National championship: Christian Wilkins and other prospects whose draft stock changed in Alabama-Clemson title game
Given the competition, the senior defensive tackle's last college game was his best one in a Clemson uniform
Amazingly, for the second-straight year, freshmen stole the headlines in the College Football Playoff title game, but a handful of future 2019 NFL Draft picks made an impact on Clemson's convincing over Alabama.
No one went from undrafted free-agent to second-rounder or vice versa.
However, in a contest of that magnitude, with droves of NFL talent on the field, scouts will spend extra time on the individual performances in the national title game, and yes, draft stocks were impacted. Let's examine which prospects boosted their stock, and whose stock took a hit.
Wilkins was the best defensive player on the field in a game loaded with early-round prospects. And while he'd played much better in 2018 than 2017 heading into this game, the senior saved his finest outing for the grandest stage. He finished with four tackles, a half sack, and a tackle for loss, but especially in the second half, he got consistent pressure on Tua Tagovailoa and was a monster against the run. As usual, he scraped well down the line of scrimmage on run plays away from him, got off blocks quickly, and his athleticism helped him get into the backfield in a hurry. The senior is an older prospect but is as well-rounded as they come at the position.
Clelin Ferrell, EDGE
Ferrell didn't dominate his heavyweight battle against Alabama's brick-wall of a left tackle Jonah Williams, but he undoubtedly punctured holes in that wall throughout the game. Ferrell's length, twitchiness, and especially his athletic fluidity on inside moves and stunts stood out and led to disruptive plays. At 6-5 and 260 pounds, Ferrell is a freaky specimen, and his long arms gave the entire Alabama offensive line issues all night. He had four tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year needed a big performance to stay in contention to be the second edge-rusher off the board after Nick Bosa, and he did just that. Oh, and Ferrell doesn't turn 22 until May.
Trayvon Mullen, CB
Mullen had a pick and sack against the Crimson Tide, and he made a big tackle early in the second half in the red zone on a crossing route. The 6-2, 190-pounder stayed in the hip pocket of Alabama's young but talented receivers, particularly after halftime. The interception was Mullen's first of the season. While he doesn't have loads of production, with just six pass breakups over the last two years before this game, after his strong showing against one of the most explosive passing attacks in the country, with an impressive performance at the combine, Mullen could be on the first-round radar.
It was really difficult to find a Clemson prospect who hurt himself draft-wise in the throttling of Alabama.
Irv Smith Jr., TE
Smith had three receptions in the first quarter, two of which showcased his smooth athleticism before and after the catch. The 6-4, 241-pounder had his last snag of the game on the first drive of the third quarter on a bootleg, and he was able to smoothly cut back against the grain while making a defender miss to get extra yardage. For an outing with just 43 receiving yards, Smith boosted his stock a bit and is a key member of what's become a strong tight end class.
Quinnen Williams, DT
Against Clemson, Williams didn't have a vintage performance -- based on what he showed this season -- but he was the most disruptive Alabama defender on the field in the blowout loss. He was exceptionally quick off the ball, flashed his swim move, and pressured Trevor Lawrence, mostly early in the game. And, he faced a ton of double teams. No, Williams' stock couldn't improve much after a remarkable season. He did help himself though -- albeit slightly -- against Clemson.
Raekwon Davis, DL
Davis was invisible in the title game, against a Clemson offensive without a top draft prospect. The tall interior defensive lineman played high and was erased as a pass-rusher, unable to generate consistent push on the inside. And he was a non-factor in the Crimson Tide's run-stopping efforts, often getting washed down the line of scrimmage. For a 6-6ish, 317-pound prospect, Davis must be very active and powerful with his hands to keep blockers off his frame. He wasn't against Clemson.
Pierschbacher put a handful of quality run-blocking reps on tape against Clemson, but his lack of athleticism and power were evident for a large portion of the evening against Wilkins and Co. For a pivot who has relied on his linear movement ability, technique, and anchoring skills, Pierschbacher's stock dipped in the national title game defeat.
Isaiah Buggs, EDGE
The 6-5, 286-pound defensive end was not able to utilize his power to his advantage against either Clemson offensive tackle with any regularity, and at times, he failed to set a sturdy edge against the run. Buggs wasn't considered a top-tier prospect before the national championship, but he hurt his stock because of his stiffness and lack of explosion.
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