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Alabama defensive back Landon Collins celebrates Saturday during their 25-20 win over Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama record-setting junior receiver Amari Cooper is forgoing his final season to enter the NFL draft, as are Crimson Tide running back T.J. Yeldon and safety Landon Collins.

ESPN was the first to report the departures Thursday afternoon. Alabama has scheduled a news conference for today at noon EST.

Cooper set a Southeastern Conference record this season with 124 receptions, set a school record with 1,727 yards and finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder from Miami just missed the SEC's single-season yardage mark of 1,740 set by LSU's Josh Reed in 2001.

Longtime ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper rates Cooper as the No. 3 overall player in the 2015 draft, while fellow ESPN analyst Todd McShay projects him going sixth to the New York Jets.

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Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper walks on the field during practice in Atlanta in this Dec. 5, 2014, file photo,

One NFL scouting director believes Cooper can have a similar impact as former Crimson Tide receiver Julio Jones, who went sixth overall to Atlanta in the 2011 draft.

"Amari is probably the best receiver in the country, and he's been extremely productive," the scout said. "He's very athletic, very fast and very explosive. Amari is going to take his game to another level like Julio did, because when Julio got to Atlanta, he took his game to a whole other level."

Yeldon was on pace to become the first in Alabama history to string together three 1,000-yard rushing seasons, but he was hobbled by injuries down the stretch and did not have much of an impact last Thursday night in the Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State. The 6-2, 221-pounder from Daphne, Ala., finished with 194 carries for 979 yards and with 15 receptions for 180 yards.

Kiper rates Yeldon as the No. 6 draft-eligible tailback.

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Alabama tailback T.J. Yeldon rushed 16 times for 75 yards and a touchdown against Mississippi State before sitting out last week's win over Western Carolina.

"He's like a lot of the backs who come out of Alabama and LSU," the scout said. "He hasn't had a huge year, but the talent is there. He has the size and the speed. He's got good feet and outstanding hands, and I think he'll go either late in the first round or early in the second.

"I would not be surprised to see him go late in the first."

Collins led the Crimson Tide with 102 tackles this season and tied for the team high with three interceptions. McShay projects the 6-foot, 222-pounder from Geismar, La., going ninth overall to the Chicago Bears, but the scout believes Collins won't get selected that high.

"Landon may be the best safety coming out, but I think he'll be a prominent second-round pick," the scout said. "He's a guy who could come in and play early. He's had a good year, but I don't think he's quite the athlete as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Mark Barron.

"Because of a lack of safeties this year, he will probably be the first one."

Clinton-Dix left Alabama early last January and was selected 21st overall by Green Bay.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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