Kudos if you were able to gut out Monday night’s College Football Playoff final, because the juice was worth the squeeze.
The fourth quarter of Clemson’s 35-31 win against Alabama featured 28 points scored and three lead changes in the game’s last 4:38.
Unfortunately (for some) the game ended at 12:28 a.m. in the east, 11:28 p.m. in the central, so it’s understandable if everyone didn’t quite make it all the way through.
Those of us who did were treated to an all-time great finish to a game that started slowly, but featured a slew of NFL-caliber prospects.
With that in mind, Monday’s game featured eight players who were first-round picks in Dane Buglar’s NFL mock draft at CBSSports.com. In this particular mock draft, potential Bears target Mitch Trubisky was actually drafted second overall by the San Francisco 49ers, while the Bears end up with Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer with the very next pick.
If that’s what plays out in April’s draft, it would mean the Bears left a ton of talent from the national championship game on the board.
Pro Football Focus graded every key player on Clemson and Alabama, including five of the eight projected first-round picks. Among the highlights:
- Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (76.4) was great under pressure, racking up 420 passing yards and three touchdown passes while also adding 43 rush yards and a score on the ground. Watson was greatly aided by wide receiver Mike Williams, whose 83.1 grade was the best among Clemson’s offensive players. Williams hauled in eight catches (11 targets) for 94 yards and a touchdown.
- If Watson’s performances in the College Football Playoffs don’t boost his draft stock, I’m not sure what will. Add up his postseason stats (ACC Championship plus the two College Football Playoff games), and we’re looking at 967 passing yards (65.1 percent completion rate), 7 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 185 rushing yards (on 53 carries) and five touchdowns. Being that good when the games mattered the most leaves a good impression.
- On the Alabama side, tight end O.J. Howard (78.7) posted the second highest score among the Crimson Tide’s offensive players. He gained 106 yards on four catches – and added a key block on Bo Scarbrough’s first touchdown. Tight end isn’t at the top of the list of Bears needs, but considering the lack of depth at tight end and Zach Miller’s history, the Bears would be wise to add a two-way playmaker at that position. Tackle Cam Robinson was dinged on some penalties en route to a 72.2 grade.
- Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster (86.9) was PFF’s highest graded linebacker all season and came away with the highest grade of anyone who played on Monday. Foster tallied 12 tackles (6 solo) and added a sack of Watson.
Did anyone notice what Andy Masur saw when he spotted this unique patch worn by Watson last night? It was unique because it honored former Clemson quarterback Steve Fuller – who played for the Bears from 1984 to 1986:
— Andy Masur (@Andy_Masur1) January 10, 2017
The rest of your non-college football playoff related bullets:
- What do Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley and Cam Meredith have in common? Each threw a touchdown pass that landed among the Bears’ top-10 plays of 2016.
- Jordan Howard, who also finds himself on that top-10 plays list, ended the year being named as the NFL’s Rookie of the Month in December. He becomes the first Bears player to win the award since Anthony Thomas did it in October 2001.
- Both Patrick Finley of the Sun-Times and Dan Durkin of The Athletic have offseason outlooks worth digging into. Over at the Sun-Times, Finley’s offseason primer takes a look at the team’s free agents, important offseason dates, needs and more. Meanwhile, Durkin maps out the five needs GM Ryan Pace should be focused on this offseason. Some of these needs go hand-in-hand, and it will be interesting to see how the team goes about fixing as many of these needs as possible.
- Clint Hurtt, who coached defensive linemen under Marc Trestman and outside linebackers for John Fox has found a new job coaching New York Jets outside linebackers. Hurtt opted to leave the Bears last week for opportunities outside the organization and inked a two-year deal to work for Todd Bowles, whose Jets were a disappointing 5-11 in 2016.
- In other coaching news, The Detroit News cites an Ian Rapoport report that Browns assistant head coach Pep Hamilton will be joining the University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbuagh as passing game coach/assistant head coach. Hamilton was a Bears quarterbacks coach from 2007 to 2008, where Bears starting quarterbacks included Kyle Orton (18 starts), Rex Grossman (8 starts) and Brian Griese (6 starts).
- Former Bears star cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman penned an open letter about Chicago’s violence, which he shared via Twitter over the weekend.
My thoughts on and hope for a better Chicago… pic.twitter.com/XPF6QXjxTt
— Charles Tillman (@peanuttillman) January 8, 2017