Tonight, the college football season will come to an end when the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers meet at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara for the National Championship. The game between number one Alabama and number two Clemson 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 2019 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. Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams will long be off the board when the Patriots are on the clock as will be his teammate Deionte Thompson. Clemson’s outstanding edge defender Clelin Ferrell, meanwhile, is also expected to be out of New England’s range.
Let’s therefore take a look at five players to watch tonight, who might actually find themselves in New England when the draft is said and done.
Alabama DT Raekwon Davis
Depending on where they end up on the final draft board, the Patriots might have to trade up to get Davis. At 6’6, 300 lbs, the junior already displays outstanding technique and vision which would allow him to be productive in New England’s two-gap scheme. While his athletic ceiling might be lower than that of other interior linemen, Davis would be a pro-ready option to possibly succeed Malcom Brown and/or Danny Shelton.
Clemson DT Christian Wilkins
Primarily a three-technique penetrator, Wilkins is a versatile option along the defensive line that has the quickness and moving skills to challenge the blockers in front of him. An experienced player, the 6’4, 300 lbs senior would also projects well into a Patriots defense that might opt to move on from the aforementioned Brown and Shelton after the season comes to an end. Wilkins projects to go in the first round in April.
Alabama DE Anfernee Jennings
While not the most outstanding athlete, Jennings is a solid player that can set the edge in the running game, recognize plays quickly, and is a solid tackler. While he will need to work on his technique and playing speed in order to turn into a star at the next level, the projected day two selection could make for a solid complementary edge defender in the mold of the Patriots’ Deatrich Wise Jr. or John Simon.
Alabama LB Christian Miller
Miller is questionable to play tonight due to a hamstring injury, but will be ready to go once the draft process kicks into a higher gear. The 6’3, 240 lbs defender has primarily been used as an edge rusher at Alabama, but might lack the athleticism to go against offensive tackles on every down. Instead, he might see his role change a bit to become more of a Kyle Van Noy-type jack-of-all-trades linebacker at the next level.
Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence
A massive player at 6’4, 340 lbs, Lawrence has plenty of potential but has been inconsistent over the course of his career and has not yet lived up to his ceiling. While he may have to trim down a bit to compete in the NFL, his potential as an interior penetrator that can be successful against both the pass and the run certainly is intriguing. All in all, though, Lawrence is still a bit raw and would need some time in order to develop into an impact player at the next level.