The two best teams in the nation square off on Monday night, both undefeated at 14-0, as Alabama and Clemson meet in the College Football National Championship. Alabama has won by an average of 31.4 points this year, while Clemson won by an average margin of 30.6 points. This is “The Trilogy” for Nick Saban vs Dabo Swinney, as the face off in the championship once again, each winning one of their previous battles.
Since the inception of the College Football Playoffs in 2015, Saban is 55-3, Swinney is 54-4. During that span, these teams have combined to produce 59 draft selections and 15 first round picks. Get ready for this instant classic in the making, loaded with dozens or prospects on each team, whom will be playing football on Sundays.
Below is a look at the top draft-eligible prospects on each team, along with their current draft projections.
DT Quinnen Williams, rSO (6-3, 297, 4.96, #92, Day 1): His size, speed, strength and athleticism, along with his quickness off the ball, allow him to be a dominant run stuffer but also an effective pass-rusher. Williams shows sound technique with his hand placement and the athleticism necessary to split double teams. Another dominant performance would strengthen his case to be the potential number one pick in the draft.
OT Jonah Williams, JR (6-5, 301, 5.02, #73, Day 1): Expected to be the first offensive lineman off the board, Williams possesses the blend of length, strength and light feet to remain a blindside protector in the NFL. He does an excellent job of keeping his feet pounding through contact and sustaining his leg drive, as well as maintaining balance after collisions and against rips. Expect to hear his name called inside the top ten.
DE Raekwon Davis, JR (6-6, 303, 5.07, #99, Day 1): Big, strong and athletic, Davis is a lean, mean, backfield-disrupting machine who has been praised for his work ethic and competitive drive. His ability to create havoc from the interior or on the edge speaks to his extraordinary athleticism. He has been used in an array of ways, from run-stuffer to pass-rusher and will be valued as a first round commodity.
ILB Mack Wilson, JR (6-1, 231, 4.73, #30, Day 1): The quarterback of the Alabama defense, Wilson
possesses prototypical size and speed, takes excellent pursuit angles and does and phenomenal job fighting through the trash and shedding blockers. According to his mom, Wilson will be returning to Tuscaloosa for his senior season but there are plenty of NFL teams who’d be happy to make him a first round selection.
FS Deionte Thompson, rJR (6-1, 193, 4.55, #14, Day 1): When you talk about the prototypical safety in terms of size, speed, athleticism and physicality, Thompson checks off all the boxes. His range and ball skills make him an instant plug-and-play starter at the next level. It’ll be interesting to see how NFL teams view his pending assault charge stemming from a Texas incident in 2017, which was caught on video. His talent on the field certainly warrants a first round grade.
TE Irv Smith Jr, JR (6-3, 241, 4.70, #82, Day 2): An excellent route runner, Smith Jr. is able to gain yards after the catch, make defenders miss in open space and is an extremely dangerous weapon inside the red zone. He has put some impressive blocks on tape with good hand usage and the power to drive defenders, making him arguably the top overall tight end prospect in the nation and potential late first round pick.
DE Isaiah Buggs, SR (6-4, 292, 4.94, #49, Day 2): The JUCO transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast CC is relentless in his pursuit, constantly winds up around the football and possesses excellent size, while flashing his speed, strength and high motor. What Buggs may lack in quick-twitch explosiveness off the snap of the ball, he makes up for with power and tenacity. NFL teams will have him on their radar once round two begins.
RB Damien Harris, SR (5-10, 216, 4.55, #34, Day 2): A powerful running style combined with vision and cutback ability, make Harris one of the top runners in a weak draft crop this year. He fights through contact and bulldozes his way for extra yardage but his balance and burst might be two of his most desirable traits. He’s also a threat out of the backfield and showcases the speed necessary to gash defenses for big chunks of yardage. While not an elite back, he should hear his name called inside the top 100.
RB Josh Jacobs, JR (5-9, 216, 4.49, #8, Day 2): A do-it-all back who can burn opponents with the run or the catch, Jacobs possesses the strength to barrel over defenders, quickness and elusiveness to run around them and the burst to bust big time runs. He was absent during Alabama practice on Friday due to an “excused absence,” so that is one situation worth monitoring as we draw closer to game time. If he decides to declare for the draft, it wouldn’t be surprising if he were the first back chosen.
