Rusty Costanza/Associated Press
Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne captured the Defensive Player of the Game honors in Monday’s national championship victory over Georgia and reportedly is looking to parlay his success into an NFL career.
Matt Zenitz of AL.com cited sources Wednesday who said Payne will enter the NFL draft after tallying 53 tackles, a sack and an interception as a junior in 2017.
NFL teams will surely take note how Payne came through in the most pressure-packed moments for the Crimson Tide.
He tallied six tackles and generated consistent pressure in the backfield against Georgia, helping the defense hold the Bulldogs without a point in the fourth quarter while Tua Tagovailoa directed a comeback on the offensive side. He also had an interception in the Sugar Bowl semifinal win over Clemson and even caught a touchdown to put Alabama ahead by two scores in the third quarter.
CFB Film Room highlighted the progression Payne demonstrated during the two playoff games:
CFB Film Room @CFBFilmRoom
Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne had just 16 QB pressures in 12 games during the regular season… and then 12 QB pressures in two games in the @CFBPlayoff https://t.co/0NDweBp3kj
Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports called the Alabama product “as refined as any defensive lineman in the class” when facing the run and praised his “proper leverage, anchoring strength and NFL-caliber block-shedding ability.”
Payne is just the 42nd overall player on Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller’s big board, but he is also listed as the defensive lineman with the best potential. All it will take is one NFL team to trust that potential to make him a first rounder.