The Alabama Crimson Tide proved to be the best team in the nation on Monday night when they rolled the LSU Tigers 21-0 to win the BCS National Championship. While the biggest winner was the University of Alabama as a whole and all of its supporters, several players helped themselves as well.
In a dominant defensive performance that didn't allow the Tigers to cross midfield until late in the game, there were many standout stars. After winning the title, there figures to be a number of Tide players who will enter the NFL draft.
Here are three newly-minted National Champions who helped their respective draft stocks in a big way on Monday.
LB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
While his numbers may not have been dazzling on Monday, linebacker Dont'a Hightower is the heart and soul of the Alabama defense. That much was evident as he helped direct traffic in what was the best defensive effort ever in a BCS National Championship Game. Hightower racked up a sack and forced a fumble in addition to his intangible leadership on the field.
After reaching the top of the college football mountain, Hightower figures to declare for the draft a year early. To this point, Hightower has been considered a late first-round pick by most, but the massive linebacker should be in much higher demand after Alabama's dominance.
Both Vontaze Burfict of Arizona State and Luke Kuechly of Boston College were thought to be much better middle linebacker prospects, but Hightower may have launched himself into that company.
OL Barrett Jones, Alabama
Perhaps the most versatile offensive lineman in the country, Alabama's Barrett Jones has played tackle, guard and center during his time in Tuscaloosa. He settled in as the team's starting left tackle this season, however, and he proved his true worth in the National Championship Game.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron was named the Offensive MVP due, in part, to Jones holding the normally ferocious LSU pass rush at bay.
Although Jones has already graduated from Alabama, he still has another year of eligibility left. Even so, I expect him to leave and enter the NFL draft on a high note.
Jones looked to be a second-round possibility prior to Monday night's game, but his performance likely opened some eyes. It would be a surprise if Jones went off the board any later than the latter stages of the first round.
DE/LB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
With six tackles and a sack of LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, Alabama hybrid defensive end/linebacker Courtney Upshaw was named the Defensive MVP for the National Championship Game.
Upshaw took a big leap in his senior season in terms of production as he accrued 9.5 sacks on the year, so he was already tabbed as a late first-round pick by most prognosticators.
When you combine his excellent performance against LSU with the scarcity of quality pass rushers in the draft, though, Upshaw seems to have helped his draft stock more than anybody.
Because of his blend of size and athleticism Upshaw is a fit for nearly every type of defensive system. That makes him a very attractive option in the draft and could put him close to the level of North Carolina's Quentin Coples.