I'm not a scout or general manager, nor do I pretend to be one. But, I do watch a lot of college football. So when Shutdown Corner editor Doug Farrar threatened me asked me to give a quick primer on what NFL Draft prospects will be on stage tonight in the BCS Championship Game, how could I resist?
There are a lot of future NFL stars in this game. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, most of them play for Alabama. But, it's possible that the guy with the best NFL future plays for the Fighting Irish. You've probably heard a little bit about him already.
So here are the key prospects for NFL fans to keep an eye out for tonight:
ILB Manti Te'o (6-2, 255)
I love Te'o's pro prospects. He's a legitimate three-down inside linebacker (he's a tackling machine who had seven interceptions this season) who has no real flaw. He's a violent hitter, has the size to hold up and has tremendous instincts. He's also rates incredibly high in character, which never hurts. The question is his speed, but I think he makes up for that with his smarts. And he's not slow. He reminds me of a young Ray Lewis. I'm not saying Te'o will be one of the greatest linebackers ever like Lewis, but that's the comparison I see. I think Te'o will be a tackle machine in the NFL and a Pro Bowler for years and years. It's hard to see an inside linebacker going first overall, although there's some chatter for the Chiefs to take Te'o there, but I also don't think anyone will regret selecting Te'o. I'd bet on him being a star.
TE Tyler Eifert (6-6, 251)
Eifert (or Stanford's Zach Ertz) is probably going to be the first tight end off the board. Notre Dame will line him up wide, or in the slot, and he has good receiving skills. He can run well, has good hands and can go up and get a ball. He led the Irish with 44 catches, 624 yards and tied for the lead with four touchdowns. Notre Dame only completed about 17 passes a game, which held down his numbers a bit.
NT Louis Nix (6-3, 326)
Notre Dame's defense is not a one-man show. Nix is a huge interior presence who can overpower college linemen. He moves pretty well for a guy his size, too. He had 45 tackles this year, including five-and-a-half for loss, solid production for a nose tackle. He said he's coming back for his senior year, but he's a name to store away for the future. He reminds me a little bit of B.J. Raji.
OT Zack Martin (6-4, 304)
Martin is another player who said he is coming back, but could be selected in the first few rounds next year. He's been the Irish's left tackle for three years now, and he'll be tested against some very good Alabama defenders tonight.
Others: RB Cierre Wood, RB Theo Riddick, C Braxston Cave, S Jamoris Slaughter.
LB C.J. Mosley (6-2, 232)
Mosley said he is staying for another year, but he is still worth highlighting. Because he should be a NFL star someday. There's nothing he doesn't do well. He has amazing range, he covers well, he blitzes well, he explodes to the ball; he's the entire package. He had 99 tackles, and nobody else on that talented defense had more than 56. Mosley just beats everyone to the ballcarrier. Watch for him tonight. Though, he's impossible to miss.
CB Dee Milliner (6-1, 199)
Milliner is considered by many to be the best cornerback in college football, and if he leaves early for the NFL Draft he should be picked in the top half of the first round. He's not huge, but he isn't afraid to tackle, and he plays the ball very well. Receivers never can seem to separate from him.
OL Chance Warmack (6-3, 320), D.J. Fluker (6-6, 335) and Barrett Jones (6-5, 302)
All three of these guys should be drafted early. Warmack and Fluker are simply massive and punishing. Warmack is an elite guard and should be taken reasonably early in the first round - that's rare for a guard, but that's how good he is. Right tackle Fluker hasn't decided if he'll leave a year early for the draft, and if he does, the NFL will have to figure out if he's best suited at tackle or guard. Jones isn't the mauler the other two are, but he has excelled at right guard, left tackle and was voted the nation's best center this season, his first year at the position. That's impressive. He's a heck of a player. Take your eyes off the ball and just check out Alabama's line tonight. It's a really fun unit to watch.
RB T.J. Yeldon (6-2, 216) and WR Amari Cooper (6-1, 198)
These two are both freshmen and a long way from being in the draft, but they both have the look of future stars. Yeldon in particular has the look of a future NFL starting tailback. He's big, shifty, and fast. The question is how much running behind that incredible offensive line helps him look good (and I still think Georgia's Todd Gurley will be a better NFL back). Cooper had a very productive freshmen year and had people comparing him to Julio Jones, although he's nowhere near that size.
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DT Jesse Williams (6-4, 320)
It's hard to imagine a player of Williams' size and athletic ability falling out of the first round. He didn't produce as many statistics as, say, Nix, but he could play tackle in a 4-3 or nose tackle in a 3-4 and would be a load to block.
Others: RB Eddie Lacy, S Robert Lester, LB Nico Johnson.
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