Prospect: DL Damon Payne
Projected Position: Defensive Tackle
Status: SI All-American Candidate
Vitals: 6-foot-4, 295 pounds
School: Belleville (Mich.) Belleville
Committed to: Alabama
Frame: Thick chest with some baby fat to lose. Adequate definition in traps and arms. Big legs and hips.
Athleticism: Throws shot put and discus in track and field. Plays left tackle on offense. Fires out with quick first step to engage. Strong and tough inside. Very good body quickness when asked to play in single gap. Plays with force and power. Surprisingly nimble with good change of direction in pursuit. Has good short-area quickness to finish.
Instincts: Solid ball-location skills post snap. Quick scheme read versus run. Very good body sync/coordination when clearing near-leg and hips at the point. Will chase and pursue backside. Relies heavily on swim/arm-over versus run and as a pass-rusher. Flashes an occasional swipe.
Polish: Plays across defensive front, lining up as 0, 1, 3, and even some 5-technique. Is versatile enough to penetrate and 2-gap. Has mass, along with enough quickness and change of direction ability to contribute early in career. Needs to improve block awareness when pursuing backside. Also must add more to hand-usage toolbox in both run and pass.
Bottom Line: On the hoof, Payne initially appears to be an old-school nose tackle. However, there is far more to his game than that, as he has surprising athleticism and nimble feet for a big man. He’s versatile to factor in A and B gaps in various technique alignments across the defensive front. While he is still learning there are no limits to what he can do with his hands, Payne projects as a defensive tackle in a scheme that involves 2-gap principles with also some gap reduction concepts.