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ORLANDO, Fla. — Dylan Moses’ surprise announcement of his impending return to Alabama sent the Crimson Tide fan base into a New Year’s Eve tizzy a day early.

Moses, who missed the 2019 season while recovering from a preseason ACL injury, became the first of the Crimson Tide’s nine draft-eligible juniors to confirm his 2020 intentions when he announced he'll stay at Alabama instead of making himself eligible for the NFL draft.

“In Dylan's case, it was because of his injury — how is that going to affect his draft status,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said Tuesday at a Citrus Bowl news conference. “He didn't play all year long this year, so, he can create value by coming back. And we certainly have to, as an institution and an organization, make him feel comfort relative to how we insure him in what he can do so that, hopefully, he's not going to have these kind of problems in the future and he'll be able to improve his draft status.”

Saban confirmed the team received early draft evaluations from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee for all nine of its draft-able juniors, including running back Najee Harris; receivers Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith; offensive tackles Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills Jr.; safety Xavier McKinney; and injured quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (hip), who’s also hinted at his own willingness to return despite a potential high draft grade.

Saban also explained his understanding behind Moses’ decision-making process, pointing to the linebacker’s competitiveness and desire to leave Tuscaloosa with a championship legacy.

“I think that the big thing with Dylan was he wanted to be a part of the team. He wanted to be a leader of the team,” Saban said. “He wanted to come back and play well for Alabama, and that was probably the deciding factor for him. ... He's a good person and a good leader and he can make a significant impact on making us better next year.”

How many of the other juniors opt to follow Moses’ lead is to be determined but a few more surprises certainly could be on the table, even if the other draft-eligible juniors have remained rather mum on the topic.

When asked if the Citrus Bowl could be his last game in an Alabama uniform, junior receiver Henry Ruggs III deflected: “It’s the last game of this season. That’s all I can say.”

Wills, widely projected as a top-three offensive tackle in this year’s draft, seemed to hint at which direction he was leaning, as he explained his decision to play in Wednesday’s Citrus Bowl following Saturday’s practice, regardless of where he might be picked.

“I’d still play just because (I want) to be there for my brothers and play for the last time in an Alabama uniform,” Wills said.

As he does most years, Saban uses his own NFL contacts to get a general assessment for where teams are currently rating his players on their draft boards to provide his draft-eligible juniors the most relevant information in which to make their decisions.

“Our job is to give them the correct information so that they can make good decisions based on the reality of their status. And, you know, we gave them that information,” Saban said. “Some guys have first round grades — I'm not going to tell you they don't. Everybody's got to make a decision about what's best for their future … because there's a lot of misinformation out there, whether it's mock drafts or who is the evaluator, and what we try to do is make sure we get the information from the actual people who draft.”

During his pre-Citrus Bowl radio show Monday night in Orlando, Saban revealed that only one of his nine draft-eligible juniors received a consensus top-15 grade from the NFL teams he spoke to, and hinted that player was Tagovailoa. This comes despite most reputable online mock drafts featuring anywhere from six to eight Crimson Tide players projected to go in the first round, including as many as four (usually Tagovailoa, Jeudy, Ruggs and Wills) of those in the top 15.

“I told the players, I said, ‘Look, if you’re a top-15 pick in the draft, aight, it’s a lot of money. I can understand why you wouldn’t want to play in the bowl game. But if you’re not, it’s an opportunity for you to showcase your talents in terms of being able to move up in the draft,’” Saban recalled Monday from the team hotel. “And I said, ‘We only have one guy that has that high of a grade, and he’s not going to play in the game because he’s injured. And that injury may affect his grade, unfortunately, for him right now, aight.’ … So, everybody can benefit from playing in the game. I’ve been really pleased with the response of all the guys, and they’ve had a really good attitude about it, as well.”

Eligible underclassmen have until Jan. 20 to declare for the NFL draft, so there’s still three weeks remaining for Alabama’s junior contingent to make their decisions known.

Alex Byington is the Montgomery Advertiser's Alabama beat reporter. He can be reached by email at abyington@montgome.gannett.com or on Twitter at @_AlexByington.

This article originally ran on annistonstar.com.

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