For NFL general managers, coaches and scouts, the BCS National Championship Game may be the last chance to watch some of the top prospects in college football play in a competitive environment before the draft.
The national title game marks the end of the college bowl season, and it will showcase some of the most talented players in the country. Some of them will make their way to New York in April for the NFL draft and a career in professional football.
Alabama and Notre Dame have provided the NFL with some terrific young talent in recent years, and the first round of the 2013 draft should feature a handful of players from both teams.
Manti Te’o: ILB, Notre Dame
Te’o will be the most talented player on the field on Jan. 7, and his physical ability and intangibles all but guarantee he will be a high first-round selection in the NFL draft.
While inside linebacker is not a position of extreme need for many teams, Te’o isn’t just any inside linebacker. He’s the best in the country.
At 6’2” and 255 pounds, Te’o has the frame to play in nearly any system. He’s fast, instinctual and powerful, and there’s little to not like about his style of play. He brings a level of intensity and maturity to the heart of the best defense in the country.
Because of the depth of defensive playmakers in the draft this season, Te’o may slide a little in the draft, but don’t expect him to fall out of the top half of round one.
Dee Milliner: CB, Alabama
Milliner is just a junior, but his decision to enter the 2013 draft came as no surprise. In a draft class lacking at defensive back, Milliner is almost guaranteed to be the first cornerback selected.
Milliner has excellent size and above-average speed for the position, and his play-making skills are nearly elite. Opposing quarterbacks didn’t look his way often this year, and for good reason. Milliner has a nose for the football.
Milliner may be a developmental project for a team that runs a man-heavy defense, but he’s already one of the best zone defenders in the country. Milliner’s instincts, and willingness to make plays in run defense, make him a perfect fit for a zone-heavy defensive scheme.
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson isn’t a prolific passer, and Milliner probably won’t be targeted much when the teams face off on Jan. 7, but he’ll have plenty of opportunities to make an impact in run support. With a good showing against Notre Dame and solid offseason workouts, Milliner could cement himself in the top 10 of the draft.
Chance Warmack: G, Alabama
Warmack may be the best lineman on the field in the championship game. He is the key to Alabama’s run game and has the opportunity to showcase his talent against the best defense in the nation.
Warmack is a road grader. At 6’3” and 320 pounds, he has the frame to push defenders around, but is also light on his feet and is a good kick-out blocker.
While guard isn’t a position NFL teams normally jump at early in the draft, Warmack’s mauler mentality and pro-ready frame will garner mid-first-round consideration in April. Several guards have been selected in the first half of the draft in recent years, and Warmack certainly warrants the same consideration this year.
Where Warmack ends up in April will depend on fit. He has the skill set to play in nearly any scheme, but is especially valuable on a team that runs more angle blocking than zone blocking. Look for a team to make a good value pick with Warmack somewhere in the 13-20 range.
Tyler Eifert: TE, Notre Dame
Eifert has a prototypical frame for an NFL tight end, and in a draft class lacking depth at the position, he’ll be the first tight end selected in April.
Eifert is a former wide receiver with exceptional pass-catching ability. He’s been a key to Notre Dame’s offense this season, leading the Fighting Irish in receptions (44), yards (624) and receiving touchdowns (four), and will be one of Golson’s favorite targets against Alabama in the title game.
With the emergence of elite pass-catching tight ends in the NFL, it’s likely Eifert will garner plenty of first-round attention. Several teams picking in the bottom half of the first round need a tight end with Eifert’s ability.
If Eifert drops into the late-20s in the draft, he may end up sliding into the top of the second round, however. This year’s draft class is loaded with defensive talent, though the lack of elite offensive skill-position players may give Eifert enough of a boost to secure a late first-round spot.