As we turn our attention to draft season, there is still one more game left in the 2017 college football season.
The 2018 College Football Playoffs National Championship Game features two SEC teams that consistently recruit among the elite in the entire nation: The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs. In fact, according to the 247Sports Talent Composite, Alabama (18 five-star prospects on its roster) is the nation’s best team and Georgia (11 five-stars) is the nation’s fourth best team in terms of overall talent.
While the headlines are centered around Nick Saban, perhaps the sport’s greatest coach, and Kirby Smart, Saban’s former understudy, there is obviously no shortage of talent. The Tide features first-round prospects such as Minkah Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley, and Daron Payne, while Georgia presents stud linebacker Roquan Smith and one of the best one-two punches in college football history in senior running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
Needless to say, there will absolutely be no shortage of talent on the field in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday Night.
With that said, who should Cowboys fans keep an eye on during the game? With the Cowboys holding the 19th selection of the 2018 NFL Draft, there are many ways the team can go: stay put and select the BPA, trade up for a player that they do not want to miss out on, or trade down for more picks later in the draft. Team needs include, but may not be limited to, defensive tackle, wide receiver, linebacker, and offensive line.
Without further ado, here are the draft-eligible players that Cowboys fans should look for tonight.
Roquan Smith, LB (BTB Player Profile)
Size: 6-foot-1, 225
Roquan Smith might be the best linebacker prospect in the entire 2018 class. The consensus first team All-American took home the Butkus Award, given to college football’s best linebacker, and he anchors one of the best defensive units in the sport.
With tonight’s championship game left to play, Smith has recorded 124 total tackles (76 solo), 11.5 TFLs, and 5.5 sacks. He has also forced one fumble, recovered two fumbles, and defended two passes. He is responsible for getting his defensive teammates lined up in the correct position and is the leader of the reigning SEC Champions. The Georgia Bulldogs simply go as Smith goes (sound familiar?).
Smith will likely be taken in the 10-20 range.
Lorenzo Carter, EDGE
Size: 6-foot-6, 243
Lorenzo Carter is considered to be one of the top EDGE rushing talents in this upcoming draft class, but Georgia fans will remember him for one of the greatest plays in the program’s history.
In last week’s legendary Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day, the Bulldogs were in a back-and-forth game for the ages against Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners. The game was locked up at 48 in double overtime when the Sooners attempted a chip-shot field goal to take the lead. Lorenzo Carter had other plans.
Play of the game...Lorenzo Carter gets the FG block. Mayhem ensues!!! pic.twitter.com/XgvsBpYjuB— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) January 2, 2018
Now, Carter will attempt to help his team win the National Championship. The senior defensive end totaled 58 total tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and the blocked field goal above. Expect his name to be called either late in the first-round or early on day-two this April.
Nick Chubb, RB
Size: 5-foot-10, 225
Nick Chubb will go down as one of the best running backs in Georgia history. The senior tailback is second to only Hershel Walker in the Georgia record books for career rushing, with 4,744 yards on the ground and counting.
Chubb has had to battle injuries, as well as share the spotlight and the ball, throughout his career, but he remains as one of college football’s best. The All-SEC performer has carried the rock 205 times for 1,320 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging over six yards per carry.
Chubb will more than likely be a day-two selection.
Sony Michel, RB
Size: 5-foot-11, 215
Much like Chubb, Sony Michel is one of college football’s best backs. Chubb is the team’s primary starter, but Michel gets his fair-share of touches: running the ball 142 times for 1,129 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. He and Chubb are one of the best running back duos in the history of the sport. Take a look for yourself:
Michel will likely be drafted in the 3-4 round range.
Davin Bellamy, EDGE
Size: 6-foot-5, 245
Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter get most of the hype on Georgia’s vaunted defense, but Davin Bellamy has had quite the season for the Bulldogs in 2017. He has emerged as a guy that can get to the quarterback and is a big reason why Georgia is playing for their first championship since Hershel’s freshman season in Athens.
In 2017, Bellamy has recorded 31 total tackles, six TFLs, and three sacks. He also forced two fumbles and defended three passes. He will be a big factor in whether or not UGA’s defense can get off the field against ‘Bama this evening.
Bellamy will likely be a day-three selection.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB
Size: 6-foot-1, 220
Minkah Fitzpatrick is arguably the best player on the defensive side of the ball in all of college football. The do-it-all athlete has the ability to play all over Nick Saban’s defense in Tuscaloosa. He can defend receivers in man coverage, but can also come up in the box and play the run. He’s verstaility and playmaking skills from the defensive backfield makes Fitzpatrick one of the best players in this entire draft class; unfortunately, for Cowboys fans, he will likely hear his name called in the 5-10 range this April. Still, though, he is definitely worth watching tonight.