OLB Anfernee Jennings, JR (6-2, 265, 4.79, #33): After suffering one of the most gruesome leg injuries ever witnessed during the Sugar Bowl a year ago, Jennings rehabbed vigorously during the offseason and seems to be nearly back to full form. An athletic, smart, instinctive player who teammates feed off of, Jennings possesses a well-rounded skill-set but how he checks out medically could ultimately dictate where he is selected in the draft.
DE Clelin Ferrell, rJR (6-4, 260, 4.78, #99, Day 1): The Tigers wrecking ball on defense, Ferrell possesses the size, quickness and flexibility to be a consistent double-digit sack master at the next level. He owns a legitimate repertoire, beating tackles with speed, power and technique, alike. Former NFL general manager Scot McCloughan compared his combination of length and athleticism to Julius Peppers.
DT Dexter Lawrence, JR (6-3, 340, 5.27, #90, Day 1): One of three Clemson players who have been suspended for this contest, Lawrence tested positive for the banned substance ostarine, a topic that NFL teams will be sure to ask him about during combine interviews. On the field, Lawrence demonstrates great balance, excellent hand placement and keen instincts. He’s been timed in the 4.9-range at 340-plus pounds and has just 18% body fat. He also recorded 32 bench press reps of 225 as a freshman.
DT Christian Wilkins, SR (6-3, 300, 5.04, #42, Day 1): A rare athletic specimen at 320 pounds, Wilkins is able to do backflips, splits and dunk a basketball with ease. He can dominate with physicality or finesse, possessing ultra-quick hands and can beat opponents with his strength or agility, which includes an excellent dip move. He’s a highly competitive player on the field and a leader who players gravitate towards in the locker room.
CB Trayvon Mullen, JR (6-1, 190, 4.49, #1): A long, quick corner, Mullen possesses great recovery speed, which allows him to play one-on-one man coverage with just about anyone. A great athlete, he has a true nose for the football and can be an effective return man on special teams at the next level. His size, athleticism and speed (was reportedly timed at 4.37 in high school) make him a potential CB1 at the next level and projected first round pick.
DE Austin Bryant, SR (6-4, 265, 4.78, #7, Day 2): The under heralded Bryant generates great push, shows the ability to fight through the trash and make plays in the trenches. While not quite as explosive as some of his Clemson line mates, which causes him to be a bit late to the spot at times, he’s relentless in pursuit and demonstrates a high motor. Probably best-suited as a 3-4 end in the NFL, he carries a solid mid-round draft grade.
ILB Tre Lamar, JR (6-2, 255, 4.72, #57, Day 2): A big, strong, explosive linebacker, Lamar possesses prototypical size, along with great athleticism and strength. His tenacious style of play fuels the Tigers defensive unit, as he plays physical and confident. Lamar has made a conscious effort to improve his pass coverage and prove that he can remain healthy this season (he missed the final four games of 2017 due to a shoulder injury).
OT Mitch Hyatt, SR (6-5, 305, 5.08, #75, Day 2): The three-time First Team All-ACC selection shows impressive speed for his size and is very efficient in space when seeking out secondary defenders. Hyatt is highly athletic and excels in pass protection, possesses a fundamentally sound kick slide. He also has great bend, which shows up on film when engaging pass rushers. Hyatt can stand to bulk up a bit, as he’s currently more of a finesse blocker.
WR Hunter Renfrow, rSR (5-10, 180, 4.54, #13, Day 3): At first glance, you would never guess that the undersized, former walk-on wide out was a football player but Renfrow has continued to prove doubters wrong with his big plays and clutch performances. He runs sharp routes, as he’s able to pivot and change directions quickly, which enables him to create separation. Renfrow can help boost an offense as an effective slot weapon at the next level.
OLB Kendall Joseph, rSR (5-11, 235, 4.78, #34, Day 3): When Dabo Swinney goes on record and calls you as good of a linebacker that he has ever coached, draft observers take note. The smart, instinctive, weakside backer is an excellent forum tackler in the open field and takes good closing angles in pursuit. While he lacks prototypical size, Joseph possesses the skill-set and versatility to play MIKE or WILL at the next level.
DT Albert Huggins, SR (6-2, 305, 5.12, #67, Day 3): It just goes to show how tremendously deep and talented the Tigers defensive line is, as they have backup players who possess NFL traits. Huggins, who is a stout force and space eater, holds his ground well and wins the leverage battle on most occasions in the trenches. He’ll fill-in for the aforementioned Lawrence and will have the opportunity to flash his athleticism and strength (can bench press over 500 pounds), which makes him a strong late round candidate.
*Be sure to check back for exclusive, on-location draft coverage from the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl with NFL Draft Scout analyst Ric Serritella!