NFL News : 5 CFP national championship draft prospects on Cowboys' first-round radar

5 CFP national championship draft prospects on Cowboys' first-round radar

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The Dallas Cowboys need to get a lot of positions in order. Off the top of our heads, wide receiver, linebacker and edge defender seem logical choices, with tackle and defensive back also being needs. 

The Dallas Morning News' Dane Brugler recently put together its list of the five players in Monday's CFP National Championship that should be on Dallas' first-round radar. Here's what he came up with:

Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia 

"Based on my tape study, Smith is one of the top 10 players in the 2018 NFL Draft, so before Cowboys fans get too excited, know he is likely long gone by the No. 19 pick. However, the talented junior might not be rated as high for every team because of his lack of size. At the very least, he will be a possible trade-up target for Dallas.

Smith, who starts at weakside linebacker in Kirby Smart's 3-4 base scheme, separated himself as one of the best linebackers in college football this season. His MVP performance in the SEC championship game vs. Auburn is one of the best game films I have ever evaluated for a linebacker prospect and will be used by NFL scouts to illustrate why he is a first-round pick. Although he doesn't have elite take-on skills to be a traditional thumper, Smith is a magnet to the ball with the athleticism, instincts and professional make-up that makes him a high-ceiling, high-floor NFL player.

FIT IN DALLAS: With Anthony Hitchens heading to free agency and Sean Lee's durability a concern each season, linebacker is a possible need area for the Cowboys in the draft. Smith has played predominantly the WILL in college, but his skill-set allows him to play any of the linebacker positions in Rod Marinelli's 4-3 base."

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama 

"Another prospect doubtful to be available at No. 19, Ridley is the top-rated wide receiver prospect in the 2018 class. However, wide receivers are always wildcards in the first round. Last year, three wideouts (Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross) went in the top 10, but in the 2016 NFL Draft, only one receiver landed in the top 20 (Corey Coleman) and he lasted until the 15th pick.

Ridley might not have the size or body armor desired for the position, but his dynamic route-running and ability to create his own separation is what makes him such an attractive player. He is a natural hands-catcher with the savvy and explosive twitch that strikes fear into cornerbacks. Ridley burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2015, and although his production has suffered the past two with the Tide's inconsistent passing game, it has also helped his NFL evaluation because it forced him to consistently bail out inaccurate passers.

FIT IN DALLAS: With the current financial commitments at wide receiver, the Cowboys might have their hands tied in terms of the upgrades they can make. But if they are able to move on from Terrance Williams, Ridley would be an ideal fit as the Cowboys' "Z" receiver, giving Dak Prescott a receiver who can create separation and give him a clean target. It would also take pressure off Dez Bryant on the other side and open more opportunities for him."

Ronnie Harrison, SS, Alabama 

"Minkah Fitzpatrick is the best prospect in the Alabama secondary, but Harrison isn't too far behind. An impact striker, he hits differently than most safeties, creating collisions and rarely giving ground. Harrison is highly aggressive in everything he does on the football field, showing the closing burst and open-field tackling skills to be an eraser vs. the run game. He isn't nearly as comfortable when asked to play a centerfield role, but he has the frame and athleticism to develop into a reliable coverage player.

FIT IN DALLAS: While players like Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier have had their moments, both are best suited on special teams and as depth off the bench. Harrison would be the day one starter at strong safety for Dallas, leaving Xavier Woods or Byron Jones to man free safety and helping to stabilize the secondary."

Da'Ron Payne, NT, Alabama 

"Those who follow the Cowboys' draft tendencies under the current coaching structure know that the talk of a nose tackle or one-technique defensive tackle in the first round has been a dead end. However, organizational philosophies change, and if the right player is there, Dallas should absolutely consider a big block-eater like Payne with the 19th pick.

Payne provided the fireworks for Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal victory over Clemson with an interception and a touchdown catch on offense. However, his game film isn't normally that exciting as the Tide's starting nose tackle, occupying blockers and keeping the linebackers free to make plays. With what he is asked to do in that defense, Payne doesn't boast the gaudy backfield production NFL teams covet in first-round interior linemen, but he is a fluid athlete for his size with the balance and power to overwhelm blockers.

FIT IN DALLAS: Drafting a nose tackle in the top-20 picks is far from sexy, but the addition of Payne could provide a ripple effect that benefits every other player in the front-seven. It would allow Maliek Collins to stay at the three-technique position and give Marinelli some flexibility to use David Irving as a mismatch weapon across the defensive line."

Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama 

"If the Cowboys miss out on Georgia's Roquan Smith, Evans would be one of the consolation prizes at linebacker. He leads Alabama with 11.5 tackles for loss and ranks second in total tackles with 66 stops. Evans lines up at the SAM linebacker in Nick Saban's ever-evolving 3-4 defense, making him primarily a downhill player. He even lines up at defensive end with his hand on the ground when the Tide shift to a four-man front on obvious passing downs.

Evans has terrific speed and initial burst for a player his size, showing the range to make stops at the sideline and near the line of scrimmage. He is a physical, technically sound tackler, lowering his pads, bending his knees and providing the thump to knock ballcarriers backward. The main question with Evans will be his reliability in coverage, something he isn't asked to do much at Alabama. How he performs covering backs and tight ends and playing in reverse at the Senior Bowl in a few weeks will be a critical step for his evaluation.

FIT IN DALLAS: Assuming Anthony Hitchens leaves the Cowboys via free agency, Evans would be a possible replacement at the MIKE. The Cowboys' 2018 plan for Jaylon Smith is unclear at this point, but regardless, immediate depth is needed at the position."

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Source: Dallas News · Photo Credit: Keystone Press Agency