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Ranking the Ten Best Prospects in the National Championship Game

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Georgia vs Auburn Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The final reckoning of the 2017-2018 college football season is upon us. After months of competition and an exciting bowl season, the National Championship between Alabama and Georgia is here. Naturally, as two great teams square off, there will be a tremendous amount of talent on the field at any given moment. With so many future top fifty picks on the field; here are the ten best players that will be featured tonight.

10. Da’Ron Payne, Defensive Tackle, Alabama: After a flashy playoff game against Clemson where he picked off a pass and caught a goal-line touchdown, Da’Ron Payne got some box score payoff for his gritty season for the Tide. Payne is not a stat-stuffer, but the 300 pound lineman plays an important role in eating space against the run and freeing up blockers for other pass rushers. Payne is going to be the centerpiece of Alabama’s effort to stop Georgia’s amazing run game.

9. Dominik Sanders, Safety, Georgia: Georgia’s defense is a star-studded group Dominik Sanders has been a steady part of the unit for years now. With 52 starts in his career, Sanders has a massive amount of experience and has tied the school’s career interception record (16) in that time. Not only is he a playmaker in coverage, the 200 pounder is a hard hitter and willing run defender. Against Alabama’s dynamic offense, it will be fun to see how Sanders leads the secondary.

8. Rashaan Evans, Linebacker, Alabama: Every year it feels like Alabama has another stud linebacker. This year, the 6’3”, 234 pound Evans stands out as the leader in the middle of the Alabama defense. Evans is a heavy hitting, downhill player who makes an impact against the run and the pass as a blitzer. He is aggressive in coverage, but that is hardly the strongest part of his game. Luckily, Georgia likes to run the ball a lot and Evans will have a nice opportunity for a big game.

7. Anthony Averett, Cornerback, Alabama: Alabama’s secondary is filled with NFL prospects and Anthony Averett is among the better players in the group. The six foot senior is a physical player in coverage and against the run. He is a decent athlete, but wins with technique and physicality. Averett will be tested tonight as a pass and run defender so how he responds will be important for the Tide.

6. Sony Michel, Running Back, Georgia: Sony Michel is coming off an enormous Rose Bowl where he scored four total touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime. Michel is a do it all back who can make plays in the run or passing game. He is an offensive weapon and Georgia will likely get him heavily involved all over the field today to give them big plays.

5. Damien Harris, Running Back, Alabama: Damien Harris gets relatively little press considering he is the lead running back on a National Championship Alabama team. However, it is a huge year for running backs, so it makes a little sense why Harris has flown under the radar this year. He is a complete back that has power, speed and agility. Harris hasn’t seen an “Alabama Workload” like many of his predecessors because his quarterback can run, but he definitely has NFL lead back potential. Alabama will want to run the ball a lot tonight and this is a huge stage for Harris to dominate in his final game in college.

4. Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver, Alabama: It feels like Calvin Ridley has been with Alabama for 10 years now. At 23 years old, it wouldn’t surprise me if he really was there for that long. As an older prospect; Ridley is incredibly athletic and technically advanced for the college game. He looks like a pro player in part because he is the same age as a lot of pros. Anyway, he is a dangerous college player and is by far Alabama’s biggest weapon in the passing game. While he does not see as many targets as other star receivers in college; he is able to shine with the limited workload he is given. Against a very stingy Georgia secondary; how will Calvin Ridley fare?

3. Nick Chubb, Running Back, Georgia: One of my favorite players in college football; Nick Chubb has overcome a lot to get to this point. After suffering a brutal knee injury during his Sophomore season, Chubb has battled back and seemingly has gotten healthier and stronger with every carry. On only 205 carries this year, Chubb has rushed for over 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns (a career high) this year. Chubb is the main cog in the Georgia offense and has been a major role player during his four year career. Chubb will see a heavy workload tonight and how he plays will dictate Georgia’s success.

2. Roquan Smith, Linebacker, Georgia: Roquan Smith has turned in one of the most dominant linebacker seasons in recent memory. Not only is he a dominant run defender; but his speed is valuable on passing downs in coverage and as a pass rusher. Despite being a smaller player, he remains incredibly physical. Smith will be vital in Georgia’s effort to beat the Tide.

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Defensive Back, Alabama: It is pretty crazy to think that arguably the two best defenders in this year’s draft will be playing in this game. Fitzpatrick has experience playing every position in the secondary and frankly it is hard to distinguish if he is better at cornerback or safety. He is a complete defender who defends the pass and run equally well. Against Georgia; Fitzpatrick will be all over the field and playing such a balanced offense will be the perfect showcase of his well rounded game before he is off to the NFL.

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