We have finally reached the end of the college football season with the culmination of the College Football Playoff National Championship game on ESPN tonight. The game features an epic rematch pitting the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide facing the No. 2 Clemson Tigers in what is expected to be another wild one in the shades of last years' barn burner ending with an Alabama victory over Clemson, 45-40. The game kicks off at 5 p.m. PT on ESPN, and you can watch via live online stream at WatchESPN. The game will be called by Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit in the booth, and Samantha Ponder and Tom Rinaldi on the sideline.
The rematch will feature a bevy of draft-eligible talent on both teams and highlights a few notable players at the top of their positions representing key needs for the San Francisco 49ers. From Clemson's quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Mike Williams, to Alabama's inside linebacker Reuben Foster and outside linebacker Tim Williams. The game is filled with a cornucopia of high quality talent one should definitely keep an eye on.
Before we get things started, I have listed the top 5 draft-eligible players both on the offensive and the defensive sides of the ball playing in the CFP National Championship match-up. So, sit back, put your scouting hat on, and let's get things started with today's action.
Top 5 Players on Offense
*WR Mike Williams, No. 7, 6'3" - 225 lbs., 4.50 40 - (1st) - Clemson
TE O.J. Howard, No. 88, 6'6" - 251 lbs., 4.57 40 - (1st) - Alabama
*QB Deshaun Watson, No. 4, 6'2" - 210 lbs., 4.64 40 - (1st) - Clemson
*OT Cam Robinson, No. 74, 6'6" - 310 lbs., 5.28 40 - (1st) - Alabama
TE Jordan Leggett, No. 16, 6'5" - 255 lbs., 4.73 40 - (2nd) - Clemson
Top 5 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 Cordrea Tankersley, No. 25, 6'0" - 195 lbs., 4.48 40 - (1st-2nd) - Clemson
* = indicates junior status
** = indicates redshirt sophomore status
College Football Playoff National Championship Game
No. 2 Clemson Tigers vs. No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Conference Affiliations: ACC vs. SEC
Location: Tampa, FL | Raymond James Stadium
Game time: 5:00 PM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Bowl gift swag: Iconic gift.
49ers spotlight: Clemson's key prospects to keep an eye on
*QB Deshaun Watson, No. 4, 6'2" - 210 lbs., 4.64 40 - (1st)
*WR Mike Williams, No. 7, 6'3" - 225 lbs., 4.50 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 at 6'2" - 210 pounds (especially as a mobile quarterback absorbing plenty of hits) will be a concern.
With Colin Kaepernick likely opting out of his contract at the end of the season and no other 49ers quarterbacks under contract going into 2017, Watson has the opportunity to step in and take control of the 49ers offense. Watson has the accuracy, mobility, clutch play in big games, and leadership skills the 49ers new coaching staff and GM may look for as their starting signal caller becoming the focal point of the team's rebuild with the potential of leading the 49ers out of the depths of despair.
*WR Mike Williams is a big-play target with a superb combination of size, length, deep speed, smoothness, strength, and athleticism. He is extremely talented with great length, ball skills, body control (has exceptional adjustment on back shoulder throws), and speed (he gets to top speed very fast), but he also displays a suddenness to his game quickly getting in and out of his breaks with explosion and fights for the ball utilizing his massive length and strength out muscling defenders (wins in a crowd) plucking balls away from his frame and large and impressive catch radius. A true knockout home run vertical threat with solid hands, Williams also bestows a tremendous ability to take a short pass breaking arm tackles and eating up ground with his long-strides gaining and fighting for YAC. He has the size, strength, body control, and leaping ability to be an excellent red-zone target. Has a tendency to have focus drops and needs to refine his route running. Williams possess the necessary tools, size, and strength (albeit could use more functional strength) to counteract at the line of scrimmage when pressed; however, his lack of technique is an area in desperate need of improvement especially facing more physical and patient corners at the next level. Shows fair effort blocking downfield. Medical concern: suffered a scary small fracture in his neck in September 2015.
There is no question the 49ers are severely lacking talent at the wide receiver position. Williams' strength, toughness, ball skills, and strong hands makes him an ideal prospect at all levels of the field for the 49ers. There will be concerns on Williams' lack of separating from defenders, but getting open in tight spaces using his frame and terrific body control helps him win. Williams adds the playmaking, physicality, and above the rim skills the 49ers could definitely utilize as one of the more dominant wide receiver prospects in this years' class.
