Orange Bowl: Why 49ers, Raiders fans should watch Alabama vs. Oklahoma


Orange Bowl: Why 49ers, Raiders fans should watch Alabama vs. Oklahoma

With two out of the top four picks in the 2019 NFL Draft at this time, the 49ers and Raiders' brass will be all over the Orange Bowl. 

After already looking at prospects the teams could target in the Cotton Bowl, here's a plethora of players to watch that fit the 49ers and Raiders' needs when Alabama plays Oklahoma. 

Quinnen Williams, DL (Alabama)

Williams, 6-foot-4 and 289 pounds, burst onto the scene as a redshirt sophomore after only playing in nine games as a freshman. He was rated as Pro Football Focus' best player in college this year, regardless of position. 

The recently turned 21-year-old could be the perfect fit for the 49ers or Raiders with their top pick. Though he isn't the traditional edge rusher both teams are looking for, Williams might be too talented to pass up. 

Through 13 games played, Williams has 66 tackles (18 for loss), and eight sacks. 

Deionte Thompson, S (Alabama)

Thompson, like Williams, has been another breakout player for the Crimson Tide. If the 49ers trade down out of the No. 2 pick, Thompson could be an option, but for the Raiders, pairing him with Karl Joseph could be a lethal combination if he falls to them. 

Ranked as Pro Football Focus' No. 4 player in the College Football Playoff, Thompson can do it all. He only played in 15 games his first two years, but as a redshirt junior, the safety has 70 tackles (3.5 for loss), two interceptions, five passes defensed, one fumble recovery, and three forced fumbles.

Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, WR (Oklahoma)

Brown is a big play waiting to happen. Former scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah recently compared the speedster to DeSean Jackson. 

Listed at only 5-10 and 168 pounds, he's had back-to-back years with over 1,000 yards receiving for the Sooners. As a junior, Brown has 75 receptions for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. With the loss of Amari Cooper, he's exactly who Derek Carr and the Raiders could need. 

Raekwon Davis, DL (Alabama) 

Williams stole the show from Davis this year after his huge sophomore season where he had 69 tackles (10 for loss) and 8.5 sacks. His junior year was relatively quiet with 52 tackles (4.5 for loss) and and half a sack. 

But he's still plenty capable of plays like this: 

Trevon Diggs, CB (Alabama)

Diggs is all about upside. He came to Alabama as a wide receiver, but transitioned to defense as a sophomore. As a junior, his athleticism has jumped off the page. 

Here he is up against top wide receiver prospect DK Metcalf of Ole Miss: 

At 6-2 and 199 pounds with NFL speed, Diggs could be a steal for the 49ers on Day 2 if he declares.

Damien Harris, RB (Alabama) 

Harris is perhaps the most experienced running back in the draft after four years under Nick Saban. He may not be the flashiest, but he's a complete football player. 

Competing with Iowa State's David Montgomery for RB1 on draft night, the Raiders could snag him with one of their later picks in the first round. He has 2,965 rushing yards for his career with the Crimson Tide and 21 touchdowns on the ground while averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

Josh Jacobs, RB (Alabama)

Jacobs is in a different position than Harris. Though he has the third-most carries on the team, word is he will declare for the draft, according to WalterFootball.com.

While he may be RB3 at 'Bama, that wouldn't be the case anywhere else. He has 11 rushing touchdowns and two more receiving this season. 

Irv Smith Jr., TE (Alabama)

Smith is seen as the No. 2 tight end in the draft behind Iowa's Noah Fast by many outlets. He's a complete player who can throw a block or be a weapon in the passing game. 

Jared Cook is a free agent after this season, and Smith could be his replacement for the Raiders. As a junior he has 38 receptions for 648 yards and seven touchdowns.

Here’s how 49ers and Raiders fans can watch Alabama play Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl:

When: Saturday, Dec. 29, at 5:00 p.m. PT
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream: Watch ESPN

How Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo earlier would've affected 49ers


How Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo earlier would've affected 49ers

The New England Patriots' ideal Tom Brady successor is the franchise quarterback for Brady's childhood team.

The Patriots dealt Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round draft pick in 2017, to coach Bill Belichick's reported chagrin. He envisioned Garoppolo leading the Patriots into another decade of dominance, but owner Robert Kraft ordered Belichick to trade Garoppolo and keep Brady, ESPN's Seth Wickersham reported in 2018.

