Australia Markets closed

LSU vs. Clemson: The top NFL draft prospects to watch in Monday's national title game

If you’re already looking ahead to the NFL draft because your favorite team is no longer in the playoffs, Monday’s national championship game between Clemson and LSU is a great way to get a look at a lot of players who will hear their names called early in April’s draft.

College football’s championship game has traditionally showcased a bevy of top-tier NFL talent, and that’s never been more true than in the era of the College Football Playoff. Just look at Alabama’s 45-40 win over Clemson to win the national title after the 2015 season.

The rosters of the two teams that combined for 40 fourth-quarter points in Phoenix produced an incredible 26 first- or second-round picks in the following four NFL drafts. Eighteen of those players were on Alabama’s roster, a draft bounty that only Ohio State’s 2014 team can rival. The inaugural playoff champion Buckeye team produced 15 top-64 draft picks.

The current rosters at LSU and Clemson aren’t likely to each produce as many early picks as those teams at Alabama or Ohio State. But they’re still both incredibly loaded. As many as 10 or more players in Monday night’s game could be chosen in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL draft and others will hear their names called early in 2021 and 2022.

LSU, Clemson rosters flooded with NFL draft riches

The national title game will be a draft lovers’ Happy Hunting Ground, with the two quarterbacks who could be the first overall pick in 2020 and 2021. 

And Clemson and LSU are built similarly, with incredible playmakers at receiver — wait until Justyn Ross and Ja’Marr Chase become draft-eligible, folks — solid offensive lines, really nice defensive backfields (have you seen Derek Stingley Jr. yet?) and twitchy defenders like Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons and LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson who can impact games in myriad ways. 

I also get the feeling that one of the running backs is going to play a crucial role in this game that will help their 2020 draft stock. Clemson’s Travis Etienne is a bullet whose tackle-breaking ability can’t go overlooked. But don’t be shocked if LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire boosts his stock with a big game, much like he did with a heroic effort against Alabama this season.

This might not be the best NFL talent pool in any college game ever, but it might not be far off either. Come for the Joe Burrow-Trevor Lawrence duel, but stay for the NFL draft riches that are flooding both rosters. It should be a tremendous spectacle.

- Yahoo Sports NFL draft analyst Eric Edholm

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow could be the first pick in the 2020 NFL draft. (AP Photo/John Amis)

* denotes the first year an underclassman is draft-eligible

LSU’s players to watch

QB Joe Burrow (2020)

By now you know about Burrow’s incredible season. The likely No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft is 371-of-478 passing (77.6 percent) for 5,208 yards and 55 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Burrow is averaging nearly 11 yards per passing attempt in 2019 and has also rushed for 311 yards and four touchdowns as he leads college football with 59 total TDs.

LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (2020*)

No LSU player has more combined rushing and receiving yards than Edwards-Helaire. The junior has rushed 199 times for 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns. That’s nearly 1,000 more than Burrow, the team’s second-leading rusher. He also has 50 catches for 399 yards. Thanks to Oklahoma’s susceptibility to the pass, LSU didn’t need Edwards-Helaire much in the Peach Bowl. He’ll likely be needed Monday night.

WR Ja’Marr Chase (2021*)

Chase won the Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in college football this season. The sophomore leads LSU with 1,559 receiving yards on 75 catches. That’s almost 21 yards per catch. He’s also tied with Justin Jefferson for the team lead with 18 receiving touchdowns. Chase should enter the 2020 season alongside Alabama’s DeVonta Smith as the top two receivers in the SEC. 

WR Justin Jefferson (2020*)

The junior has 102 catches for 1,434 yards to go with those 18 touchdowns. He’s nearly doubled his catch total from 2018 when he had 54 catches for 875 yards and six scores as a sophomore and could join an incredibly stacked receiving class if he declares for the 2020 NFL draft. 

LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson caught 14 passes for 227 yards and four touchdowns in the CFP semifinal against Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

C Lloyd Cushenberry (2020*)

Cushenberry has been the starting center for every one of Burrow’s games at LSU. The team captain is the Tigers’ best offensive lineman and has played more snaps than any other player in 2019. The LSU line won the Joe Moore Award as the best line in the nation, and NFL scouts should look fondly on the leader of a unit that blocked for a spectacular rusher in Edwards-Helaire and helped make Burrow’s spectacular season.

