Unsurprisingly, the two teams playing for the BCS National Championship Game have benefited from breakout NFL Draft stars. Both Auburn and Florida State have players who, before the season, were lightly regarded but now considered first-round players.
For Auburn, that player is left tackle Greg Robinson. Recruited as a guard out of high school, the redshirt sophomore has turned into one of the nation's most imposing blockers. He's physical on the line and excels in the running game. Robinson earned an elusive first-round grade from the NFL Draft advisory board and most anticipate he'll enter the draft.
Most expect fellow redshirt sophomore Kelvin Benjamin to go pro as well. The Florida State wide receiver had a breakout season with 50 receptions for 957 yards and 14 touchdowns. Benjamin's draft grade hasn't leaked yet, but his big-play ability could vault him into the top 32 picks. Another factor in Benjamin's decision is his age. He'll turn 23 in February.
Benjamin and Robinson may be the two best NFL prospects to watch in the BCS National Championship Game, but they're not the only ones to follow.
When Auburn has the football:
One thing to watch with Robinson is how he blocks in space on an island. In Auburn's run-heavy offense, he's not out on his own that often. Against an aggressive Florida State front, his quickness will get tested. In particular, if Florida State blitzes with Christian Jones – something they haven't done a lot this season – Robinson will be tested.
Auburn's Tre Mason, a junior, might go from Heisman Trophy finalist to one of the first running backs taken if he goes pro. Rushing for 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns this season, Mason displays good vision and a smooth running style. He's not a herky-jerky runner behind the line of scrimmage. He sees a hole and hits it quickly.
Florida State has the athleticism on its defense to stop Mason and the rest of the Auburn running game. That begins in the middle with defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. When his get off is sudden, Jernigan can split gaps and get into the backfield. No player benefits more from Jernigan's play up front than linebacker Telvin Smith. A superb athlete, Smith is the leader of Florida State's defense.
Teams looking for the next Tyrann Mathieu will like Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. Before this season, Joyner was a rangy safety for the Seminoles. Joyner can be dangerous on delayed blitzes. On the season he has five sacks. Safety Terrance Brooks is a Day 3 prospect.
When Florida State has the football:
Benjamin isn't the only wide receiver prospect on Florida State's roster. While Benjamin makes the highlight-reel plays, junior Rashad Greene has been the more consistent player. He leads the team in receptions and yards and is a threat working underneath routes.
The Seminoles also have three NFL-caliber running backs in senior Devonta Freeman and juniors James Wilder and Karlos Williams. Freeman is the best of the bunch. He's a strong runner who rarely goes down on first contact.
On their defense, the Tigers' top NFL talent is up front. Defensive end Dee Ford gets lumped in with fellow undersized pass rushers like Clemson's Vic Beasley and Missouri's Michael Sam. Ford is a speed specialist with the flexibility to dip around the corner. When Ford lines up on the right side, he'll match up with Florida State left tackle Cameron Erving, whom most have as a top 50 pick.
Junior defensive tackle Gabe Wright has flashed at times this season, especially in the run game. He plays a lot like Nick Fairley did for Auburn a few years ago – with a mean streak and with explosiveness. Wright needs to be more physical at times, but he's a solid depth option with potential.
Senior Chris Davis should provide solid depth as well as a fourth or fifth cornerback. He's more likely to land a roster spot because of his sensational special teams play.