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2018 national title game prospects to watch for 49ers fans

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We highlight and profile the 2018 NFL draft-eligible prospects in Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

College Football Playoff National Championship Coaches Press Conference Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

After weeks, months, and hundreds and hundreds of games, we have reached the grand finale of the college football season … the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. This edition will feature the Sugar Bowl Champion Alabama Crimson Tide facing off against the Rose Bowl Champion, Georgia Bulldogs. The game will be played in Atlanta, Georgia inside the brand new Mercedes Benz Stadium — home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. This will be the first time in the new College Football Playoff era we have had two teams from the same conference squaring off for the all the marbles.

No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (13-1) vs. No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1)

Kickoff: 5:15 p.m. PT
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium - Atlanta, Georgia
Watch: ESPN
Live stream: WatchESPN
Line: Alabama -4, O/U: 46

NFL: AUG 26 Preseason - Cardinals at Falcons Photo by Frank Mattia/ZUMA Press/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Why You Should Watch

An incredible amount of draft eligible prospects on both teams, as well as both sides of the ball. There are some intriguing prospects 49ers fans should be paying extra close attention to at certain positions (More on these prospects in a bit.).

How They Got Here

Georgia: After winning the SEC, Georgia punched it’s ticket to the College Football Playoff as the third seed. They drew the second seeded Oklahoma Sooners in the Rose Bowl Bowl game. This game became an instant classic, and if you didn’t get a chance to watch this game, please do. It is worth any football fan’s time! Georgia would narrowly defeat Oklahoma 54-48 in a thrilling, double overtime shootout, sending the Dawgs to the national title game.

Alabama: After missing out playing Georgia in the SEC title game (losing to Auburn in the Iron Bowl), Bama needed some help, and found it’s way into the 4 team dance as the number four seed, matching up against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. While Clemson was seeded first and Bama was fourth on paper, the results on the field showed us a completely opposite story. The Tide rolled all over the Tigers 24-6 and punched their ticket to their third national title game in as many years.

College Football Playoff National Championship Coaches Press Conference Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Interesting Note

As mentioned earlier, this will be the first time in the Playoff Era that two teams from the same conference play for the national championship. The other major storyline to watch is the chess match between head coaches Nick Saban and Kirby Smart. Before Smart left for Georgia he served as Saban’s defensive coordinator for eight seasons. For the record, Saban is 11-0 against former assistants and defeated them by a combined score of 430-111. No pressure Mr. Smart!

Prediction

Georgia has been impressive all season long. They are a balanced team on both sides of the ball, and it looks like they have a special true freshman quarterback in Jake Fromm. Kirby Smart has the Dawgs ahead of schedule, and here to stay thanks to excellent recruiting, development, and culture that he has instilled in Athens. Here’s the thing, betting against Saban is a tough ask. They didn’t defeat the number one team in the land last week, they outright dominated them in every aspect of the game. These Georgia Bulldogs are talented, no doubt about it. However, tonight, Saban, Jalen Hurts, and the Tide might be just a little better.

The Pick: Alabama

Top Draft Eligible Prospects To Watch

Kentucky v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Georgia Bulldogs

Roquan Smith - LB - 6’1” - 225 lbs.
Aaron Davis - CB - 6’1” - 195 lbs.
Deandre Baker - CB - 5’11” - 180 lbs.
Lorenzo Carter - Edge - Georgia - 6’6” 242 lbs.
J.R. Reed - Safety - Georgia - 6’1” - 194 lbs.
Dominick Sanders - Georgia - 6’0” - 200 lbs.
Nick Chubb - RB - Georgia - 5’10” - 228 lbs.
Sony Michel - RB - Georgia - 5’11” - 215 lbs.
Terry Godwin - WR - Georgia - 5’1” - 215 lbs.
Isaiah Wynn - OT - Georgia - 6’2” - 302 lbs.
Lamont Gallard - Center - Georgia - 6’2” - 295 lbs.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Minkah Fitzpatrick - DB - Alabama - 6’1” - 203 lbs.
Calvin Ridley - WR - Alabama - 6’1” - 190 lbs.
Rashaan Evans - LB - Alabama - 6’3” - 234 lbs.
Ronnie Harrison - Safety - Alabama - 6’3” - 214 lbs.
Da’Ron Payne - DT - Alabama - 6’2” - 308 lbs.
Anthony Averett - CB - Alabama - 6’0” - 185 lbs.
Damien Harris - RB - Alabama - 5’11” - 221 lbs.