DT Tyler Shelvin (2020*)

Shelvin came to LSU as a five-star recruit and redshirted in 2017. He broke out this season as the Tigers’ best defensive lineman and has been a handful for interior offensive linemen. Shelvin has 39 tackles and three tackles for loss this season and has routinely faced double-teams from guards and centers. 

LB K’Lavon Chaisson (2020*)

The redshirt sophomore is a defensive captain and was a first-team All-SEC selection in 2019. Chaisson leads LSU with 6.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss despite missing two games in 2019. Chaisson is draft-eligible this season after redshirting in 2018 because of a torn ACL suffered during his first game of 2018.

CB Kristian Fulton (2020)

Fulton came back to LSU for 2019 after he missed the end of the 2018 season because of injury. Fulton has 13 passes defensed and one pick this season and was named a second-team All-SEC selection. Fulton was fourth in the SEC in passes defensed in 2018 before he was injured against Arkansas and has started every game he’s played in since 2016. 

CB Derek Stingley Jr. (2022*)

The only freshman on this list and the first true freshman to start on the LSU defense since 1985, Stingley has lived up to his billing as one of the best recruits in the country. The five-star signee was a consensus All-American thanks to his six interceptions and has started all 14 of LSU’s games this year. He also has 15 passes defensed to go with those six picks and looks like a surefire top pick in the 2022 draft if opposing offenses keep avoiding him over the next two seasons. 

S Grant Delpit (2020*)

Delpit won the Jim Thorpe Award in December as the nation’s top defensive back and was an All-American for the second season. Delpit has 59 tackles and two picks in 13 games this season after picking off five passes in 2018. He’s just the third LSU player to take home the Thorpe Award and the first Tiger to be a back-to-back Walter Camp All-American since the 1970s.

Clemson’s players to watch

QB Trevor Lawrence (2021*)

The presumptive favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft hasn’t lost a college game. Lawrence rebounded from a spate of interceptions early in the season to throw for 3,431 yards on 250-of-370 passing. While Lawrence has thrown eight picks in 2019 after throwing just four in 2018, he’s also thrown for more touchdowns and yards and has completed a greater percentage of his passes.

RB Travis Etienne (2020*)

If Etienne declares for the NFL draft after the title game he’ll be joining an incredibly stacked running back class that already includes Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, Georgia’s D’Andre Swift and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins.

Etienne has averaged at least eight yards per carry in each of the last two seasons and has 192 carries for 1,536 yards and 18 scores in 2019. He’s also produced as a receiver, as Ohio State can attest. After just 17 catches in his first two years with the Tigers, Etienne has 32 catches for 396 yards and four scores in 2019.

Clemson running back Travis Etienne scored three touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

WR Tee Higgins (2020*)

Higgins missed much of the Ohio State game after an awkward fall while trying to make a circus catch. He’s still the team leader with 1,115 receiving yards and 13 TDs on just 56 catches. That’s an average of nearly 20 yards a reception and four yards more per catch than he averaged in 2018 as a sophomore. 

WR Justyn Ross (2021*)

Ross burst onto the scene during the Tigers’ blowout of Alabama a year ago and had exactly 1,000 yards on 46 catches as a freshman in 2018.

While his total catches are up in 2019, his per catch stats are down quite a bit. Ross is averaging nearly nine fewer yards per catch alongside Higgins and Amari Rodgers. But he’s still on pace to be one of the top receivers taken in the 2021 draft if he declares after his junior season. 

LB Isaiah Simmons (2020*)

Simmons is Clemson’s do-everything defender as he plays like a hybrid linebacker-defensive back. He leads the team in tackles (97), tackles for loss (14.5) and sacks (7). He can also cover like crazy too with three interceptions and six passes defensed. Simmons is the perfect player for an NFL team needing a linebacker who can cover tight ends.

CB A.J. Terrell (2020*)

An All-ACC selection in 2019, Terrell is Clemson’s top cover corner and has two interceptions and 29 tackles as teams have avoided throwing in his direction. Terrell had 53 tackles and three picks along with two forced fumbles in 2018 alongside Trayvon Mullen. 

