ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Since Nick Saban arrived at Alabama in 2007, he's had five wide receivers drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.
That's the most of any school, and it's not particularly close. Clemson and Baylor rank second during that span with three receivers taken in the first round. No other university has more than two.
Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III joined the ranks of Julio Jones (sixth overall; 2011), Amari Cooper (fourth overall; 2015) and Calvin Ridley (26th overall; 2018) on Thursday, and Saban is as confident about Jeudy's ability to succeed in the NFL as any of those other players.
"I don't think there's any question that he'll have a lot of success in the NFL," Saban told Broncos TV's Matt Boyer. "… I don't like to compare players, but if you compare their output and their production here as a player, Jerry certainly in his own way and his own style was just as productive as any of those guys. Some of those guys were really good outside receivers, some of them were good slot guys. Jerry's kind of a combination of both, but I think he can really do his damage when he's playing in the slot.
"I think he's going to have a tremendous amount of success."
Jeudy certainly ranks among Alabama's all-time best receivers, as he has the second-most receiving touchdowns behind only Cooper. Two of Alabama's top five single-season receiving yardage marks also belong to Jeudy.
As a unanimous All-American and the Biletnikoff Award winner in 2018, Jeudy proved his ability while a member of the Crimson Tide. And because of Alabama's pro-style offense that's led by former NFL coordinator Steve Sarkisian, Jeudy should be able to make a quick transition.
"I think he understands how to get open," Saban said. "We've had some pretty good coaches around here. Sark's been a coordinator in the NFL for two years. We've always had guys that have a little bit more experience maybe relative to what it takes to play in the NFL, because of our NFL background. I think that really has enhanced our guys' development when it comes to readiness to play at the next level. I think Jerry's pretty accomplished in understanding how to run routes, how to get open and how you've got to pay attention to detail. One of his things when he was a younger player was he didn't have enough patience. He'd cut things short and all that. He kind of learned that's not the way to do it. Doing it correctly, having patience is the best way to get open. And he got very, very proficient at it."
Saban said Jeudy put work in at Alabama to evolve from a high school player with great speed into an effective, more physical player. At times, Alabama's coaching staff had to encourage Jeudy to take a break from the work.
"Well, we actually had to try to monitor his work outside of the work that we did so we wouldn't have over-use problems with him, which is not normal in a lot of cases," Saban said. "We'd have practice and he'd go in the weight room and work extra and do things and we said, 'You know, Jerry, this is not really the time of year that you need to sort of be doing all that stuff.'"
On the practice field, though, that work ethic helped turn him into a dominant player.
"He was always a good practice player and had a good attitude about things," Saban said. "He's smart. He's very instinctive playing the position. Great option-route runner. I think his greatest strength is he can drop his weight, get in and out of a break and accelerate. But he's also fast. There's a lot of guys that can do that but then maybe they're quicker than fast. He's quick but he's fast, and I think that's a lethal combination."
And as Jeudy departs Alabama with 159 catches, 2,742 yards and 26 touchdowns, he also leaves behind a legacy equal to the former first-round wideouts who have come through Tuscaloosa.
"He did a fabulous job for us," Saban said. "He was really, really productive. He's a hard worker. Really good guy to have in your organization."