Alabama vs. Clemson: The 2019 NFL Draft prospects you need to know in the 2019 National Championship Game
As you can probably imagine, this game is dripping with top prospects, including six likely first rounders.
I am so ready for Alabama vs. Clemson Part Four, and it's amazing it's the third iteration of this colossal matchup with a national title at stake in four years.
Well, not so much for the Crimson Tide, Nick Saban's empire that topped 247 Sports' recruiting rankings from 2010 to 2017. Clemson's become a powerhouse too, but most of its 2019 prospects are on the defensive side of the ball.
We're going game by game to let you know exactly who you should watch to get ready for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Jonah Williams, OT
If you've been following along this season, you're aware of my #DraftCrush on Williams, the most fundamentally sound blocker in the 2019 class. His punch timing is almost always perfect -- he's not overly anxious engaging defenders but doesn't let him get into his body. Beyond that, Williams' kick slide in pass-protection is very fast, and he's plenty strong enough when dealing with bull rushes. In the run game, he's keenly aware of his assignments on combo blocks, and his athleticism is on full display in the screen game. Nevermind he's 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds. Williams is the best tackle in this class. Inside counters did give him some problems during the regular season and against Oklahoma. He'll face the most difficult test of the season on Monday ... Clemson edge-rusher Clelin Ferrell, another first-round prospect.
Potential draft fits: Cardinals, Jets, Bills, Buccaneers, Broncos
Quinnen Williams, DT
Williams had an otherworldly season for the Crimson Tide after contributing as a part-time player in 2017. He's essentially unblockable because of his efficient hand work, point-of-attack power, and surprising acceleration off the football. Though only a redshirt sophomore, don't be surprised when Williams declares early for the draft and hears his name called in the top 10. He didn't load the stat sheet against Oklahoma but wrecked the early stages of that game with his get-off and hand work to frequently glide into the backfield.
Potential draft fits: Raiders, Buccaneers, Bills, Dolphins, Falcons
In what seems like a weak safety class, Thompson is the cream of the crop at the position thanks to his explosiveness and awareness. He's just as fast flying downhill when he reads run as he is ranging from center field to get his hands on the football. Like Quinnen, he was a rotational player a season ago but enjoyed a serious breakout year in 2018. Thompson should go in the first round if he declares. He had five tackles and a pass breakup that should've been an interception in the end zone against Oklahoma and will be tested against the aggressive downfield tendencies of Clemson's freshman phenom quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the national title game.
Potential draft fits: Packers, Panthers, Eagles, Seahawks
While not as dominant on the ground as you'd probably expect from an Alabama interior blocker because he isn't a tremendous athlete, Pierschbacher boasts strength against power-rushes and the awareness needed to thwart stunts, both of which help him thrive in pass protection. He could go somewhere in the middle of the draft and ultimately start as a rookie. He has experience playing guard too, which will help his draft stock. He had a good, not great game against Oklahoma but will see a much deeper and more talented defensive line on Monday against Clemson.
Potential draft fits: Giants, Bills, Redskins, Eagles, Texans
Raekwon Davis, DL
Stunningly overshadowed by Williams this season, Davis is still a high-caliber prospect on the defensive line. At around 6-6, Davis is a tall trench player but has demonstrated the ability to not get out-leveraged up front en route to disrupting the backfield. He has tentacles for arms and good athleticism for a prospect his size. Teams who want some two-gapping ability along with pass-rushing skills from their defensive linemen will be intrigued by Davis ... probably in the second or third round. He had a tackle and a sack in the convincing win over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
Potential draft fits: Cardinals, Jets, Packers, Steelers, Ravens
Damien Harris, RB
Harris has been a yards-after-contact monster over the past two seasons for Alabama, and he definitely didn't disappoint in his senior season after many believed he would've declared for the 2018 Draft. Harris is a boulder of a runner at 5-11 and 215 pounds but runs with outstanding hip fluidity and balance. Weak tackle attempts rarely faze him. He could be in the race to be the first running back selected in the 2019 Draft. While he only averaged 3.7 yards per carry against Oklahoma, he did score two touchdowns. He'll be the thunder to a smaller back's lightning in the NFL.
Potential draft fits: Raiders, Eagles, Bills, Panthers, Buccaneers, Falcons
Josh Jacobs, RB
While Harris has been the bell cow for a few seasons, Jacobs has come on strong of late and emerged as a serious running back prospect. He's carried the ball 109 times and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, including 181 yards on just 23 attempts in the SEC title game and Orange Bowl against Oklahoma combined. A compact, rocked-up ball-carrier with twitchy cutting ability and plenty of power, Jacobs should land late on Day 2 or early Day 3 to a team that wants physicality but also some elusiveness in its backfield.
