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Five NFL prospects to watch college football national title game

Two SEC powers will collide Monday night when Alabama and Georgia meet in the national championship game in Atlanta. The game will only be the beginning for a handful of players who will turn their attention toward the 2018 NFL draft once it ends. The title game is loaded with pro prospects, and with the No. 5 pick in April’s draft at their disposal, the Broncos will have a close eye on a number of them. Here is a look at five NFL prospects in Monday night’s clash and why they might fit with the Broncos:

Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive back, Alabama

Credentials: Fitzpatrick was everywhere in Alabama’s dominating victory over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl, a microcosm of the impact he’s made during his career with the Crimson tide. The 6-foot-1, 202-pound junior has played safety, cornerback and even outside linebacker, and he makes plays wherever he is lined up. The Bednarik Award winner as the nation’s top defensive player this season, Fitzpatrick has returned four of his nine career interceptions for touchdowns.

Why he could fit: The Broncos have two elite cornerbacks in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. But the Broncos would be on the hook for only $1 million in dead money in 2018 if they moved on from Talib, who is owed $11 million in base salary if he’s on the roster. Fitzpatrick, who projects as an early first-round selection, could likely step in and contribute for a team as a rookie.

Roquan Smith, linebacker, Georgia

Credentials: The 6-1, 225-pound Smith was named the defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl after piling up 11 tackles in Georgia’s thrilling, 54-48 double-overtime victory over Oklahoma. The sideline-to-sideline playmaker won the Butkus Award this season as the nation’s top linebacker and was a consensus All-American. He has 124 tackles and 5½ sacks this season, numbers scouts believe he can replicate at the NFL level due to his strength, speed and nose for the football.

Why he could fit: Though the Broncos have more pressing needs — at quarterback and on the offensive line among them — the Broncos could have a major hole to fill at linebacker if Todd Davis heads elsewhere in free agency. Smith is projected to go between the early and middle part of the first round.

Calvin Ridley, wide receiver, Alabama

Credentials: Ridley is likely to be the first wide receiver off the board — and for good reason. The 6-1, 190-pound playmaker can beat with you with speed and separation or by rising over defensive backs down the field. He has 220 catches — 18 of them touchdowns — for 2,749 yards in his three seasons at Alabama.

Why he could fit: Veterans Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are under contract for a combined $16.75 million in base salary in 2018 and remain a strong 1-2 punch when healthy. But Denver has lacked big plays down the field in each of the past two seasons, and adding a big young weapon for a potential new quarterback could be a boon to a sagging offense.

Rashaan Evans, linebacker, Alabama

Credentials: Evans has followed in the line of Rueben Foster and C.J. Mosely as Alabama linebackers who are built for the next level. He had 11½ tackles for loss and six sacks this season, despite missing two games due to injury. He had nine tackles and a sack in the Sugar Bowl win over Clemson, demonstrating next-level field awareness.

Why he could fit: Evans could possibly be had early in the second round when the Broncos make their second pick. That could be good value at a position the Broncos will need to upgrade if Davis is not with the team after free agency.

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