Welcome to the 2016-17 College Football Playoff semifinals! We continue our college football bowl coverage breakdown highlighting and profiling a few notable draft-eligible prospects you should pay attention to. This will help people build a list of names to know when we get into the offseason.
For today's bowl action we take a look at No. 4 Washington vs. No. 1 Alabama match-up and No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Clemson match-up. Before we get things started, I have listed the top 10 draft-eligible players both on the offensive and the defensive sides of the ball playing in the playoff semifinal's match-ups. So, sit back, put your scouting hat on, and let's get things started with today's action.
Top 10 Players on Offense
*WR Mike Williams, No. 7, 6'3" - 220 lbs., 4.50 40 - (1st) - Clemson
TE O.J. Howard, No. 88, 6'6" - 251 lbs., 4.57 40 - (1st) - Alabama
*OT Cam Robinson, No. 74, 6'6" - 310 lbs., 5.28 40 - (1st) - Alabama
*WR John Ross, No. 1, 5'10" - 190 lbs., 4.35 40 - (1st) - Washington
*QB Deshaun Watson, No. 4, 6'2" - 210 lbs., 4.64 40 - (1st) - Clemson
TE Jordan Leggett, No. 16, 6'5" - 255 lbs., 4.73 40 - (2nd) - Clemson
*WR ArDarius Stewart, No. 13, 6'1" - 204 lbs., 4.58 40 - (2nd) - Alabama
*RB/WR Curtis Samuel, No. 4, 5'11" - 197 lbs., 4.48 40 - (2nd) - Ohio State
C Pat Elflein, No. 65, 6'2" - 300 lbs., 5.22 40 - (2nd) - Ohio State
*WR Artavis Scott, No. 3, 5'11" - 190 lbs., 4.49 40 - (4th-5th) - Clemson
Top 10 Players on Defense
DE Jonathan Allen, No. 93, 6'3" - 291 lbs., 4.85 40 - (1st) - Alabama
**CB Marlon Humphrey, No. 26, 6'1" - 198 lbs., 4.49 40 - (1st) - Alabama
OLB Tim Williams, No. 56, 6'4" - 252 lbs., 4.76 40 - (1st) - Alabama
ILB Reuben Foster, No. 10, 6'1" - 236 lbs., 4.72 40 - (1st) - Alabama
*CB Sidney Jones, No. 26, 6'0" - 180 lbs., 4.49 40 - (1st) - Washington
*FS Budda Baker, No. 32, 5'10" - 192 lbs., 4.35 40 - (1st) - Washington
CB Cordrea Tankersley, No. 25, 6'0" - 195 lbs., 4.48 40 - (1st-2nd) - Clemson
**DT Vita Vea, No. 50, 6'5" - 332 lbs., 5.19 40 - (1st-2nd) - Washington
*CB Gareon Conley, No. 8, 6'0" - 195 lbs. 4.50 40 - (2nd) - Ohio State
*ILB Raekwon McMillan, No. 5, 6'2" - 240 lbs., 4.78 40 - (2nd) - Ohio State
* = indicates junior status
** = indicates redshirt sophomore status
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
No. 4 Washington Huskies vs. No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Conference Affiliations: Pac-12 vs. SEC
Location: Atlanta, GA | Georgia Dome
Game time: 12:00 PM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
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Washington's draft-eligible prospect to keep an eye on:
**DT Vita Vea, No. 50, 6'5" - 332 lbs., 5.19 40 - (1st-2nd)
**DT Vita Vea is a very strong defender with great size, length, power, and athleticism. A large stout run stuffer, Vea showcases power at the point of attack capable of handling two-gaps, great in collapsing the pocket, has sound awareness to stop ball carriers next to him utilizing good hand technique (great power in hands) stacking and shedding, and plays with good leverage and power with a high motor chasing down ball carriers coming off back-side blocks. The former high school basketball athlete and Bay Area native has quick feet with balance possessing great lateral agility navigating impressively through the trash. The space-eater two-gap defender is extremely stout against the run dominating front-side blocks at the point of attack and displays great quickness for a man his size. He has the versatility to play nose guard in a 3-4, as well as the 5-technique, which makes Vea an ideal fit for the 49ers; nevertheless, his home is over the center (0 or 1 gap).
