The 2013 NFL draft prospects from the Alabama Crimson Tide and Notre Dame Fighting Irish got a golden opportunity to impress NFL teams and improve their draft stock while competing on college football’s biggest stage in Monday’s BCS National Championship Game.
Some prospects, like Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, took advantage of that opportunity and will likely be drafted higher as a result. On a night where Alabama completely dominated and won 42-14 in a one-sided game, however, a few prospects like Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’o went the other way on draft boards.
One game should never define a prospect’s draft stock, either positively or negatively, but with a national championship on the line, a little extra stock will be put into these performances. As a result, the following prospects sit in either better or worse position after the final game of their college football season.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama (Jr.)
On a great all-around night for the Alabama Crimson Tide, Eddie Lacy was the standout.
Lacy had a terrific junior season after ascending to the feature back role in Trent Richardson’s shoes. He was at his best on Monday night, averaging seven yards per carry and making a usually stout Notre Dame rushing defense look like a junior varsity team.
Lacy showed off his bounce, quickness, vision and signature spin move on Monday night, combining that with a good power/speed combination. Lacy has yet to declare for the 2013 NFL draft, but it is expected that he will, especially after making a very strong case for being a first-round pick and the top running back drafted in April.
Chance Warmack, LG, Alabama
Lacy made many tremendous moves in the open field on Monday night, but the way for his success—and the team’s 265 total yards on the ground—was paved by Alabama’s outstanding offensive line. The unit had a terrific showing in the BCS National Championship Game, but the standout of the group was left guard Chance Warmack.
Warmack is the best run-blocking guard in the 2013 draft class, and that was very apparent on Monday night. Both Lacy and T.J. Yeldon had a great deal of success running the ball up the left middle, due largely to Warmack's ability to move defenders out of the lane and get to the second level quickly.
Warmack was already in line to be a top-20 draft pick, and he seemingly cemented that status on Monday night.
Michael Williams, TE, Alabama
In addition to the dominance of Alabama’s five offensive linemen, another huge asset in run-blocking on Monday night (and all season long) was senior tight end Michael Williams.
Whether Williams lined up on the left or right side of the line against the Fighting Irish, the Crimson Tide consistently ran the ball his way, and he often came up with crucial blocks to help open up big holes for Lacy and Yeldon to expose. Williams also had a solid day catching balls, with three receptions for 17 yards, including a three-yard touchdown catch in the end zone.
Williams is the best run-blocking tight end in the 2013 draft class, and although he is not a major downfield threat, he is a reliable pass-catcher. He proved Monday that he would be a great investment as a third- or fourth-round pick in April.
Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama (R-So.)
At all three levels, the Crimson Tide defense was as dominant as ever on Monday night, but its standout was redshirt sophomore Adrian Hubbard. Although he hasn’t gotten the attention of his senior and junior counterparts on the Alabama defense, he was certainly as good as any player on the unit tonight.
As the Crimson Tide’s best pass-rusher, Hubbard did a good job bringing pressure off the edge against the Irish. He overwhelmed tight end Tyler Eifert when Eifert was assigned to him in pass protection, and he also did well against a very good left tackle in Notre Dame’s Zach Martin. Hubbard came up with one of two Crimson Tide sacks in the game.
Hubbard is also solid against the run, and although he did not make many plays in the run game tonight, he did what he needed to do for his defense on Monday. It will be a surprise if he declares for the 2013 NFL draft as a redshirt sophomore, but if he does, he will likely be a first-round draft pick.
Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame (R-So.)
There are very few positive things to take away from Notre Dame’s 28-point loss on Monday night, but one player who did stand out in a losing effort was Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix. Nix had a tough matchup on Monday, lining up against Rimington Trophy winner and All-American center Barrett Jones, but Nix dominated the matchup.
Nix is a massive, yet quick and explosive nose tackle who is a load for any opponent to handle, and that was even the case for Jones tonight. Nix consistently used his size and strength advantage to bull-rush Jones up the middle, and he was one of Notre Dame’s only defenders to hold his own against Alabama’s rushing offense.
Nix made a smart decision in December when he announced he would return to school for another season, as he would have been joining a loaded class of defensive tackles, especially in terms of massive nose tackles like himself. He showed the potential to be a star on Monday night, however, and will likely end up a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
With the possible exception of Geno Smith in the Pinstripe Bowl, no top prospect hurt his draft stock more in his bowl game than Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te’o. Te’o had an outstanding senior season to cap a consistently productive career for the Fighting Irish, but he had the worst game of his season, and quite possibly his career, in the biggest game of his career on Monday night.
Usually a sure tackler, Te’o missed tackles throughout the game on Monday night. On a couple occasions where he successfully blitzed into the backfield for what should have been tackles for loss, he missed the running back with a poor tackling angle. Although he finished the night with 10 total tackles, none of them were big-impact tackles at the line of scrimmage.
Against the toughest competition of his career, Te'o showed some flaws in his game. He made little impact in pass coverage, even when lined up against a tight end in Michael Williams who lacks dynamic receiving ability. He looked slow trying to chase run plays out toward the perimeter.
Again, too much stock cannot be put into one performance, and there is far more good tape of Te’o than there is bad. He is still a sure first-round pick and among the top players in the draft class, but his game on Monday will cause teams considering drafting him (and me as well) to take a harder look at his tape and see if the flaws that showed up Monday were consistent through his tape. That could cause him to slide into the mid- to late first round.
Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
On the other end of the one-on-one battle with Nix was Barrett Jones, who had a tough time against his bigger and explosive opponent at nose tackle. Jones has consistently been one of the NCAA’s best offensive linemen throughout his collegiate career, but he wasn’t at his best on Monday night. Nix was consistently got great push against Jones with his bull-rushes up the middle.
We found out why, however, following the game. According to ESPN, Jones said he was playing through a Lisfranc fracture in his foot, an injury that typically keeps players out for months. Going up against a powerful opponent like Nix would have been tough enough as it is, but considering he was playing through a significant foot injury, Jones actually held up quite well.
There are some positives to take away from Jones’ valiant effort on Monday night. His toughness has always shone through in his play, and he proved his toughness by playing through an injury that often ends players’ seasons.
Additionally, he showed his unselfishness by playing through his injury, risking further damage and delaying his surgery to play for a national championship with his team. Unfortunately for Jones, that surgery could keep him from participating in pre-draft workouts, or at least doing so at 100 percent, and that could have adverse effects on his draft stock.
Teams should take into consideration that Jones was playing injured on Monday night, which was likely the main reason for his on-field struggles. However, it could be the after-effects of the injury that hurt his stock more than the tape from this game.
Dan Hope is an NFL draft Featured Columnist and the New England Patriots game-day correspondent for Bleacher Report.
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