DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama*

6’2″ – 311 lbs. – 4.95

Rotated into the defense as a freshman, then spent the past two seasons in the starting lineup before foregoing his senior season in order to declare for the draft. Big, thickly-built defensive lineman who usually played the one-technique on four-man lines (sub packages) and the zero in odd fronts (base); also projects as a nose tackle at the next level. Was listed at 308 pounds this past season but started at 319 as a sophomore. A pro-ready prospect who will be only twenty years old on draft day. Dominant run defender with all the tools needed to two-gap at the next level. Gets out of his stance quickly and does a good job of diagnosing the play and flowing toward the ballcarrier. Can reportedly bench press 545 pounds, and weight-room numbers translate to the field. Has the lower-body strength to anchor against double-teams and can control opposing linemen in one-on-one situations to create congestion. Uses his hands well to shed blockers at the appropriate time in order to make tackles. Also demonstrates the ability to make tackles while engaged. Strong grip to stop forward progress and bring down ballcarriers away from his frame. Could potentially also play in a defense which wanted him to shoot gaps, a testament to his athletic ability. The rare nose tackle who’s able to stay on the field in passing situations. Plays with excellent intensity and is very light on his feet for such a big man. Has the explosiveness and suddenness to penetrate into the backfield and generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Very active with his hands, mixing in different rush moves; best move is his overhand swim move. Bull-rushes surprisingly infrequently. Closes surprisingly quickly for his size, although he’s more of a pressure-generator than a sack artist; picked up just 2.5 sacks over the past two seasons, but eleven pressures, including eight as a junior. Consequently, is able to draw some extra blocking attention on passing downs, creating one-on-one situations for his teammates. Gets his hands up to contest passing lanes. The total package: a very thickly-built nose tackle with excellent strength and rare athleticism for his size, allowing him to two-gap against the run and remain on the field to generate pressure as a pass-rusher on third down. Those traits make him a likely first-round pick, especially coming from a program with a reputation for churning out high-quality, pro-ready defenders.

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