The 49ers struggles stopping the run went well beyond epic proportions this season with the Niners embarrassingly ranking dead last in rushing defense. The loss of Ian Williams was dramatically noticeable, and with the uncertainty of his re-signing due to his lingering medical issues, a stout run defender in the middle seems to be a position in desperate need of addressing. The value of the nose tackle position in the 49ers scheme (two-down position) is debatable and selecting one in the top half of the draft might be overkill for a position with limited snaps during the game; nevertheless, it is a position that was exposed this past season. Vea solidifies the middle and allows the linebackers to stay clean.
Other Huskies to keep an eye on: *WR John Ross, No. 1 - (1st); *CB Sidney Jones, No. 26 - (1st); *FS Budda Baker, No. 32 - (1st); *DT Elijah Qualls, No. 11 - (2nd-3rd); CB Kevin King, No. 20 - (2nd-3rd); TE Darrell Daniels, No. 15 - (6th); OG Jake Eldrenkamp, No. 52 - (6th); and K Cameron Van Winkle, No. 48 - (7th-UDFA).
Noticeable Huskies missing today's action: DE/OLB Joe Mathis, No. 5 - (7th) Out for the year foot injury.
Alabama's draft-eligible prospect to keep an eye on:
ILB Reuben Foster, No. 10, 6'1" - 236 lbs., 4.72 40 - (1st)
ILB Reuben Foster is a superb downhill plugger type of linebacker with a terrific combination of athleticism, size, physicality, range, speed, toughness, and strength. Foster is a fierce and terrific tackler with quality bulk-ability taking on bigger blockers at the point of attack occasionally winning separating with violent hands stacking and shedding (needs more consistency since he relatively stays clean with the talent surrounding him, but has easily been stifled when failing to shed when offensive lineman confront him getting inside controlling him), impressive sideline-to-sideline capabilities (superb range), and very skilled coming off the edge. A smart player with a high football IQ, Foster showcases good instincts (inconsistent at times) and speed reading run keys and has the play speed (straight-line speed with a burst) to track down the football with impressive closing speed. At times, Foster has a tendency to shuffle with wasted steps and wait reading run keys allowing ball carriers to come to him instead of attacking downfield. Shows quality ability to play in coverage as well with sound awareness and balance. Moreover, he brings value on special teams where he's a strong tackler hitting with immense explosion. Foster is the best pure inside linebacker in the draft class and is a more athletic version to former Crimson Tide teammate, Reggie Ragland.
Injury concerns: has two "official" documented concussions, but early in his career suffered bouts of stingers and numerous trips to the training staff due to poor tackling technique (bighorn sheep method running head first into action) causing serious concerns with coaches and fellow teammates as Foster was injury-prone and feared something worse could occur. Added weight and bulk to avoid injuries utilizing better technique; however, after suffering from knee and back issues at the larger size, Foster has lowered his weight in attempt to quell the knee and back issues as well as gaining more explosion. Teams will definitely need to do their medical homework with longevity being something to consider.
With the 49ers scraping the bottom of the barrel to field inside linebackers, Foster seems like a home-run type prospect lining up next to NaVorro Bowman. Concussion concerns are definitely something to consider, especially since the 49ers already lost a stud inside linebacker to retirement in Chris Borland not so long ago.
Other Crimson Tide prospects to keep an eye on: DE Jonathan Allen, No. 93 - (1st); OLB Tim Williams, No. 56 - (1st); **Marlon Humphrey, No. 26 - (1st); TE O.J. Howard, No. 88 - (1st); *OT Cam Robinson, No. 74 - (1st); OLB Ryan Anderson, No. 22 - (2nd); *WR ArDarius Stewart, No. 13 - (2nd); DT Dalvin Tomlinson, No. 54 - (7th); WR Gehrig Dieter, No. 14 - (7th-UDFA); and K Adam Griffith, No. 99 - (7th-UDFA).
