This is the ninth of a 10-part series breaking down players in play for the Dolphins in the draft's first round.
Part 1: Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Part 2: Vita Vea.
Part 3: Josh Rosen.
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Part 4: Roquan Smith.
Part 5: Derwin James.
Part 6: Tremaine Edmunds.
Part 7: Saquon Barkley.
Part 8: Taven Bryan.
Da'Ron Payne saved his best for last.
And anyone who watched Alabama's two playoff games saw his best was as good as anyone on the college level.
The Crimson Tide's athletic defensive tackle was ridiculous against Clemson and Georgia, totaling eight tackles, an interception and a pass breakup in the postseason.
Keep in mind, this isn't a fleet-footed safety. It's a 311-pound road grader who is usually seen mixing it up with the uglies in the trenchers.
But Payne proved to be a playmaker his final season in college, and as a result, must be on Miami's board, either at 11 or if the Dolphins trade back.
Asked by reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine to name his best college game, he didn't hesitate:
"The Georgia game, definitely. I was just dominant that game. ... I feel like it was just, I don't know, it might have been the bright lights, it might have just been my time, you never know. It was God's plan though."
Payne is one of two Alabama prospects in play in Round 1 for Miami. The other is Minkah Fitzpatrck. Both would be immediate upgrades on a defense that needs playmakers.
Fitzpatrick, as we explored last week, would probably be a luxury pick whose value might be too good to pass up.
Payne, meanwhile, would fill a real need. The Dolphins cut Ndamukong Suh this offseason. Why not replace him with the guy NFL.com's Lance Zierlein says is a comp?
"Payne possesses one of the most impressive combinations of strength and athleticism that we've seen from an interior lineman," Zierlein wrote. "He will be the premier run-stuffer in this draft, but he may have enough in the pass rushing toolbox to project as a better pro than college pass rusher. Payne is a game-ready starter who immediately upgrades a defense's ability to slow the run. If teams view him as just a run-down player, then his draft value could fall a little, but he could become a Pro Bowl defender early in his career."
If the draft experts are right, taking Payne at 11 would be a slight reach, but not an egregious one. Mel Kiper Jr. has him going to Washington at 13. Todd McShay thinks Payne will last until 17, where the Chargers will scoop him up.
Mike Mayock lists Payne the No. 2 defensive tackle behind just Vita Vea.
But the Dolphins might see boundless potential. Payne is 20 and as his college career-ending run showed, he is still ascending.
"I can improve on everything because it's always a better man at the next level, so I just want to become the best version of me and then excel at whatever do," Payne said.
Height: 6-foot-2 1/2 (35th percentile among defensive tackles).
Weight: 311 pounds (68th percentile).
Wingspan: 78 3/8 inches (31st percentile).
Arm length: 33 inches (40th percentile).
Hand size: 9 3/8 inches (14th percentile).
40-yard dash: 4.95 seconds (83rd percentile).
Vertical jump: 28 1/2 inches (39th percentile).
Broad jump: 107 inches (61st percentile).
3-cone drill: 7.58 seconds (60th percentile).
20-yard shuttle: 4.71 seconds (39th percentile).
Bench press: 27 reps (51st percentile).
Comparisons (according to MockDraftTable.com): Jerel Worthy (Michigan State, 2012), Maliek Collins (Nebraska, 2016), Corey Liuget (Illinois, 2011).
He said it
“Coming out of high school, I watched a lot of Nick Fairley, Marcell Dareus, Fletcher Cox been ballin', Aaron Donald, I try to look at them guys and then see what I can take from their game and just try to implement it in my game." — Da'Ron Payne
They said it
“Payne is a powerful, run-stuffing defensive tackle with pass-rush upside. Against the run, he launches out of his stance and quickly shoots his hands to generate knock-back against single blocks. He will also use a quick slap/swim to disrupt. He holds up well vs. double-teams and has tremendous lateral range. As a pass rusher, he has a quick get-off, but he needs to develop a plan. Most of his pressure is the result of his swim move. He needs to work on counter moves. His effort is excellent. Overall, Payne is built to dominate on run downs right now. He has the athletic ability and power to emerge as a much better pass rusher in the near future. He helped himself at the NFL Scouting Combine." — Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com