Potential fits: Raiders, Eagles, Bills, Panthers, Buccaneers, Falcons
Irv Smith Jr., TE
Smith Jr. only has one year of legitimate production on his college resume, but the junior averaged over 17 yards per grab in 2018 mostly thanks to his smooth athleticism in space and deceptive speed down the field. Going in the second or third round is not out of the question for him. He had two grabs for 19 yards in the Orange Bowl.
Potential draft fits: Raiders, Jaguars, Lions, Bills, Patriots, Panthers, Titans
Isaiah Buggs, EDGE/DL
Listed at 6-5 and 286 pounds, Buggs performs how you'd expect from someone his size. He's a strong, power-rusher without much bend to the quarterback. He does have 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss on the season, but a good chunk of those came as a byproduct to sticky coverage or when the opposing signal-caller simply held the ball too long. For a team that asks its defensive line to two-gap instead of simply attacking upfield, Buggs will be on the mid-round radar.
Potential draft fits: Packers, Steelers, Ravens, Chiefs, Giants
Anfernee Jennings, EDGE
The 6-3, 266-pounder offers similar abilities to that of Buggs but provides a little more athleticism around the corner. While not a hand-work technician, Jennings is keenly aware of how to dispatch weaker blocking attempts for the run game, and he sets a strong edge. He'd be best utilized as a strong-side defensive end who'd instantly improve a club's run-stopping efforts and provide some pass-rush on occasion.
Potential draft fits: Cardinals, Giants, Lions, Titans, Colts, Ravens, Rams
Christian Miller, EDGE
Miller took a while to blossom at Alabama, and it took some injuries at his position for him to earn a full-time gig. But he certainly took advantage of the opportunity this season with eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss. At 6-4 and 244 pounds, Miller has a relatively lanky frame but uses his immensely long arms well and can convert speed to power. He's a high-motor edge-rusher too. While likely a mid-to-late-round pick, Miller is a prime candidate to outplay his draft stock due to his length and energy.
Potential draft fits: Bills, Lions, Titans, Patriots, Jets, Seahawks
Clelin Ferrell, EDGE
Ferrell totaled 11.5 sacks in 2018 and has been extremely productive in his career for the Tigers with 49 tackles for loss over the past three seasons. I went into the Cotton Bowl needing to see more efficient pass-rushing moves and bend to the quarterback for him to be the consensus EDGE2 behind Nick Bosa. He pieced together probably his best, most high-energy performance of the season.
Potential draft fits: Cardinals, 49ers, Jets, Giants, Lions, Packers
Wilkins suffered a down year in 2017 after emerging as a legitimate star during his sophomore campaign in 2016 which culminated in a Clemson national title. In 2018, the supremely athletic and versatile defensive lineman was asked to two-gap on occasion but was also leaned on as a pure pass-rusher, and he didn't disappoint carrying out either responsibility. While he doesn't have a easy-to-spot trump card, Wilkins' strength, burst, and advanced hand work will translate well to the NFL level. He should go somewhere in the middle of the first round.
Potential draft fits: Raiders, Buccaneers, Bills, Falcons, Browns
Hunter Renfrow, WR
Renfrow has been a security blanket for the Tigers for a long time -- ask Deshaun Watson. He's as sure-handed as they come and a master working out of the slot. He reads man or zone quickly, often adjusting his route appropriately to create separation for his quarterback. Renfrow's a plus athlete and sharp route-runner too. He's very NFL-ready as a slot receiver and should land somewhere in the middle to late portion of the draft and stick somewhere as a WR3 or WR4. Renfrow had four catches for 62 yards in the drubbing of Notre Dame.
Potential draft fits: Jets, Raiders, Dolphins, Lions, Packers
Austin Bryant, EDGE/DL
The forgotten man up front on Clemson's loaded defense line, Bryant doesn't have supreme athletic traits or a develop repertoire of pass-rushing moves to be consistent pressure-generator at the next level. He is however, very experienced dealing with the read-option and his long limbs help him not only set a strong edge but latch onto ball-carriers when he can't get close. His numbers are a bit inflated because of his teammates and the role he played, but Bryant does have 29.5 tackles for loss and 17 sacks over the past two seasons. He's a towering presence at 6-5 and 265 pounds.
Potential draft fits: Ravens, Patriots, Packers, Redskins, Jets, Titans
Trayvon Mullen, CB
At 6-2 and 190 pounds, Mullen's going to draw the attention of scouts because of his size and length alone. He's only defended six passes in the past two seasons (three in each), and while he's a plus athlete, he leans on his physical skills too often instead of probably technique. That leads to him being overly grabby down the field. He was called for a penalty against Notre Dame and finished the game with five tackles.
Potential draft fits: 49ers, Raiders, Titans, Dolphins, Steelers, Colts
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