|Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o (left) and Alabama guard Chance Warmack both project as first-rounders in April.|
The BCS Championship Game is always a must-see event for NFL scouts because it routinely features the best players in college football. Evaluators relish the opportunity to see prospects square off in this game because its speed and intensity mirrors the energy of an NFL contest. This not only provides scouts with a glimpse of the pro potential of these top prospects, but it showcases the poise and competitiveness of players on college football's biggest stage.
With a pencil and notebook in hand, here are 10 guys I will be watching closely on Monday night:
* Denotes underclassmen
1) Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama: It is uncommon for an interior blocker to sit atop any list of top prospects, but Warmack's talent is too good to ignore. Warmack is a mountain of a man with remarkable athleticism and movement skills. Most importantly, he is a physical blocker capable of moving defenders off the ball in the running game. With Warmack also adept at stalemating rushers in pass protection, there are few questions regarding his game. Bottom line: He is unquestionably the most pro-ready prospect in the BCS Championship Game.
2) Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: Te'o answered all of the questions about his pro potential with a stellar senior season that showcased his capacity to dominate the game from the middle. Te'o led his team in tackles, generated nine takeaways (seven interceptions and two fumble recoveries) and seemingly had a hand in every big defensive play for the Fighting Irish. Given the importance of having an impact player at the heart of the defense at the next level, Te'o is another standout performance away from cementing his status as the top defensive prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft class.
3) Dee Milliner*, CB, Alabama: It is hard to find cover corners with the size, skills and toughness to be a factor against the run and pass on the perimeter. However, Milliner displays a rare combination of blue-chip traits that will make him a hot commodity in the scouting community. Milliner smothers receivers, showcasing superb technique and instincts in coverage. Although he is most effective in press coverage, he also displays the footwork and movement skills to shadow from distance. With few corners capable of matching Milliner's cover skills and overall game, scouts already envision him blossoming into a shutdown corner as a pro. Milliner might be the best cornerback prospect in America; a solid showing in the BCS title game would further this notion.
4) Tyler Eifert*, TE, Notre Dame: The tight end position has grown in prominence in recent years with more offensive coordinators opting to feature big, athletic playmakers as primary options in the passing game. Eifert possesses the tools to be the next tight end to transform the game at the next level. Eifert overwhelms defenders with his size (6-foot-6, 251 pounds), but also has the athleticism to blow past lumbering linebackers down the field. Brian Kelly capitalizes on his Eifert's skills by frequently aligning him outside as a quasi-receiver in most formations. While some scouts would like to see Eifert playing a more conventional role to better assess his blocking skills against the Crimson Tide's rugged defensive line, the opportunity for him to work in space against SEC competition could enhance his draft standing in the minds of scouts.
5) Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama: Williams hasn't received a ton of attention on the national scene, but scouts view him as one of the top interior defenders in college football. He is nearly impossible to move off the point, and his ability to occupy multiple blockers allows the Crimson Tide's linebacker corps to roam freely within the box. Although Williams isn't nearly as effective as a pass rusher, he has the capacity to create a push up the middle, which alters the launching point for the quarterback. In a game where pressure on the quarterback could be the deciding factor, Williams could boost his draft stock with a few disruptive plays as a pass rusher.
6) Louis Nix*, DT, Notre Dame: Nix already announced his decision to remain at Notre Dame for another season, but that won't stop scouts from closely monitoring his play in this game. He shows rare athleticism and movement skills for a man of his size, and evaluators are smitten by his ability to dominate the game on the interior. Facing a huge challenge in Warmack, Nix will have the opportunity to show scouts how well he could impact the game at the next level as a versatile defensive tackle.
7) Barrett Jones, C, Alabama: Jones is the consummate swing player on the offensive line with significant starts at center, guard and offensive tackle. He has developed into a solid pivot as a senior, but NFL scouts see his future as a long-term solution at offensive guard. Facing the stout but athletic front line of the Fighting Irish, Jones will get an opportunity to show evaluators how well he controls the line of scrimmage against NFL-caliber talent. If Jones can perform well despite dealing with a nagging injury that has limited his practice time heading into this matchup, scouts certainly will feel good about his chances of succeeding as an interior blocker in the NFL.
8) Stephon Tuitt*, DE, Notre Dame: Tuitt is still in the developmental stage of his career as a sophomore, but that hasn't stopped scouts from taking a close look at his overall game in the past year. Tuitt is a gifted edge player with outstanding athleticism and movement skills. He has shown the capacity to take over the game as a pass rusher, but coaches and scouts would love to see him dominate consistently from the corner. While he still has another year or two to refine his overall game, Tuitt can build a case to be included in the conversation as one of the top defenders in college football with a standout performance against the Crimson Tide.
|Theo Riddick has drawn NFL attention for the versatility he has displayed throughout his Notre Dame career. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL.com)|
9) Theo Riddick, RB, Notre Dame: Riddick's versatility has drawn the attention of NFL coaches and scouts searching for a third-down back with impact potential. Riddick spent ample time at receiver during his Notre Dame career and is a polished route runner with excellent hands and ball skills. He excels at winning one-on-one matchups in the slot; Brian Kelly will give him plenty of chances to work in space against the Crimson Tide to take advantage of his exceptional skills. In addition, Riddick has emerged as the team's most explosive runner between the tackles. Although he is not viewed as a potential workhorse as a pro, Riddick could create some buzz in scouting circles with a strong performance against Alabama.
10) Eddie Lacy*, RB, Alabama: Nick Saban has enjoyed a ton of success producing NFL backs capable of carrying the load as primary runners. Lacy is next in line based on his strong play since stepping into the starting role as a junior. Lacy rushed for 1,182 yards on only 184 attempts (6.4 yards a pop) with 16 touchdowns. Those numbers aren't eye-popping by today's standards, but they certainly are impressive when considering the fact that he is playing in an old-school offense that prefers smash mouth over finesse. Displaying the rough running style that NFL offensive coordinators covet in big backs, Lacy is squarely on the radar of evaluators looking for future workhorse runners.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.