(Editor's Note: While the start of the 2018 NFL Draft isn't until April 26, it's never too early to profile some of the key participants. The staff of DallasCowboys.com intends to preview the landscape of the draft's top prospect, with an emphasis on possible Cowboys draft picks – from the first round to the last. Today's featured player is Alabama's Da'Ron Payne.)
- Name: Da'Ron Payne
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- **Height/Weight: *6-2 / 311
- Honors: Named MVP of the Sugar Bowl vs. Clemson as he made his first career interception on defense and a touchdown catch in a goal-line situation.
- **Key Stat: *Tallied 102 career tackles, including 53 as a junior, along with three sacks playing in a rotation with several eventual NFL players in a star-studded rotation for the Crimson Tide.
Where He's Projected:
Payne used two great games in the college football playoffs to boost his stock drastically and now he's sitting as a possible first-round pick. In fact, many mock drafts have him either being picked by the Cowboys at No. 19 overall, or just a few picks before or after. While he could slide out to the second round, it seems plausible Payne will be picked on Thursday. Considering he was a Top 30 visit for the Cowboys, there's a decent chance he winds up in Dallas.
How He Helps The Cowboys:
The Cowboys aren't exactly hurting at defensive tackle right now, but like so many other positions, there could be more of a need here down the line. David Irving only signed a one-year tender and Tyrone Crawford's cap hit climbs over $10 million next year. So the Cowboys might need to stockpile some young talent now. Payne certainly has plenty of that, showing off his quick feet and agile movement for a player his size. While he's still considered a late-bloomer, his ability to get up the field is so intriguing the Cowboys might just be willing to take him.
- Quick to get rid of blocker. Stays square along the line.
- Shows short area quickness.
- Does a nice job of finding the ball. Will work back inside to cut off the running lane.
- Hard to handle one-on-one. Will extend on the blocker. Power to hold the point of attack. Hard guy to move off the ball.
- Wrap up tackler.
- Penetration is good. Doesn't get cut off from the play.
- Stays active. Doesn't get turned. Initial quickness off the ball. Can push the pocket.
- Can redirect up the field.
- Is a much better run defender than he is a pass rusher but that could improve.