Player Spotlight

WR Calvin Ridley, No. 3, 6’1” - 190 lbs., 4.48 40 - (1st) - Alabama

AllState Sugar Bowl - Clemson v Alabama Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Entered the 2017 collegiate season as arguably the top wide receiver prospect in college football. The consensus 5-star recruit and the nation’s top-ranked wide receiver out of high school is expected to be the next big name Alabama receiver to find success at the next level. He is a fluid playmaker with excellent speed and quickness, strong reliable hands, impressive ball skills, and extremely explosive after the catch. A complete and polished all around wide receiver, Ridley is dependable in the middle of the field displaying excellent smooth, crisp, and fluid route running, and is capable of playing inside-out, showing excellent burst off the line eating ground swiftly with premier speed taking the top off coverages.

The savvy wide receiver displays fantastic suddenness (top-notch change of direction skills with minimal gear down) with the ability to break in and out of cuts utilizing great technique (uses hands and feet in concert to create) and short area quickness to separate. Displays excellent awareness to find holes in zones, and to find his way back to the quarterback getting open. He is a natural pass catcher with the ability to take a short pass and run after the catch with a big gain. Will need to improve strength to counteract at the line of scrimmage when pressed. Shows great effort and toughness in the blocking game. A wide receiver running crisp clean routes and elite separation skills bodes well in a Kyle Shanahan offense.

OLB Rashaan Evans, No. 32, 6’3” - 234 lbs., 4.73 40 - (1st-2nd) - Alabama

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Sugar Bowl - CFP Semifinal - Alabama v Clemson Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Is an impactful complete linebacker excelling as an in-the-box linebacker running down hill, superb range flying sideline-to-sideline, fluid in space with sound awareness and instincts in coverage, and an outstanding blitzer attacking inside gaps and off the edge hitting with explosion. The former 5-star recruit out of high school is an explosive dynamic athlete with desired NFL quickness, fluidity, and versatility to play inside out with a physical and aggressive playing style.

Evans displays excellent bulk-ability taking on blocks at the point of attack with good technique rolling power through his hips winning with proper leverage separating with violent and powerful hands stacking and shedding and the agility and a quick-feet (great athleticism and balance) to run and chase finishing with violent results. He displays terrific instincts and speed easily reading run keys displaying the play speed (straight-line speed with a burst) to track down the football with impressive closing speed and amazing range. Evans and Rueben Foster would be the Alabama duo wreaking havoc all over the field for the 49ers for years to come.

DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, No. 29, 6’1” - 203 lbs. 4.55 40 (1st) - Alabama

Alabama v Vanderbilt Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

One of the best defenders this draft will have to offer, should he declare. This season Fitzpatrick had 52 tackles, one interception, seven passes broken up, and one forced fumble. Fitzpatrick is one of the most versatile players in the country. Runs fluidly through his hips, and has the speed and burst to play in one-to-one coverage with the fastest receivers. On tape he can line up and play nickel in the slot and has the range to be that centerfielder safety and cover a lot of field, especially against receivers in deep route coverages.

Fitzpatrick has demonstrated the ability to play both free safety and strong safety as he lined up within the box on numerous occasions this season. Has strong football instincts, and can be a massive contributor on any team’s defense. Fitzpatrick is a blue chip, day one, plug-and-play starter who can be utilized in numerous areas and packages on the field. At the next level it will be intriguing to see if teams play him more as a free safety, strong safety, or corner. Should Fitzpatrick declare, he will be a top 10 selection in April.

