The 2018 National Championship wasn’t only an exciting game that featured plenty of big plays, momentum swings, and interesting play calling; it also featured some of the NFL stars of tomorrow. This comes as no surprise if you’ve watched Alabama in recent years, and while Georgia hasn’t had the same pro-player output, this year’s team was stacked with future stars.
An NFL franchise should never base all their opinions about a player off of one game (looking at you, Cleveland), but the National Title game did provide a platform for guys from both teams to raise their draft stock. So after Monday’s championship game, which players showed the League that they might be worthy of a higher draft pick, and which guys might see their stock dip before the combine?
Ridley was already a projected first-round pick before the game, but his stock might have risen after a solid performance against the Dawgs.
The junior has had a stellar season for the Crimson Tide, and while he was held to only four catches for 32 yards, Ridley reeled in a crucial, game-tying touchdown for the Tide with not much time left.
Earlier in the game, he burned the Georgia secondary several times, only for the ball to be underthrown or inaccurate, one of which occurred when he was wide open in the end zone. Georgia had one of the better secondaries in the country, ranking seventh in the FBS in passing yards allowed. Ridley dealt with a very inaccurate Jalen Hurts and a true freshman with Tua Tagovailoa, and still managed to have a good game for Alabama, being a big reason for the title win.
Many experts had him as a mid-late first round pick headed into the draft, but with that performance, he might have risen into a borderline top-ten pick. The speed and route-running of Ridley are almost unmatched, and the championship game might’ve been the launching pad he needed to jump into the top-ten.
The Butkus winner was a monster in both playoff games for the Dawgs, and in the championship bout he racked up 13 total tackles, which led both teams, and added a sack for good measure. Smith was already a projected first-round pick heading into the game, but after that performance, his stock is soaring into the top-ten.
Not that Smith hasn’t always been projected around that area, but the title game really erased all doubt if he was one of the top players in the draft. Smith is a speedy linebacker with fantastic pursuit and tackling ability, and many have compared him to Pro Bowler Telvin Smith and former All-Pro Patrick Willis.
While he isn’t the biggest or strongest linebacker in the draft, his speed and intangibles will make him a great option for any team. The Raiders at #10 or the 49ers at #9 look like solid landing spots for Smith, barring an awful combine and unforeseen circumstances, the title game locks him in as the best linebacker in the Draft.
Da’Ron Payne could make a case to be in this spot, but Evan’s stock is even higher after a terrific performance on Monday. Evans had eight tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and was consistently penetrating the Georgia backfield.
Before the game, Evans was a borderline top-20 player, following the lead of the many great Alabama linebackers before him by getting drafted late in the first round. That performance, coupled with the size and speed of the big man, should cement his place in the mid-first round, and do not be surprised to see him starting for a team early on.
Stock is Falling
If Nick Chubb had never been injured back in 2015, he might have won the Heisman during his time at Georgia. Despite running for over 1,000 yards in his final two seasons, Chubb hasn’t been able to run the same since that knee injury, taking away a lot of his elusiveness.
He was a borderline first rounder going into Monday’s game, but after being held to just 25 yards on 14 carries, Chubb’s stock has definitely dropped. This isn’t much of a surprise considering how good the Alabama front seven is, but fellow running back Sony Michel was able to gain 90 yards on 18 carries, which does not make Chubb look very good.
Despite the sub-par performance, he still should be a second-round draft pick, maybe top 45, but a top-performance in the title game would have certainly helped his draft stock. Without that injury, he might have been a top-20 pick.