There isn’t a national championship game in the history of college football that can rival the future NFL talent that will be on the field tonight.
Whether they’re declaring for the draft in 2012, 2013 or 2014, nearly every player that will be playing tonight has potential to play at the next level.
As for players that will make an immediate impact in the NFL next season, this game is full of great prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft.
But which is more valuable at the next level, the shut-down corner from LSU or the All-Everything running back at Alabama?
These are the top 10 draft prospects.
Mark my words, Brandon Taylor is going to have a successful NFL career.
With all the talent that LSU’s secondary possesses, Taylor has been overlooked from day one and some questioned if he would even be a starter for the Tigers this season.
Well, Taylor turned in 67 tackles, one sack and two interceptions this season. He doesn’t have the size and speed that scouts wished he had, but he’s smart enough to make an impact on the field.
Josh Chapman is a big boy that could clog some holes at the next level.
Chapman had 22 tackles for the Crimson Tide this season with a sack. Chapman has potential to be a game-changing defensive tackle in the pros.
The only question is if he’ll live up to his potential.
The guy doesn’t get the ink that Mark Barron and Dre Kirkpatrick get, but he’s a fine safety.
While Lester can dish out the punishment, perhaps his best attribute is his coverage skills—that’s enough to make any NFL team want him.
Lester had 35 tackles this season with two interceptions.
Rueben Randle finally had his breakout season this year, and his play hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Randle had 50 receptions, 904 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. He has had a few drops this season, but for the most part, he’s been a sure-handed receiver that possesses deceptive speed.
Randle has the ability to stretch the field, and he could be a deep threat for an offense in the NFL.
I had the chance to meet Mark Barron at SEC Media Days this past summer, and I was in awe that he was a safety.
Barron is a big, physical safety that possesses good speed and ball skills. Basically, Barron is the complete package and he’s the top safety in the nation.
Barron had 61 tackles and two interceptions for Alabama this season.
Dont’a Hightower might not be the best defender wearing crimson tonight, but he’s definitely the leader of this group.
Hightower has the intangibles that NFL teams would want their starting linebacker to have. He’s a smart player that possesses physical attributes to make him a dynamic player in the pros.
Hightower had 79 tackles for the Crimson Tide this season, with three sacks and one interception.
Courtney Upshaw’s stock is high because he’s a versatile defender.
Upshaw could play in a 3-4 as a linebacker or play defensive end, and he's developed a knack for getting in the backfield and disrupting both the passing game and rushing game.
Upshaw had 46 tackles this season with eight sacks and an interception. All I know is that wherever Upshaw ends up playing professional ball, he’s going to make a defensive coordinator very happy.
The schemes he can develop with this guy are limitless.
Dre Kirkpatrick is a man’s corner.
Kirkpatrick is never shy to lay the wood, as he’s a hard-hitting cornerback. He only has 25 tackles this season with no interceptions, but that’s because quarterbacks don’t throw to his side often.
As Kirkpatrick continues to polish his game, he could become one of the great corners in the NFL over the next decade.
LSU’s secondary could qualify as an NFL secondary with all of their talent and athleticism, and Mo Claiborne leads the bunch.
Claiborne turned in six interceptions and 46 tackles in his junior season as a Tiger, and he’s wowed every NFL scout.
Claiborne is a lockdown corner that can isolate a wide receiver on an island and change the game with his athletic plays on the ball. Claiborne possesses great ball skills and quick hands that allow him to intercept passes thrown his way.
Somebody is getting a jewel when they draft Claiborne.
Trent Richardson is a physical specimen that has what it takes to be the best running back in the NFL as a rookie.
I firmly believe that, because of how smart and how athletically gifted Richardson is. Richardson possesses the strength to break tackles, possesses the speed to separate himself from the defense and can catch the football coming out of the backfield.
Richardson will be one of the strongest players on the field tonight, as his max bench press is 450 and max squat is over 600. The team capped him there, though, and won’t allow him to lift anything higher.
It’s that kind of strength that has allowed Richardson to rush for 1,583 yards and 20 touchdowns this season.
Look for Richardson to emerge as the league’s best running back in the next few years.