Calvin Ridley, WR (BTB Player Profile)
Size: 6-foot-1, 190
Calvin Ridley has built the case to be considered the draft’s top wide receiver prospect. The 6-foot-1, 190 pound junior wideout has been the Tide’s best wide receiver for each of the past two seasons. The South Florida native is quarterback Jalen Hurts’ favorite target and is a good bet to make an explosive play at least once in any given game (as a Mississippi State fan, I know that first hand).
In 2017, Ridley has caught 59 passes for 935 yards and four touchdowns, averaging a career best 15.8 yards per reception. While Ridley didn’t score a touchdown against my Bulldogs, he broke the game open more than once in one of the Tide’s most competitive contests of the season — grabbing five balls for 171 yards, averaging out to over 34 yards per reception.
Ridley is a big-play threat, and he should be on the top of the Cowboys’ wide receivers board. Make sure to keep your eyes on number 3 in the big game.
Daron Payne, DT (BTB Player Profile)
Size: 6-foot-2, 308
Daron Payne has seen his draft stock sky rocket over the course of his junior season. The big-bodied defensive tackle is used to close up the middle for one of the best defensive units in all of college football. Payne, all 6-foot-2 and 308 pounds of him, was the Crimson Tide’s MVP in the semifinal game against the Clemson Tigers — being the driving force of shutting down Clemson’s run game, intercepting a deflected pass, and even catching a touchdown pass!
Oh, just 308-pound defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne catching a touchdown. Look at the footwork! pic.twitter.com/hlkr5mTNVW— SEC Country Alabama (@SECCountryBama) January 2, 2018
Daron Payne will be a first-round selection.
Ronnie Harrison, S (BTB Player Profile)
Size: 6-foot-3, 214
Harrison could potentially be the fourth player from Alabama drafted in the 2018 first-round.
From our BTB player profile:
Ronnie Harrison is among the best defensive back prospects for the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft. The safety is one of the more important and valuable players one of the best teams in America. Harrison’s ability to roam the secondary and also defend the run makes him one of the more intriguing prospects in this class. There will be many teams wanting to add the Alabama safety to their franchise come February.
Harrison has recorded 68 total tackles through 12 games this season, 39 of which were solo. The safety has also added 3.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and is credited with a career-high 2.5 sacks this season. The defensive back has also deflected three passes and has come down with a whopping three interceptions with potentially two more games to go.
Harrison is currently 23rd on Todd McShay’s big board.
Anthony Averett, CB
Size: 6-foot, 185
Anthony Averett has had an impressive senior campaign that has led to his name rising on draft boards and mock drafts. The former four-star prospect and current All-SEC performer played in 13 games for the Crimson Tide, recording 42 total tackles, 2 TFLs, and an interception in 2017.
Averett suffered a freak injury prior to the semifinal game, but he did make two tackles to help his team reach the title game.
Rece Davis just said on College GameDay that #Alabama CB Anthony Averett stepped into a hole getting off the bus in New Orleans and sprained his ankle.— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) January 1, 2018
“They hope he’s going to be OK.”
Averett is 40th on McShay’s big board.
Rashaan Evans, LB
Size: 6-foot-3, 234
Rashaan Evans arrived to Tuscaloosa, like many of their players, as a highly-regarded recruit coming out of high school; however, the Auburn, Alabama, native was previously committed to the Auburn Tigers and even got a tattoo of the Tide’s arch-rival before eventually inking with the Tide.
Evans has been an impactful player for Nick Saban’s squad during his career in Crimson and White. He has 66 total tackles (31 solo), 11.5 TFLs, and six sacks in 2017. He is currently 34th on McShay’s board and will be tasked with slowing down the duo of Chubb and Michel.
Damien Harris, RB
Size: 5-foot-11, 211
Running back is one position where Saban and Alabama never have any shortage of talent. Just look around the league: Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Eddie Lacy, and T.J. Yeldon are all Tide products. Even New Orleans Saints’ star rookie Alvin Kamara once wore Crimson.
Damien Harris looks to be the next in line. In a crowded backfield splitting carries with Bo Scarbrough, freshman Najee Harris, and quarterback Jalen Hurts, Harris has rushed for 983 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017.
Expect Harris to be selected within the first two days of the upcoming draft.