CB Derion Kendrick (2021*)

Kendrick came to Clemson as a wide receiver and has done more than OK since switching to cornerback before the season. The sophomore returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown and has 36 tackles and five passes defensed. With Terrell likely off to the NFL after this season, Kendrick is in line to be Clemson’s top corner in 2020. 

The top picks from previous title games

2014: Ohio State 42, Oregon 40 (Jan. 12, 2015)

Ohio State

2015: WR Devin Smith (Rd 2, Pick 37, New York Jets)

2016: DE Joey Bosa (Rd 1, Pick 3, San Diego Chargers), RB Ezekiel Elliott (Rd 1, Pick 4, Dallas Cowboys), CB Eli Apple (Rd 1, Pick 10, New York Giants), OT Taylor Decker (Rd 1, Pick 16, Detroit Lions), LB Darron Lee (Rd 1, Pick 20, New York Jets), WR Michael Thomas (Rd 2, Pick 47, New Orleans Saints), DB Vonn Bell (Rd 2, Pick 61, New Orleans Saints)

2017: CB Marshon Lattimore (Rd 1, Pick 11, New Orleans Saints), DB Malik Hooker (Rd 1, Pick 15, Indianapolis Colts), CB Gareon Conley (Rd 1, Pick 24, Oakland Raiders), WR Curtis Samuel (Rd 2, Pick 40, Carolina Panthers), LB Raekwon McMillan (Rd 2, Pick 54, Miami Dolphins)

2018: C Billy Price (Rd 1, Pick 21, Cincinnati Bengals), DE Tyquan Lewis (Rd 2, Pick 64, Indianapolis Colts)

Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 246 yards and 4 TDs in the first CFP title game before being a first-round NFL draft pick. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Oregon

2015: QB Marcus Mariota (Rd 1, Pick 2, Tennessee Titans), DE Arik Armstead (Rd 1, Pick 17, San Francisco 49ers), OT Jake Fisher (Rd 2, Pick 53, Cincinnati Bengals)

2016: DE DeForest Buckner (Rd 1, Pick 7, San Francisco 49ers)

2015: Alabama vs. Clemson (Jan. 11, 2016)

Alabama

2016: OL Ryan Kelly (Rd 1, Pick 18, Indianapolis Colts), LB Reggie Ragland (Rd 2, Pick 41, Buffalo Bills), RB Derrick Henry (Rd 2, Pick 45, Tennessee Titans), DT A’Shawn Robinson (Rd 2, Pick 46, Detroit Lions), DT Jarran Reed (Rd 2, Pick 49, Seattle Seahawks), CB Cyrus Jones (Rd 2, Pick 60, New England Patriots)

2017: CB Marlon Humphrey (Rd 1, Pick 16, Baltimore Ravens), DE Jonathan Allen (Rd 1, Pick 17, Washington Redskins), TE O.J. Howard (Rd 1, Pick 19, Tampa Bay Buccaneers), LB Reuben Foster (Rd 1, Pick 31, San Francisco 49ers), OT Cam Robinson (Rd 2, Pick 34, Jacksonville Jaguars), LB Ryan Anderson (Rd 2, Pick 49, Washington Redskins), DT Dalvin Tomlinson (Rd 2, Pick 55, New York Giants)

2018: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (Rd 1, Pick 11, Miami Dolphins), DT Daron Payne (Rd 1, Pick 13, Washington Redskins), LB Rashaan Evans (Rd 1, Pick 22, Tennessee Titans), WR Calvin Ridley (Rd 1, Pick 26, Atlanta Falcons)

2019: OT Jonah Williams (Rd 1, Pick 11 - Cincinnati Bengals)

Clemson

2016: DE Shaq Lawson (Rd 1, Pick 19, Buffalo Bills), DE Kevin Dodd (Rd 2, Pick 33, Tennessee Titans), CB Mackensie Alexander (Rd 2, Pick 54, Minnesota Vikings), DB T.J. Green (Rd 2, Pick 57, Indianapolis Colts)