Additional Clemson prospects worth noting:
*RB Wayne Gallman, No. 9, 6'1" - 215 lbs., 4.54 40 - (4th)
TE Jordan Leggett, No. 16, 6'5" - 255 lbs., 4.73 40 - (2nd)
DT Carlos Watkins, No. 94, 6'3" - 300 lbs., 5.06 40 - (2nd)
*RB Wayne Gallman is a physical running back with a complete game. Although he lacks elite explosion, Gallman displays quick feet (quick first step) always in motion, nice speed (impressive stop and start speed), and excellent vision with a great skill in making decisive cuts finding small holes and quickly slides his way through defenses with authority. He shows good balance running inside with the ability to make consecutive moves in a short area, and stays low (has a tendency to run upright) hitting the hole with power behind his pads. Gallman also shows skills as a solid pass catcher with soft reliable hands and extends to make the catch. One of the nation's top blockers in the backfield, Gallman is excellent in pass protection and run blocking bringing his aggressive physical play in all aspects of his game. An underrated three-down back that will find success at the next level.
TE Jordan Leggett is a mismatch in the middle of the field and on the perimeter displaying an impressive combination of size (6'5" - 255 lbs.), speed, explosion, athleticism, and strength. A dangerous receiving weapon in the middle of the field, Leggett can easily take advantage of defenses with his speed up the seam running away from linebackers, and the length and size to be a difficult match-up for defensive backs. A solid underneath weapon, Leggett quickly finds holes in defenses and is a reliable pass catcher with strong hangs. He shows a great ability to block end of line at the point of attack in a three point stance using solid hand technique and leverage. Leggett shows the agility to reach the next level and block in space with a sound base, platform, and the ability to swing his hips blocking in space whether end of line or detached. Will need to improve functional strength at the next level.
DT Carlos Watkins is a very strong long-armed natural athlete with great size, length, raw power, instincts, and athleticism. A stout run stuffer, Watkins showcases excellent power continuously winning against front-side blocks at the point of attack easily capable of handling two-gaps with tremendous strength and leverage (inconsistent with leverage, but dominates when utilizes it). Watkins is solid at collapsing the pocket (consistently pushes blockers into the backfield), has sound awareness to stop ball carriers next to him utilizing solid hand technique (great power in hands) stacking and shedding, and a tenacious mentality to win at the point of attack. Shows decent feet to navigate through trash and working against back-side blocks. Watkins is a powerful anchor with NFL level strength to take on blockers freeing up linebackers keeping them clean. Medical is a concern after missing most of the 2013 season after a horrific fatal automobile accident, where he was severely injured (trapped in the vehicle for two hours with back, hip, and leg injuries) and had a lengthy rehabilitation period.
Other Tigers to keep an eye on: CB Cordrea Tankersley, No. 25 - (1st-2nd); *WR Artavis Scott, No. 3 - (4th-5th); SS Jadar Johnson, No. 18 - (6th); ILB Ben Boulware, No. 10 - (6th); and C Jay Guillermo, No. 57 - (7th-UDFA).
49ers spotlight: Alabama's key prospects to keep an eye on:
ILB Reuben Foster, No. 10, 6'1" - 236 lbs., 4.72 40 - (1st)
OLB Tim Williams, No. 56, 6'4" - 252 lbs., 4.76 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 a lot 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, Foster has lowered his weight in attempt to quell the knee and back issues as well as gaining more explosion, quickness, and speed. 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.
OLB Tim Williams is an athletically gifted prospect with an explosive skill-set NFL teams desire with their pass rush specialists. The high-motored playmaker showcases superb athleticism, burst, speed, and bend off the edge playing with quickness and terrific suddenness covering a lot of area on the field. Displays good technique (relies a lot on athleticism alone), excellent burst and closing speed, amazing first-step off the line, exceptional balance, fair hands with great pop (violent hard punch) at the point of attack, quick to transition into pass rush moves, impressive change of direction skills, fair at stacking and shedding, and fair against the run. He also possesses great balance and body control, where coming out of the arc from his bend he is able to adjust with ease flattening and taking advantage of his length and athleticism. A fluid athlete with sound awareness, great agility stunting or twisting exploding with closing speed attacking the ball carrier hitting with explosion. Will need to show functional strength and improvement in the run game (inconsistent shedding from blockers). Arrested for carrying a pistol without a permit on 9/29/16. Marijuana was also allegedly found in the car during the arrest; however, it did not belong to Williams thus resulting in no drug charges being filed. Apparently, driver of the vehicle (not Williams) took ownership of the marijuana and stated he was holding it for a friend named Brandon Chicken.
