Draft Prospect Outlook:
Chiseled defensive tackle who thrives as block-shedding two-gapper. Super strong. Has mastered the technique. Flashed pass-rushing ability with quickness and hand use. Only 20 years old.
Payne, a former five-star recruit from Birmingham, Alabama, saw the field very early in his Alabama career, despite several eventual NFL draft picks already on the Crimson Tide’s roster. He didn’t fill up the box score as a true freshman – or really throughout his 3-year tenure in Tuscaloosa – but Payne’s ability to draw double teams and ultimately give his teammates opportunities to make plays in the backfield is what made him a valuable asset to Alabama’s defense as a true freshman in 2015 and sophomore a season ago. But his role increased each year.
As a junior this past season, Payne no longer had players like Jonathan Allen, Jarran Reed or A’Shawn Robinson to rely on when he needed advice. The weight room warrior found himself as the leader of the defensive line and player the inexperienced players around him looked to for guidance. While he adjusted to that responsibility, Payne continued to be a force at defensive tackle and nose guard. He was named Defensive MVP in Alabama’s pair of playoff games and even scored a receiving touchdown out of a jumbo package in the Sugar Bowl. Known for his strength, Payne should test well in the bench press ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft. - Charlie Potter, BamaOnLine