5 things to know for the college football national championship between Georgia and Alabama
The 49ers need to add a cornerback, a pass catcher and perhaps a running back in the upcoming draft. It turns out tonight’s national championship game has all that and more. Here are six prospects projected to go in the first two rounds. Yes, we know there are more than six from this game. But some, like Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne are unlikely to go to the 49ers. After all, they wouldn’t draft another defensive lineman in the first round, right? (Right?)
CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama, No. 29. Anyone who watched the Jacksonville Jaguars this season -- including during Sunday's wild-card win -- knows that having two top-tier cornerbacks went a long way toward the Jaguars' success. Fitzpatrick hits the size requirements (6-1, 203 pounds) for cornerback in the 49ers' scheme, has played a lot of man coverage in Nick Saban's physical defense and is athletic -- and smart -- enough to play multiple spots.
How he fits: Fitzpatrick is capable of playing nickel cornerback and safety. But the 49ers' Year 1 assignment would be much more straightforward: Start at outside cornerback opposite Ahkello Witherspoon. San Francisco not only struggled at times at the position in 2017, it has few cornerbacks signed for the upcoming season. All of which makes the position a top, if not the top, target in the offseason.
WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama, No. 3. Kyle Shanahan's requirement for a wide receiver is simple: He wants the ones who can create separation. Ridley does that in two ways. He'll be the fastest guy on the field when Alabama is on offense. He's also extremely quick in tight spaces. Ridley does not exude size and power like one-time Alabama receiver Julio Jones. His body type and style instead have drawn comparisons to Marvin Harrison.
How he fits: On one hand, the 49ers may conclude their roster rebuild is not far enough along to add a bells-and-whistles pick like a receiver, especially with Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor all returning for 2018. On the other, Ridley would make quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo -- and any investment in Garoppolo -- look even better.
LB Roquan Smith, Georgia, No. 3. He's in the mold of recent 49ers linebackers like Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Reuben Foster in that he makes tackles all over the field and can't be outrun to the sideline. Smith has 76 stops this year, 11 1/2 of them behind the line of scrimmage.
How he fits: The 49ers don't have a screaming need for the position. They envision Foster at "Mike" linebacker and 2017 free-agent pickup Malcolm Smith at the "Will" spot. Brock Coyle and perhaps Elijah Lee, would be the back-ups. Still, the 49ers could fall in love with Smith like they did with Foster and conclude that a Smith-Foster duo is too special to pass up.
LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama, No. 32. This might be a more plausible linebacker scenario, especially if the 49ers trade back in the first round. Evans (listed at 6-3, 231) has played just about everywhere in the Alabama defense, including inside and along the edge. Like Foster, he's a ferocious hitter who has come on strong in recent games and who promises to get a lot of air time vs. Georgia's potent rushing attack.
How he fits: Evans has played a lot on the edge (he has six sacks, 11 1/2 tackles for loss this season) and might be a good fit at the strong-side linebacker spot in San Francisco's defense. He also has been effective as an inside linebacker and could be insurance for Foster and Smith, both of whom dealt with injuries in 2017.
RB Nick Chubb, Georgia, No. 27. He's considered one of the best runners in the draft, one whose size (5-10, 225) and balance suggest a lead tailback in the NFL.
How he fits: The 49ers have two home-run threats in Matt Breida and Joe Williams for next season but may have to replace Carlos Hyde, who is headed for free agency. Still, given the 49ers' philosophy at running back -- great ones can be found throughout, even after, the draft -- and the strength at the position this year, it's hard to see them taking Chubb, who likely will be taken in the late-first, early-second area of the draft in which the 49ers don't have a selection.
RB Sony Michel, Georgia, No. 1. He's the lightning to Chubb's thunder. Michel was the offensive star of the Bulldogs' Rose Bowl victory, rushing for 181 yards, adding another 41 on pass catches and scoring four touchdowns altogether. Michel averaged eight yards per carry in 2017.
How he fits: As far as scheme fits, Michel is the type of one-cut-and-go runner Shanahan covets. And since he's unlikely to be drafted as high as Chubb, he might be more realistic for the 49ers, whose second-round pick (from the Saints) is falling with every New Orleans playoff win.