49ers and Raiders fans will recognize the man in khakis on Michigan's sideline in Saturday's Peach Bowl, but they should pay more attention to a pair of edge rushers.
Both Bay Area teams need to improve their pass rush headed into 2019. The Florida Gators (9-3) and the Michigan Wolverines (10-2) each have an edge rusher 49ers and Raiders should keep their eye on.
Jachai Polite, DE (Florida)
Polite may or may not enter the draft, but his athleticism and pass-rushing pedigree make him an intriguing option.
The 21-year-old was tied for sixth in Division I with 11.0 sacks this season. Pro Football Focus named the junior an Honorable Mention All-American at the edge defender position.
Although Polite's calling card is his speed, he still has a diverse arsenal of moves to beat offensive linemen, according to CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso. Still, the combination of his speed and size (6-foot-2, 242 pounds) make him capable of plays like this.
This is probably one of the most athletic plays you'll see a defensive lineman make on tape all year. Jachai Polite is a freak. pic.twitter.com/7LJYmVi5Jq— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) December 27, 2018
Of course, by no means is Polite a finished product. Consistency is an issue, according to The Draft Network's Kyle Crabbs, and he must improve when defending the run.
I'm a big fan of what Jachai Polite brings as a pass rusher. But he needs significant refinement as a run defender. Loses contain immediately. pic.twitter.com/yM3Qb6tEr4— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) December 27, 2018
Still, Polite would fill a major area of need for both the 49ers and Raiders. They ranked 19th and 32nd, respectively, in sacks entering Week 17.
Oakland and San Francisco should have better options in the top five -- assuming both teams still pick there -- but Polite could still be there when the Raiders make their second of three first-round picks. Depending on which mock drafts you look at, Polite is a mid-to-late first-round pick, and he could be available for the Raiders depending on how far the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears advance in the postseason.
They still have a Khalil Mack-sized hole on defense, so Polite may be an option even if the Raiders opt to select an edge rusher with their first pick.
Chase Winovich, DE (Michigan)
The fifth-year senior was a fixture on the Wolverines' dominant defense in 2018. He was third on the team in total tackles (62), and first in tackles-for-loss (14.5). Winovich also added four sacks and seven quarterback hits, and was named First Team All-Big 10 by Pro Football Focus.
His long blonde hair and build (6-foot-3, 255 pounds) are reminiscent of Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, and he has a strong all-around skillset. Pro Football Weekly's Greg Gabriel sees Winovich as a capable pass- and run-defender, with the quickness necessary to track down opposing running backs, and the speed and power beat offensive lineman in a variety of ways.
Nothing really stands out about him physically, but I'll probably like Winovich more than most because he's good with his hands/knows what he's doing. Stutter push-pull for the half sack. pic.twitter.com/TNg0cLes7a— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) September 7, 2018
He does have some limitations. Gabriel noted that Winovich does not play in coverage for Michigan, while Crabbs wrote that Winovich's lack of "lateral mobility, flexibility, [and] length" raise some concerns about his athleticism. Plus, Winovich delayed an undisclosed surgery until after he plays in the Senior Bowl and participates in the NFL Combine.
Winovich could be an option for the 49ers and Raiders on the second day of the draft, and either team would get a player who some prognosticators see as close to, if not already, NFL-ready. ESPN's Todd McShay wrote in November he "[loved] the tape" on Winovich, while Mel Kiper, Jr. said Winovich just narrowly missed his most recent top 25 rankings. Oakland and San Francisco have other pressing areas of needed, so waiting to scoop up Winovich could pay off.
Here's how 49ers and Raiders fans can watch the Peach Bowl live online:
When: Saturday, Dec. 29, at 9 a.m. PT
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream: Watch ESPN