So much NFL Draft conversation is dominated by QB’s and Saquon Barkley, going little noticed is former Alabama football behemoth, Da’Ron Payne.
UPDATE: Da’Ron was drafted by the Washington Redskins with the No. 13 pick in the NFL Draft first round.
Former Alabama football player, Da’Ron Payne is everything an interior defensive lineman needs to be. Payne is big, but not too big. He is also quick and fast. And he is so strong he regularly drew double-teams from Crimson Tide opponents.
The Defensive MVP of the Alabama football CFB Playoff wins against Clemson and Georgia is more than an offensive mauling behemoth. Payne only recorded eight tackles in the two Playoff games but he led the Tide defense nonetheless. In the championship game, he also totaled seven QB pressures. Against Clemson, he made an interception and a 21-yard return. His highlight against the Tigers was a touchdown reception.
Being disruptive became commonplace for Da’Ron throughout his Alabama football career. Not many defensive linemen are capable of affecting a game in so many ways. His stats do not adequately define his importance to the Crimson Tide defense. Payne’s number one job was to clog the middle, occupy multiple blockers, allowing Tide linebackers to make tackles. He did that and more. He harassed QB’s, ran down running backs and even occasionally dropped into pass coverage.
College coaches raved about Da’Ron
During one of the ESPN alternative broadcasts of the national championship game, a panel of coaches could not stop talking about Da’Ron. After a play, in the second quarter no less, Northwestern coach, Pat Fitzgerald said,
Just give him the trophy. He’s the MVP.
Duke coach, David Cutcliffe said,
(Payne’s) bringing back haunting memories of calling plays in the SEC when I was in it. There’s people on the field you just can’t block.
Can Da’Ron Payne handle NFL offensive linemen with equal ease? That is a tall order. NFL team execs and draft experts rate either Payne or Washington’s Vita Vea as the top interior defensive linemen in the Draft. Both are expected to be selected in the first round.
The Detroit Lions are high on Da’Ron. Nfl.com’s Lance Zierlein said,
Payne possesses one of the most impressive combinations of strength and athleticism that we’ve seen from an interior lineman. He will be the premier run-stuffer in this draft, but he may have enough in the pass rushing toolbox to project as a better pro than college pass rusher.
Payne may not be available by the time the Lions pick at No. 20. Draft experts have him being selected as high as No. 13 to Washington.
As many as five former Crimson Tide players will be drafted in Thursday night’s first round. Alabama football could break its one season draft record in 2018 with 11 or more total draft selections.