Alabama coach Nick Saban told reporters he is cautioning his juniors to consider the NFL's uncertain labor situation when determining if they will enter the 2011 NFL draft.
Among the Crimson Tide players who are potential early entries are defensive end Marcell Dareus, running back Mark Ingram, wide receiver Julio Jones, safety Mark Barron and linebacker Dont'a Hightower.
"This year is different," Saban said Monday. "With the labor situation and the strike [potentially] coming up, it could really affect how much a guy could develop this year if there is no minicamp, there is no training camp. It will be much more difficult for guys to learn the system and make an impact."
Saban said he typically supports players who are projected first-round selections entering the draft, but this year he has scaled that back to the top 15, due to the labor uncertainty.
Some agents who represent NFL players are taking a different tact, however. One prominent sports agent who represents players said he's advising juniors to enter the draft as soon as possible because of the possibility of a rookie wage scale that could limit players' earnings in the first few years of their careers.
"I tell them, 'You need to get into the system as quickly as possible,'" the agent said. "'You'll need to get to that second contract as soon as you can.'"
Both the NFL and the NFL Players Association have discussed changes to rookie wages.
Joe Schad is a national college football reporter for ESPN.