Noticeable Crimson Tide prospect missing today's action: SS Eddie Jackson, No. 4 - (3rd) Out for the year broken leg.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 2 Clemson Tigers
Conference Affiliations: Big Ten vs. ACC
Location: Glendale, AZ | University of Phoenix Stadium
Game time: 4:00 PM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
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Ohio State's draft-eligible prospect to keep an eye on:
*ILB Raekwon McMillan, No. 5, 6'2" - 240 lbs., 4.78 40 - (2nd)
*ILB Raekwon McMillan was the nation's top-rated inside linebacker out of high school and is a dominating force in the middle for the Buckeyes. A box inside linebacker and tackling machine (led the Buckeyes in tackles in 2015 and 2016), McMillan displays quality bulk with the ability to take on the run at the point of attack, and gets low separating with his hands making tackles. A strong tackler that hits with explosion behind his pads, McMillan lacks elite explosive burst and agility, but makes up for it with sound awareness and instincts, easily capable of reading run keys and has decent play speed to track down the football. He shows a good ability to play in coverage showcasing nice balance and awareness, but his lack of short-area quickness can give him issues in space.
As with Reuben Foster mentioned earlier, McMillan would be a solid addition next to NaVorro Bowman with the position in desperate need of making it a strength once again.
Other Buckeyes to keep an eye on: *CB Gareon Conley, No. 8 - (2nd); *RB/WR Curtis Samuel, No. 4 - (2nd); C Pat Elflein, No. 65 - (2nd); WR Corey Smith, No. 84 - (7th); WR Dontre Wilson, No. 2 - (7th-UDFA); and P Cameron Johnston, No. 95 - (7th-UDFA).
Clemson's draft-eligible prospect to keep an eye on:
*QB Deshaun Watson, No. 4, 6'2" - 210 lbs., 4.64 40 - (1st)
*QB Deshaun Watson is arguably one of the top quarterback prospects in this years' draft class (not a very strong class). Although he's had a slow start in the 2016 season and really has not progressed from the year prior, Watson is a dynamic playmaker displaying terrific arm strength (can make throws all over the field with a quick delivery), excellent touch, top-notch athleticism with impressive footwork, superb football IQ with sound poise in the pocket (and outside of the pocket), excellent awareness, and solid accuracy (needs more consistency on downfield accuracy). Reads the field in halves and has a tendency to stare down receivers. Area of concern is sporadic accuracy, which is not from poor mechanics on his throws, he just misses poorly at times (tends to be frustratingly hot and cold). On the run, Watson is fluid in motion with excellent vision, suddenness, speed, and is a chore to bring down with his strength and elusiveness. A true dual-threat athletic quarterback, Watson is a mature person with tremendous leadership skills a true gamer and is clutch in big games - he's a winner. Tore his ACL in 2014, so durability will need to be monitored, and lack of ideal size for the position (especially as a mobile quarterback) will be a concern.
With Colin Kaepernick likely voiding his contract at the end of the season and no other quarterbacks under contract going into 2017, Watson has the opportunity to step in and take control of the 49ers offense. Watson has the accuracy and mobility Chip Kelly looks for in his quarterbacks (closest fit to the Marcus Mariota mold) and could be a great fit leading the 49ers out of the depths of despair.
Other Tigers to keep an eye on: *WR Mike Williams, No. 7 - (1st); CB Cordrea Tankersley, No. 25 - (1st-2nd); TE Jordan Leggett, No. 16 - (2nd); DT Carlos Watkins, No. 94 - (2nd); *RB Wayne Gallman, No. 9 - (4th); *WR Artavis Scott, No. (4th-5th); SS Jadar Johnson, No. 18 - (6th); ILB Ben Boulware, No. 10 - (6th); and C Jay Guillermo, No. 57 - (7th-UDFA).