The Florida State Seminoles capped off an undefeated 2013 campaign on Monday night with a 34-31 BCS Championship victory over the Auburn Tigers.
Now that the game is in the rear view, it is time to focus on how some of the performances by stars in that contest will impact their stock ahead of the upcoming 2014 NFL draft.
Let’s take a look at two prospects who improved their standing in the eyes of scouts and general managers with a standout title game showing.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Benjamin had a decent national title game, but he will be best remembered for his spectacular, go-ahead touchdown grab with 13 seconds left in regulation to seal a victory for the Seminoles.
That catch alone showcased his immense skill set, which includes the ability to use his 6’5”, 234-pound frame to shield the ball from opponents, an incredible vertical leap that allows him to go up and grab the rock at its highest point and a knack for scoring in the red zone.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller noted that the sky is the limit in regard to this redshirt sophomore standout:
Benjamin finished the 2013 campaign with 54 receptions for 1,011 yards and a ridiculous 15 touchdowns. His score on Monday gave him six consecutive games with at least one touchdown and ensured that he found paydirt in 10 of 14 contests.
Prior to the BCS Championship, he had back-to-back games that put him squarely on the radar of draft scouts everywhere.
His ACC title game showing against Duke was phenomenal, as the Belle Glade, Florida native rose to the occasion and hauled in five passes for 119 yards and two scores. However, his outing in the regular-season finale against Florida was even better.
The 22-year-old obliterated the Gators secondary for 212 yards and three touchdowns on just nine receptions. It was by far the best performance of an outstanding season and one that GMs will likely find themselves viewing over and over again when discussing the merits of drafting this potential star.
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Mason was arguably the best player on the field—for either team—during the national championship tilt. The bruising running back put the Tigers on his shoulders and nearly carried them to an improbable title.
The star junior racked up 195 yards rushing, snapping Bo Jackson’s longstanding single-season rushing record in the process, per Scott Rabalais of The Advocate:
This is no small feat, especially considering Jackson won the 1985 Heisman Award and is still considered one of the best collegiate players ever. He finished that season with 1,786 yards on the ground, while Mason ended his 2013 campaign with 1,816 yards.
Mason took a page from Bo’s book, using elite footwork, shiftiness and power to rip off a 37-yard scamper that put Auburn ahead with 1:19 left in the game.
It looked as if it might be the deciding score, but Jameis Winston orchestrated an 80-yard drive that culminated in the winning touchdown about a minute later.
Mason was apologetic after the game for failing to deliver a championship, per Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports: “We wanted to have the biggest turnaround in college football. I want to apologize for not fulfilling that. I tried to do everything to give us the best chance to win the national championship and I failed.”
Regardless of the final score, scouts had one last chance to see Mason shine on the brightest stage and nearly will his team to victory. Miller called the young man a “starter” in the NFL if he elects to declare:
Michael Felder, Bleacher Report’s National College Football Lead Writer, believes the Tigers star will be a second-round pick in May, if he makes the leap to the pros.
After such a magical season, it’s hard to picture Mason depriving the NFL of his talents. He’s too good and has too much to accomplish at the next level. He will always be remembered as one of the greatest running backs in Tigers history, and he seems to have a solid pro career ahead of him.