Later today, the college football season will come to an end when the Georgia Bulldogs play the Alabama Crimson Tide for the National Championship. The game between number three Georgia and number four Alabama will feature some of the best players in the country, which in turn means that NFL teams will take a close look at potential prospects to add via the 2018 NFL draft.
Of course, not all of those players are realistic targets for the New England Patriots, who again will pick late in each round. Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith or Alabama safety Mikah Fitzpatrick project to be long gone before the Patriots are first on the clock. Others such as Crimson Tide interior offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman will likely not be on the team’s radar as the spots they would take are already in the safe hands of players on the roster.
Let us therefore take a look at five players to watch tonight, who might actually find themselves in New England four months from now.
Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne
When not intercepting passes and catching goal-line touchdowns in a playoff game against Clemson, Da’Ron Payne is a big bodied interior defender at the heart of Alabama’s defensive line. An excellent run stuffer, the 6’2, 310 lbs Payne is an exceptional athlete for his size and has shown an ability to create space for the linebackers behind him. He might be an intriguing day two option for New England as the potential replacement for veteran Alan Branch.
Georgia RB Sony Michel
One half of the Bulldogs’ dynamic backfield duo, Sony Michel is a lower-upside option as a runner when compared to Nick Chubb, but offers a bit more in the passing game. Michel is a sound route runner and a solid pass protector and despite not producing spectacular stats as a pass catcher has the makings of a good all-around back at the next level. As such, he might be on the Patriots’ radar in case the team loses one or both Dion Lewis and/or Rex Burkhead in free agency.
Alabama LB Rashaan Evans
A versatile linebacker, Rashaan Evans has experience in rushing the passer, setting the edge against the run and dropping back into coverage. The 6’3, 230 lbs defender is the latest product of Alabama’s linebacker factory and looks a lot like former Crimson Tide defender Dont’a Hightower. And as was the case with Hightower six years ago, it would not be a surprise to see Evans end up in New England to add depth and starting potential to the middle of the defense.
Alabama SS Ronnie Harrison
The Patriots have a solid core at the safety position but might need to add depth behind strong safety Patrick Chung. Enter Ronnie Harrison, a 6’3, 215 lbs defensive back who has experience lining up deep, covering opposing tight ends or running backs and playing downhill in the running game. While he needs to get more consistent especially against the run, Harrison looks like a potential upgrade for Jordan Richards on both defense and special teams.
Georgia LB Davin Bellamy
Projected as a day-three selection at this point in time, Davin Bellamy offers an intriguing but raw skill set on the defensive edge. The 6’5, 245 lbs outside linebacker has been used both as a pass rusher, against the run, and in coverage. This versatility and experience might be worth taking a late-round flier on him from New England’s perspective.
The National Championship Game between Georgia and Alabama starts at 8:00 p.m. ET and will air on ESPN.