Neither Brady nor Garoppolo will be in New England when the 2020 season starts, as the former signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (that's still weird to type and say out loud) as a free agent last month. The Patriots' QB depth chart currently consists of Jarrett Stidham and former 49er Brian Hoyer, which doesn't exactly inspire dynasty-building confidence.

That left NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry to wonder if the Patriots would've been better off trading Garoppolo sooner, when then-Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson stopped just shy of holding a neon sign over his head indicating he would trade the No. 12 pick before that year's draft for Garoppolo.

"On its face, making that move made sense for both sides," Perry wrote Friday. "The Browns were desperate for a competent quarterback. They were flush with picks. The Patriots, meanwhile, didn't have a first or a second-rounder that spring. For them, trading Garoppolo with a year left on his contract represented an opportunity to bolster their 2017 rookie haul with a top-15 talent."

The ripple effects, as Perry noted would've been far-reaching.

Jackson would've had his quarterback of the future, and thus the Browns might not have drafted Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall -- or even had the pick -- in 2018. The 49ers, who Kyle Shanahan admitted were focused enough on acquiring Kirk Cousins as a free agent in 2018 that they passed on Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft, then likely would've gone all-in on Cousins. The Patriots, then, could've drafted Deshaun Watson at No. 12 overall -- the same pick the Houston Texans used after acquiring it from the Browns -- as Brady's successor.

Thankfully for fans sick of New England winning titles, that didn't happen. It's also fair to wonder if any of the teams involved other than the Patriots actually were better off.

Acquiring Garoppolo could've saved Jackson's job in the short-term, but the Browns didn't become a team who failed to meet lofty expectations until after Jackson's firing. The 49ers, had they signed Cousins to the same contract he signed with the Vikings in 2018, would've had more flexibility in the first season but less in the second when compared to Garoppolo's extension. Neither Cousins nor Garoppolo is a clear upgrade over the other, and it's not like you can guarantee Cousins wouldn't have torn his ACL in 2018, either.

[RELATED: Kittle's 49ers rise didn't shock fellow Iowa star Hanks at all]

The Patriots can (and surely will) kick themselves all they want for not maximizing Garoppolo's trade return, but the Browns might not view a hypothetical Garoppolo deal with the same regret since that still would've meant not picking Watson.

The 49ers, assuming they still signed Cousins, surely would've been happy either way.

George Kittle's 49ers rise didn't shock fellow Iowa star Merton Hanks

George Kittle's 49ers rise didn't shock fellow Iowa star Merton Hanks

Tight end George Kittle already is the 49ers’ best fifth-round draft pick since 1991.

Kittle has picked up two Pro Bowl selections and a First-Team All-Pro award in his first three NFL seasons. The 49ers have not experienced that kind of success from a player in the fifth round since the selection of defensive back Merton Hanks, a four-time Pro Bowl player and starter on the 49ers’ Super Bowl champion team in the 1994 season.

Kittle, like Hanks, played college ball at Iowa.

“I think that’s a great symmetry,” Hanks said this week on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

“The 49ers do pretty well with fifth-round draft picks from the University of Iowa. We tend to knock it out of the park a little bit there.”

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Hanks, who now works as senior associate commissioner of Conference USA, described himself as a first-round talent who fell in the draft due to a bad performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. He apparently scared teams with his reported time of 4.77 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Kittle had an impressive combine. He had all the measurables, but he did not post great numbers as a pass-catcher during his four-year college career. In 25 games over four seasons, Kittle caught just 48 passes for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In his first 45 regular-season games with the 49ers, Kittle has 216 catches for 2,945 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“I can’t say I’m surprised at all,” said Hanks, who referred to Iowa as “Tight Ends U."

[RELATED: How ex-49er Merton Hanks channeled 'Sesame Street' in iconic dance]

Iowa produced two tight ends in the first round of the 2019 draft: T.J. Hockenson, chosen No. 8 overall by the Detroit Lions, and Noah Fant, whom the Denver Broncos picked at No. 20.

“Coach (Kirk) Ferentz had NFL ties," Hanks added. "He understands the NFL game and what tight ends have to do to be successful, not only on the collegiate level, but the NFL level.”