2017: WR Mike Williams (Rd 1, Pick 7, Los Angeles Chargers), QB Deshaun Watson (Rd 1, Pick 12, Houston Texans)

2019: DL Clelin Ferrell (Rd 1, Pick 4, Oakland Raiders), DL Christian Wilkins (Rd 1, Pick 13, Miami Dolphins)

2016: Alabama vs. Clemson (Jan. 9, 2017)

Alabama

2017: CB Marlon Humphrey (Rd 1, Pick 16, Baltimore Ravens), DE Jonathan Allen (Rd 1, Pick 17, Washington Redskins), TE O.J. Howard (Rd 1, Pick 19, Tampa Bay Buccaneers), LB Reuben Foster (Rd 1, Pick 31, San Francisco 49ers), OT Cam Robinson (Rd 2, Pick 34, Jacksonville Jaguars), LB Ryan Anderson (Rd 2, Pick 49, Washington Redskins), DT Dalvin Tomlinson (Rd 2, Pick 55, New York Giants)

2018: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (Rd 1, Pick 11, Miami Dolphins), DT Daron Payne (Rd 1, Pick 13, Washington Redskins), LB Rashaan Evans (Rd 1, Pick 22, Tennessee Titans), WR Calvin Ridley (Rd 1, Pick 26, Atlanta Falcons)

2019: DT Quinnen Williams (Rd 1, Pick 3, New York Jets), OT Jonah Williams (Rd 1, Pick 11, Cincinnati Bengals), RB Josh Jacobs (Rd 1, Pick 24, Oakland Raiders), TE Irv Smith (Rd 2, Pick 50, Minnesota Vikings)

Clemson 

2017: WR Mike Williams (Rd 1, Pick 7, Los Angeles Chargers), QB Deshaun Watson (Rd 1, Pick 12, Houston Texans)

2019: DL Clelin Ferrell (Rd 1, Pick 4, Oakland Raiders), DL Christian Wilkins (Rd 1, Pick 13, Miami Dolphins), DT Dexter Lawrence (Rd 1, Pick 17, New York Giants), CB Travon Mullen (Rd 2, Pick 40, Oakland Raiders)

Alabama's O.J. Howard catches a touchdown pass during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

2017: Alabama vs. Georgia (Jan. 8, 2018)

Alabama

2018: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (Rd 1, Pick 11, Miami Dolphins), DT Daron Payne (Rd 1, Pick 13, Washington Redskins), LB Rashaan Evans (Rd 1, Pick 22, Tennessee Titans), WR Calvin Ridley (Rd 1, Pick 26, Atlanta Falcons)

2019: DT Quinnen Williams (Rd 1, Pick 3, New York Jets), OT Jonah Williams (Rd 1, Pick 11, Cincinnati Bengals), RB Josh Jacobs (Rd 1, Pick 24, Oakland Raiders), TE Irv Smith (Rd 2, Pick 50, Minnesota Vikings)

Georgia

2018: LB Roquan Smith (Rd 1, Pick 8, Chicago Bears), OT Isaiah Wynn (Rd 1, Pick 23, New England Patriots), RB Sony Michel (Rd 1, Pick 31, New England Patriots), RB Nick Chubb (Rd 2, Pick 35, Cleveland Browns)

2019: CB Deandre Baker (Rd 1, Pick 30, New York Giants), WR Mecole Hardman (Rd 2, Pick 56, Kansas City Chiefs)

2018: Clemson vs. Alabama (Jan. 7, 2019)

Alabama

2019: DT Quinnen Williams (Rd 1, Pick 3, New York Jets), OT Jonah Williams (Rd 1, Pick 11, Cincinnati Bengals), RB Josh Jacobs (Rd 1, Pick 24, Oakland Raiders), TE Irv Smith (Rd 2, Pick 50, Minnesota Vikings)

Clemson

2019: DL Clelin Ferrell (Rd 1, Pick 4, Oakland Raiders), DL Christian Wilkins (Rd 1, Pick 13, Miami Dolphins), DT Dexter Lawrence (Rd 1, Pick 17, New York Giants), CB Travon Mullen (Rd 2, Pick 40, Oakland Raiders)

– – – – – – –

Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

More from Yahoo Sports: