The Saban Top 100: No. 22 Da'Ron Payne

BamaCentral is ranking the top 100 players of the Nick Saban era at Alabama over the course of the 2020 football season
Publish date:

22] Da'Ron Payne, DT

  • 2017 All-American
  • 2017 All-SEC
  • 13th-overall selection in 2018 NFL Draft
  • Defensive MVP of the Sugar Bowl and the College Football Playoff National Championship Game
  • As part of Alabama’s jumbo goal-line package caught a pass for a touchdown against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl
  • Was credited with 53 tackles, 45 of which came against the run, one sack and a team-high eight hurries during his final season. Also had an interception and a fumble recovery

Da’Ron Payne may not have posted the most impressive numbers while playing on the Alabama defensive line, but he did illicit the same reaction of just about everyone who saw him run: "Something that big should not move that fast."

Payne developed a reputation for being a top-notch run-stopping force for the Crimson Tide, but no player had a bigger impact in the College Football Playoff for the 2017-18 season.

Here are five things you need to know about Da’Ron Payne:

- Payne was a one-man gang against Clemson in Sugar Bowl

Strange, but true, Payne had the same number of sacks, interceptions and touchdown catches in 2017, one. Although he was a disruptive force in the passing game, who led the Crimson Tide in quarterback hurries, Payne was credited with a half-sack against Ole Miss and LSU. The interception and touchdown both came against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl playoff semifinal.

- He was a big, big recruit

Although Payne was an honorable mention section for the Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State team while playing for Shades Valley High School just outside of Birmingham, he was considered a 5-star prospect. He was ranked No. 14 nationally in the final Scout300, No. 18 in the Rivals100 and No. 29 by the 247Sports composite.

- Payne actually slimmed down at Alabama

Payne went from weighing approximately 350 pounds when he arrived at Alabama to just over 300 when he played his final games. “Just the way teams are playing now,” he said during last season. “It’s more fast-paced and just on the ball, on the ball. I just got to get ready for that.” 

- Payne played his best at the end of his collegiate career

Payne was selected the Defensive MVP of both the Sugar Bowl playoff semifinal and the National Championship Game. “I do think that Da’Ron Payne helped himself, simply because if you just look at his sack numbers it’s certainly not overwhelming,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said. “But if you study the tape you see a guy who’s really highly disruptive.” 

- He ran a surprising time at the NFL combine

Payne shocked onlookers when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.95 at the NFL combine. His 1.67-second 10-yard split was faster than that of Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, who went No. 3 overall in the 2016 draft. 

The Saban Top 100 will be revealed over the course of the 2020 football season, with the top players unveiled one a day as part of BamaCentral's 25 Days of Christmas celebration.

The series thus far:


No. 23: Ryan Kelly 

No. 24: Landon Collins

No. 25: Cam Robinson

26-30: Terrence Cody, Calvin Ridley, Javier Arenas, Reggie Ragland, Jedrick Wills Jr.

31-35: Dee Milliner, D.J. Fluker, Marlon Humphrey, Rashad Evans, A'Shawn Robinson

36-40: Rashaan Evans, Dre Kirkpatrick, Marcell Dareus, Eddie Jackson, O.J. Howard

41-45: Courtney Upshaw, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Henry Ruggs III, Jarran Reed, Xavier McKinney

46-50: Dalvin Tomlinson, Antoine Caldwell, Kareem Jackson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Trevon Diggs

51-55: Mike Johnson, T.J. Yeldon, Ronnie Harrison, Damien Harris, JK Scott

56-60: Ross Pierschbacher, Eddie Lacy, Bradley Bozeman, Ryan Anderson, Glen Coffee

61-65: Greg McElroy, Josh Jacobs, Anfernee Jennings, James Carpenter, Kenyan Drake

66-70: Terrell Lewis, Blake Sims, Christian Miller, Irv Smith Jr,, Tim Williams

71-75: Mack Wilson, ArDarius Stewart, Deionte Thompson, Raekwon Davis, Jalston Fowler

76-80: Josh Chapman, Cyrus Jones, Kevin Norwood, Isaiah Buggs, Jake Coker

81-85: Bo Scarbrough, Anthony Averett, Leigh Tiffin, Ed Stinson, DeQuan Menzie

86-90: Jesse Williams, Shaun Dion Hamilton, William Vlachos, Da'Shawn Hand, Arie Kouandjio

91-95: Nico Johnson, Wallace Gilberry, DJ Hall, Vinnie Sunseri, Quinton Dial

96-100: Trey DePriest, Damion Square, Christion Jones, John Parker Wilson, Simeon Castille