#1 ALABAMA (14-0) vs #2 CLEMSON (14-0); National Championship Bowl; Santa Clara; 8 PM ET; ESPN … It started four months ago and took almost 1,000 FBS regular season games, a spate of conference title contests, a couple of playoff games to get to a point in which the two top rated teams at the start of the year will face each other for the 2018 national championship in Santa Clara on Monday evening. And if Alabama versus Clemson sounds like a bit of broken record, it is! Indeed, this is the third time in four years that the Tide will meet the ACC Tigers in the national title. And the only reason its not four out of four is that the two played each other in last year’s semi-finals. You also won’t get much argument form NFL scouts that these are indeed the two most talented rosters in college football and Alabama and Clemson are almost assuredly going to be the dominant programs at the 2019 draft. Ironically, though, the key players in this year’s championship game won’t be eligible for the upcoming draft as Alabama sophomore QB Tua Tagovailoa (#13, 6-1, 220) isn’t eligible for the draft until 2020, while Clemson freshman QB Trevor Lawrence (#16, 6-5, 215) won’t be draft eligible until 2021. While those drafts are still a ways off, both Tua and Lawrence are already the early favorites to be the #1 pick overall in their respective years.
NFL personnel people also can’t quite contain themselves waiting to see how the talented Alabama offensive lines deals with the Clemson defensive front, arguably the best DL in the country. Indeed, the Clemson DL features a pair of top ten prospects in junior DE Clelin Ferrell (#99, 6-4, 260) and veteran DT Christian Wilkins (#42, 6-3, 315, SR). Alabama will also have to deal with DE Austin Bryant (#7, 6-4, 265), a second day candidate for 2019, although the unit took a hit when star junior NT Dexter Lawrence was ruled out of the game after he failed a drug test last week. The battle du jour, though, is likely to be Ferrell, who plays almost exclusively at RDE for the Tigers, going against all-America Alabama junior LT Jonah Williams (#73, 6-5, 305) in a battle of top ten prospects for the upcoming draft.
Going the other way, the Alabama defensive line is almost as good as the Clemson group. In fact, rising Tide redshirt sophomore DT Quinnen Williams (#92, 6-3, 295) could actually be the first DL taken at the 2019 draft from this game; heck he could be the first player taken from any game. Meanwhile, junior DE Raekwon Davis (#99, 6-7, 320) has top 15-20 potential. Same for junior FS Deionte Thompson (#14, 6-2, 200). Alabama also has a number of other solid second-day candidates including junior OLB Anfernee Jennings (#33, 6-3, 270), RBs Damien Harris (#34, 5-10, 220) and junior Josh Jacobs (#8, 5-9, 220), C Ross Pierschbacher (#71, 6-3, 310) and junior TE Irv Smith (#82, 6-4, 245). Also keep an eye on DE Isaiah Buggs (#49, 6-5, 290) who leads the team in sacks with 8.5, along with veteran OG Lester Cotton (#66, 6-3, 325) who have mid-round potential.
While the defensive line will be the focus against Alabama, the talent at Clemson doesn’t end there; indeed, Clemson has several players likely to get long looks in the second and/or third rounds including veteran LT Mitch Hyatt (#75, 6-5, 305), junior MLB Tre Lamar (#57, 6-3, 255), redshirt sophomore OLB Isaiah Simmons (#11, 6-1, 230), junior CB Trayvon Mullen (#1, 6-0, 195) and OLB Kendall Joseph (#34, 6-0, 235), while WR Hunter Renfrow (#13, 5-10, 185) brings new meaning the term possesion receiver. Also keep an eye on star Clemson sophomore RB Travis Etienne (#9, 5-10, 200), who figures to be a Heisman favorite next year after rushing for almost 1,600 yards and 22 TDs this fall when he averaged over 8 yards per run.