January 06, 2010

The eyes of the football world will be on Pasadena this week as Alabama squares off against Texas in the national championship game. NFL decision-makers have a keen interest in this game as four defensive prospects could be first-round picks in April's draft. Overall, almost a dozen players in this game have the chance to be selected before the third round of the draft concludes. Here are the top 15 NFL prospects playing in the BCS Championship Game. (* denotes underlasssman)

Rolando McClain*/LB/Alabama: Texas offers a great challenge for McClain, who's known as a run stuffer. The Longhorns' short passing game gives him the opportunity to display skills in coverage and prove he's more than just a two-down defender. Grade: Mid-first round.

Terrence Cody/DT/Alabama: Cody's played reasonably well this season but has not taken his game to the next level as scouts had hoped. The Longhorns will keep the big lineman on his toes. The ability to stay in the game for every Tide defensive play is key for Cody. Mid-first round.

Earl Thomas */S/Texas: The talented Longhorn safety is gaining momentum in scouting circles. He's a terrific pass defender who patrols centerfield, making plays sideline to sideline. The ability to hold up against the run is the question scouts have about his game. Thomas can quell that criticism by helping to shut down Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Several in Texas feel there's a better than 50-50 chance Thomas opts for the draft in April. Late first round.

Sergio Kindle/DE-OLB/Texas: Kindle enters the game as one of the better pass rushers in the nation and moves towards the draft as a highly rated 3-4 linebacker prospect. Kindle must display discipline and stay with assignments against Alabama. Scouts want to see that he's more than just a player who rushes the passer. Late first round.

Kareem Jackson*/CB/Alabama: Jackson's game really took off this season; he's constantly shutting down the opposition. He'll have his work cut out for him against Texas as he deals with wideout Jordan Shipley most of the night. As with the underclassmen already mentioned, Jackson is expected to enter April's draft. Early second round.

Colt McCoy/QB/Texas: McCoy hopes to end his Longhorn career in style and go out a national champion, but NFL scouts have been slightly disappointed in his play this season. A strong game against the Crimson Tide can get the momentum moving back in his favor. The Tide has more NFL prospects on defense than any other team McCoy has faced this season. From Alabama's front line, which will try to disrupt his passing rhythm, to their opportunistic secondary and the game planning of Nick Saban, McCoy is sure to get a taste of a big-league opponent. Mid-second round.

Roddrick Muckelroy/LB/Texas: Muckelroy was forced to play middle linebacker after starter Jared Norton was lost to injury early in the season. He's done a solid job, but is playing out of position. Muckelroy's duties against Alabama include stuffing the run and shutting down tight end Colin Peek. In the NFL he could start in the proper scheme. Late second round.

Jordan Shipley/WR/Texas: Shipley bypassed the '09 draft after he was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA; he made the right choice. Shipley does not possess great foot speed, yet plays intelligent football. He's a natural pass catcher with the uncanny ability to find openings on the field. Alabama's talented secondary will be gunning for Shipley and this could be his toughest test of the season. He'll be a third receiver in the NFL. Late second round.

Colin Peek/TE/Alabama: Peek seems to improve with each passing week. Since transferring to Alabama, he's developed into a complete tight end. Besides blocking for the Heisman Trophy winner, Peek has made several timely catches at critical moments. He has a size advantage over Muckelroy and could cause problems for the Longhorns. Third round.

Javier Arenas/CB-RS/Alabama: Arenas entered the season with high grades from NFL scouting services and has played well enough to maintain a spot in the draft's top 90 selections. He's a solid cornerback who also displays the ability to alter the momentum of games with long punt returns. Third round.

Sam Acho*/DE/Texas: NFL scouts took notice of Acho after he stepped into the starting lineup this season. He led the Longhorns in sacks (9) and had 13 tackles for loss. Scouts are excited about his upside and his future. Third round.

Mike Johnson/G/Alabama: Johnson has been a leader on Alabama's offensive line the past two seasons and moves towards April as one of the higher rated guards in the draft. He's a mauler who combines strength, smarts and toughness to open holes for the running game. He also protects the passer well. Third/Fourth round.

Brandon Deaderick/DT/Alabama: Deaderick is a tough, interior defender who effectively handles several duties up front. He has an NFL-type body and offers potential at tackle or as a two-gap end. Deaderick was slowed by injury early in the season, which occurred off the field, then came on strong late in the year. Against Texas he must display the ability to pressure McCoy, something that's not been his forte'. Fourth round.

Lamarr Houston/DT/Texas: He has developed into a solid player this season and is making a big move up draft boards. Graded as a free prospect at the start of the season, the 6-1, 280-pound senior leads the team in tackles for loss (20), leads all Longhorn linemen in tackles (58) and is second in quarterback hurries (28). His size turns away some teams, but Houston has still moved into the draft's middle rounds. Fourth round.

Adam Ulatoski/T/Texas: The left tackle is large, fundamentally sound but limited athletically. He doesn't have the footwork or agility to handle blindside duties in the NFL. But his body type and run blocking skills make many believe Ulatoski will succeed at right tackle. Fifth round.

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