with his girlfriend, he got a fight in a bar when he was a freshman, strength coach said he wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire. Who do you want on your team? And or but?

“What I tell players is you don’t realize that as soon as you apply for a job, as soon as you put your name in for the draft, people are looking for reasons not to pick you. They’re looking for reasons not to hire you. So don’t give anybody a reason to say ‘but’.”

Amen to that. Every college coach should be preaching that to players who want to play in the NFL, and every high school coach should be preaching that to players who want to play in college. Plenty of guys who do stupid things aren’t misbehaving out of malice but out of stupidity or immaturity. Basic, simple advice like this will help the guys who mean well but need guidance and coaching both on and off the field to always make choices that reflect their true character.