The 49ers presence off the edge is depressing. Aaron Lynch's suspension and injury stifled his play and production, and although Eli Harold has added the required power and strength, it has yet shown dividends on the field. The only success in the Tank Carradine project was that he somehow earned himself a contract extension, and once again, the best edge prospect the 49ers have fielded is a player some fans have been seeking his jettison for years now, but like a cockroach's life expectancy during a nuclear apocalypse, Ahmad Brooks has shown his resiliency. Tim Williams would provide the explosive and playmaking edge presence in rushing the passer the 49ers have been lacking. Stopping the run would be a work in progress.
Additional Alabama prospects worth noting:
DE Jonathan Allen, No. 93, 6'3" - 291 lbs., 4.85 40 - (1st)
TE O.J. Howard, No. 88, 6'6" - 251 lbs., 4.57 40 - (1st)
DE Jonathan Allen showcases amazing athleticism and power with impressive quickness and technique wreaking havoc in backfields as an upfield disrupter with a quick first step. Allen displays superb burst and explosion off the line of scrimmage, quick, heavy, and violent punch at the point of attack, sound leverage utilizing great length, excels at converting speed to power, and the versatility to be disruptive from the inside and off the edge. Displays the power and strength to play front-side blocks at the point of attack utilizing sound technique with heavy hands to stack and shed and hit with explosion. Shows the agility and closing speed to defend back-side blocks with the terrific athletic ability and flexibility maneuvering through the trash. An interior pass rush threat (sound pass rush moves) with tremendous athletic ability for a man his size, and the explosive power to be stout at the point of attack clogging lanes and the quickness and agility to penetrate bursting through gaps. Shows tremendous awareness and high football intelligence always looking in the backfield with amazing instincts and diagnoses and attacks in a heartbeat. Displays the versatility to line up all over the defensive line. Allen's ideal fit is a 3 technique in a 4-3 and can give you trouble as a 5 technique in a 3-4.
Allen definitely fits the BPA (best player available) if the 49ers decide to go that route; however, with an Allen selection, one may view the pick as a luxury pick, since the 49ers roster already has two young, up and coming, 3-4 defensive ends in DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead - both back-to-back first round draft selections. Allen's skill-set best matches the same position Buckner and Armstead currently bookend, and although Allen can play nose tackle in a pinch, he is not a nose tackle, which is like buying a Lamborghini and never taking it out on the highway.
There is also the possibility of the new coaching staff changing the schematic view of the defense to a 4-3, which would allow the 49ers to field all of its best players in the defensive line unit; however, although the new potential lineup will absolutely provide tremendous inside pressure, the speed off the edge would be lacking. Moreover, the change of defensive scheme would also require more linebackers fitting the scheme in an already deficient linebacking corps the 49ers currently employ. A BPA luxury pick definitely in need of consideration.
TE O.J. Howard is a mismatch in the middle of the field and on the perimeter displaying an impressive combination of size (6'6" - 251 lbs.), speed, explosion, athleticism, and strength (benches 405 pounds and squats 500 pounds). A dangerous receiving weapon in the middle of the field, Howard can easily take advantage of defenses with his 4.57 speed up the seam, the suddenness to separate and get away from man coverage taking advantage of his impressive length and athleticism, finds holes in zone and squares up presenting a large target and catching radius for the quarterback, and extends hands away from the body to make the catch. Along with good catching and great YAC ability, his blocking has been steadily improving as well, where he shows an excellent base, platform, and hand positioning blocking inline, and athletic ability with agility to swing his hips blocking in space when detached.
Other Crimson Tide prospects to keep an eye on: **CB Marlon Humphrey, No. 26 - (1st); *OT Cam Robinson, No. 74 - (1st); *WR ArDarius Stewart, No. 13 - (2nd); OLB Ryan Anderson, No. 22 - (2nd); DT Dalvin Tomlinson, No. 54 - (6th); 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.