Clemson NFL draft prospects 49ers, Raiders fans should watch vs Alabama

Clemson NFL draft prospects 49ers, Raiders fans should watch vs Alabama

The 49ers and the Raiders' big boards for the 2019 NFL Draft will start with edge rushers.

Both Bay Area teams struggled mightily in rushing the passer this past season, but they're in position to address that in April. The 49ers own the No. 2 overall pick, and the Raiders will select at No. 4 before they make two other picks near the end of the first round -- one of which we already know is at No. 24.

In the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night against Alabama at Levi's Stadium, a top-tier pass rusher will be on display for Clemson, as will a long cornerback whom either team could use. 

Clelin Ferrell, DE

Ferrell did it all for the Tigers in their dominant 30-3 Cotton Bowl win over Notre Dame to reach this title game. The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder ended the day with four tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one pass defensed. 

No. 99 is playing in the Bay Area for the first time, but he's familiar with its teams. Ferrell models his game after the best version of Aldon Smith, and he said he wants to be what the former 49ers and Raiders edge rusher should've been in the NFL.

Ferrell's impressive stats show that possibility. He has 27 sacks over three seasons at Clemson, including 21 sacks in the last two years. This season, he has 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss, and was voted a first-team All-American for the second consecutive year. He also won the Ted Hendricks Award, annually given to the nation’s best defensive end.

Watching Ferrell match wits against Alabama All-American offensive tackle Jonah Williams will be a great test and one NFL front offices will be all over as they scout both players.

Trayvon Mullen, CB 

Aside from an edge rusher, cornerback is the 49ers' next greatest need. They were last in the NFL with just two interceptions. Yes, two. 

But Mullen doesn't have one interception this season. He'll still be an option for them on Day 2 of the draft, though. 

Mullen had three interceptions in 2017, and has ideal NFL size at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. Here's how The Draft Network describes him: "Mullen plays up to his frame in terms of play strength and assertiveness as a tackler and in coverage. He flashes moments of outstanding ball skills and his long arms allow for recovery and margin of error."

Here's how 49ers and Raiders fans who want to see these prospects can watch Alabama-Clemson live on TV and online:

When: 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on Monday, Jan. 7
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream: Watch ESPN

2019 Senior Bowl: 49ers, Raiders preferences met with teams' rosters


2019 Senior Bowl: 49ers, Raiders preferences met with teams' rosters

The Senior Bowl is not so much a college All-Star Game as it is an NFL projection showcase.

“It’s all about the pros,” Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “The game is for the NFL. These rosters aren’t for us. This is for the 32 teams.”

The 49ers coaches arrived in Mobile, Alabama, on Sunday evening. Kyle Shanahan and his staff will get to see their collection of players on the South squad on the practice field for the first time Tuesday. The entire week could be a valuable component of the evaluation process for the NFL draft more than three months from now.

The 49ers and Jon Gruden’s staff with the Raiders will have access that no other organizations will be afforded through Saturday’s game.

“We don’t try to babysit these guys this week,” Nagy said. “We want it to be an NFL work week for them. They know which guys are late in the morning for breakfast. They see which guys are attentive in meetings and taking good notes. They see a particular learning style a guy might have or how he bounces back in practice from a bad rep.

"There’s so much behind-the-scenes stuff that the other 30 teams don’t see.”

Nagy is in his first year of piecing together the rosters for the Senior Bowl after spending five years as a Southeast region scout for the Seattle Seahawks. He was also an NFL scout Washington, New England and Kansas City.

“People have to understand there’s a huge different between being a good college player and being a legitimate pro prospect,” Nagy said.

For instance, he said, there is the recent case of Clemson defensive player Ben Boulware, who won the Lambert Award for the best linebacker in college football in 2017. Boulware was also the defensive MVP of the national championship game.

After a week at the Senior Bowl, most teams concluded Boulware was too short and too slow to play in the NFL. He signed with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted rookie. When he was cut before the start of the regular season, the 49ers signed him to their practice squad. He lasted seven days with the 49ers before he was cut.

And that brought an end to his NFL career.

“Ben was a great college linebacker,” Nagy said. “But this game is about finding prospects who are going to play a long time at the next level. And we need to find the best players the NFL wants to see.”

Both teams had input into the composition of their rosters, Nagy said.

“The great thing is that they’re both really happy with the rosters,” Nagy said. “There were a couple of exceptions where each team said, ‘We’d really like to have this guy. If we can spend time with this guy, we’d love to have him.’ They haven’t been too demanding with it. There have been a couple of requests, but no pressure. I’ve tried to accommodate those requests.”

Nagy said he leaned on the teams when it came to bringing aboard late additions to the team. He would present a list of four or five players at a particular position and allow the teams to select which players would join their roster.

Among the late additions to the 49ers’ South roster are running back Wes Hills (Slippery Rock), wide receiver Gary Jennings (West Virginia), offensive tackle Oli Udoh (Elon), defensive tackles Demarcus Christmas (Florida State) and Daylon Mack (Texas A&M), linebacker Gerri Green (Mississippi State) and cornerback Mark Fields (Clemson).

Why Eli Manning nearly missed Giants' 2012 NFC Championship win over 49ers


Why Eli Manning nearly missed Giants' 2012 NFC Championship win over 49ers

We now know the Rams and the Patriots will square off in Super Bowl LIII, but New England's opponent in Super Bowl XLVI seven years ago could have been much different. 

Manning led the Giants to a 20-17 overtime win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship on Jan. 22, 2012, at Candlestick Park. He completed 32 of 58 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns. 

But he nearly missed the game.

David Carr, Manning's backup quarterback that season in New York, revealed Sunday that Eli missed multiple practices leading up to the game because of the flu. 

"We roll into Friday, he's still sick -- can't practice. He's literally in the training room getting IVs all day," Carr said. "Has the flu for like four straight days. So I practice on Friday with the team. So now Eli hasn't had any practice time, I've taken all the reps for the NFC Championship Game.

"He shows up on Saturday, looks fine, he goes through the walk-through, goes to the game. Everything is normal. No one knew. He didn't practice all week."

Oh, what could have been.

Manning threw for 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns in the 2011 regular season. Carr, on the other hand, didn't attempt a single pass.

Two weeks later, Manning led the Giants to a 21-17 Super Bowl win over the Patriots.

Instead of David Tyree becoming a hero, it could have been Michael Crabtree, or, more appropriately, someone like Ted Ginn Jr.