RB Nick Chubb, No. 27, 5’10” - 228 lbs., 4.56 40 - (2nd) - Georgia

Rose Bowl Game - Oklahoma v Georgia Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Displays an amazing combination of strength, explosion, vision, patience, and suddenness. In 2015, Chubb suffered a gruesome season-ending knee injury and his road back to pre-injury form has been a battle. Nevertheless, he is back with authority displaying more speed, power, and explosion. He makes cuts on a dime and has one of the best “feel” instincts in the game. It’s like he has a spidey sense anticipating contact and superb quickness and power breaking tackles always falling forward and running to day light.

Chubb is a powerful and violent downhill runner displaying excellent balance and vision rumbling through defenses spinning and shedding off tackles with great power and physicality. He shows solid pad level hitting the hole with power behind his pads, sound ability in making consecutive moves in a short area, and outstanding football IQ and awareness (knows when to be decisive). He knows how to create yards on his own and has shown impressive skills running outside with great quickness and wiggle (terrific feet) flashing suddenness to be elusive in space showcasing agility, flexibility, and tremendous balance. Chubb is a nimble bruiser and scheme diverse, but will have durability concerns with his knee injury during the pre-draft process.

OLB Lorenzo Carter, No. 7, 6’6” - 242 lbs., 4.73 40 - (1st-2nd) - Georgia

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 07 Georgia at Vanderbilt Photo by Jamie Gilliam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Is an explosive athlete with excellent length (vines for limbs), explosion, and versatility. He shows great speed and terrific bend off the edge with impressive first-step burst and great hand usage (active hands) taking advantage of his long arms with good pop at the point of attack. He is quick to transition into pass rush with great body control, balance, and good change of direction skills, and will fly out of the arc from his bend adjusting with ease utilizing his amazing length. Carter is also great in the run game, where his agility, balance, and strength (will need to increase functional strength at the next level) helps him set the edge, stack with his long arms and disengage easily making the play.

A fluid athlete with sound awareness, Carter displays great agility stunting or twisting exploding with closing speed attacking the ball carrier hitting with explosion. Fluidity and short area quickness shows in space, where he displays sound instincts and awareness quickly diagnosing and attacking arriving in a hurry (nice closing speed). Carter is good in zone coverage taking full advantage of his amazing wingspan covering a lot of the field occupying passing lanes, and flashes defensive back skills to cover running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers. Carter is a three-down SAM backer with the versatility to play LEO and be disruptive in coverage.

LB Roquan Smith, No. 3, 6’1” - 225 lbs., 4.57 40 - (1st) - Georgia

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 30 Georgia at Tennessee Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Smith is one of the fastest and aggressive linebackers available in this draft. This season Smith had a total of 113 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and two passes batted. Smith is a dual-threat linebacker who defends effectively against the run and has the ability and range to contribute and make a presence in pass coverage. His quick first step, jump, and speed give him the lateral ability to cover from sideline to sideline. Some may be concerned about his size as a linebacker, however if he is in the right system, he can be utilized in a variety of ways. He can run downhill and deliver hits, plays sideline-to-sideline, and shows tremendous poise and leadership.

In last week’s Rose Bowl Game, Smith was flying around the field, delivering hits, and breaking up plays with his speed and football instincts. Smith sets a tone early and often, and that is a physical brand of football that he brings to the field. Smith’s leadership is second to none, and his play and physical nature is absorbed by his teammates, and raises their ability and performance. Smith is a special talent, and while his frame might not be the most ideal, he makes up for it with his athleticism, speed, and overall style of play. While there is certainly some debate, I believe Smith is versatile enough to fit in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. I expect that Smith will be the first linebacker selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Who are YOU excited to see in action tonight? Please share in the comments below!