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College Football Playoff: 10 NFL prospects to watch during the national championship game

Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick warms up before

Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick warms up before the Sugar Bowl against Clemson in New Orleans on Jan. 1, 2018. Credit: AP / Butch Dill

The College Football Playoff national championship game on Monday night between Georgia and Alabama will have plenty of NFL-caliber talent on display. Here’s a look at some of the top draft-eligible prospects to watch in the national title game:

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Defensive back, Alabama, Jr.

Fitzpatrick is as versatile as they come. The 6-1, 202-pounder played all over Alabama’s secondary this season, seeing time at both safety spots and cornerback. He has great ball skills and range from the safety spot and can play both man and zone as a corner. Look for Alabama to move him around the field to try to confuse Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm.

Roquan Smith, Linebacker, Georgia, Jr.

Smith was the star of the Bulldogs’ semifinal win over Oklahoma with 11 total tackles (including a game-saving stop on third-and-2 in double overtime), but he made a name for himself as a draft prospect long before then. The 6-1, 225-pounder has incredible sideline-to-sideline range, the instincts to diagnose plays and the tackling ability to finish them. If he declares, he’d by far be the best off-ball linebacker prospect in the class.

Calvin Ridley, Wide receiver, Alabama, Jr.

Alabama is known for its running game, but Ridley has been a key part of Alabama’s passing attack since arriving at Tuscaloosa in 2015. He has good size at 6-1, 190 pounds and has a great mix of speed, hands and route-running ability. He’s a little on the older side for a junior (he turned 23 in December), so he’ll need to show at the next level that he hasn’t already peaked.

Nick Chubb, Running back, Georgia, Sr.

Chubb led Georgia’s two-headed rushing attack this season with 205 carries for 1,320 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. He burst onto the scene as a freshman, when he replaced a suspended Todd Gurley and rushed for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns, but then suffered a devastating knee injury midway through his sophomore year and didn’t truly return to form until this year. At 5-10, 225-pounds, he’s a bruiser with the power to drive through defenders and break tackles.

Sony Michel, Running back, Georgia, Sr.

If Chubb is the “thunder” in Georgia’s backfield, Michel is the “lightning.” The 5-11, 215-pounder scored a team-high 17 touchdowns (16 rushing, one receiving) this season, including three rushing scores (one of them the game-winner in double overtime) against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. Michel is a versatile, three-down ballcarrier who has a great mix of speed, vision, elusiveness and hands out of the backfield.

Rashaan Evans, Linebacker, Alabama, Sr.

Evans stepped in at middle linebacker in 2017 after Reuben Foster left for the NFL. Like Foster, Evans could hear his name called in the first round. The 6-3, 234-pounder played rush end before moving inside, so he has the sideline-to-sideline speed as well as the size and physicality downhill to stop run plays in the backfield.

Da’Ron Payne, Defensive lineman, Alabama, Jr.

Alabama seems to churn out top defensive linemen each draft. This year, it’s Payne, the Crimson Tide’s 6-2, 304-pound nose tackle. Payne won’t light up the stat sheets (three sacks in three seasons), but he’ll do the dirty work in the trenches by helping to clog running lanes. He was a big reason why Alabama had the nation’s best run defense this season.

Ronnie Harrison, Safety, Alabama, Jr.

Harrison is one of college football’s most physical safeties. His size (6-3, 214 pounds) gives him an advantage when playing up in run support, yet he also has the ball skills (seven career interceptions) to patrol centerfield. He’ll be a key part of Alabama’s attempt to shut down Georgia’s rushing attack and projects as a thumping strong safety in the NFL.

Lorenzo Carter, Edge rusher, Georgia, Sr.

While Roquan Smith gets all the attention on Georgia’s defense, Carter also has been an impact player for the Bulldogs. He has 14 career sacks, including 4 ½ this season. At 6-6, 243 pounds, he’s a lot like former Georgia edge rusher and Bears first-rounder Leonard Floyd — both are raw, lengthy speed-rushers who make up for their lack of bulk with great explosion off the snap.

Isaiah Wynn, Guard, Georgia, Sr.

Someone has to open up running lanes for Georgia’s eighth-ranked rushing offense. Wynn is the Bulldogs’ left tackle, but at 6-2, 302 pounds, he may need to move inside to guard or center in the NFL (though he played at left guard in 2016). He might not be a first-rounder, but he could become a useful run-blocker at the next level thanks to his strength and physicality.

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