Name: Tremaine Edmunds
School: Virginia Tech
Measurables: 6’5, 253 LBS, 34 1/2 inch arm
We’ve seen Edmunds’ draft stock skyrocket already this off-season. There is a lot of projecting going into Edmunds’ stock — essentially what they think he can become VS. what he is right now, a 19 year old, extremely talented athlete. I’d keep a close eye on his performance in the shuttle drills, as he could really wow some people with his quickness in small spaces. A strong showing from him in the bench press drills could convince teams that he is strong enough to make the transition from linebacker to occasional/full-time pass-rusher. Also, teams will likely be watching closely when Edmunds preforms the three-cone drill, as he’ll do his best to demonstrate his bend ability. Edmunds is a Swiss-Army knife and any defense that is lucky enough to land him would be improved significantly.
Name: Roquan Smith
Measurables: 6’1, 236 LBS, 32 inch arms
Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds are fighting for that top spot at the linebacker position and boy, is it a close one! These two linebackers are both tremendous athletes and although Edmunds is a little bit bigger, Smith more than holds his own on the field. Smith will have to opportunity to wow teams with his ridiculous speed in the 40-yard dash and during the shuttle drills. He is perhaps the fastest linebacker to get to the ball in the 2018 NFL Draft. His vertical jump will come into play, but I have a feeling Smith will make his case to overlook his lack of height. Come the NFL Draft, Edmunds and Smith will likely be the first two linebackers taken off the board, and just as likely to go within the top 10-15 picks. Smith would fill a large void on the 49ers defense, especially with Reuben Foster’s recent troubles with the law.
Name: Darius Leonard
School: South Carolina State
Measurables: 6’2, 234 LBS, 34 3/8 inch arms
With the majority of the hype going to Edmunds and Smith, SC State linebacker Darius Leonard is flying up draft boards under the radar. This guy is an athletic freak! In Leonard, you get the best of both worlds — he is strong enough to stay inside and load the box, but he is also fast enough to line up and drop back into coverage with tight ends, running backs, and wide receivers. Leonard put on a show at the Senior Bowl, racking up 14 tackles in only about one half of play! I think we should keep an eye on the bench press drills to see if he can demonstrate to teams that he is strong enough to load up the box and go get ’em. I’d also keep an eye on if Leonard shows he improved his block-shedding technique, as that has plagued him in throughout his collegiate career.
Name: Tegray Scales
Measurables: 6’0, 230 LBS, 30 3/4 inch arms
After the top of this linebacker class, there is a bit of a drop off in talent. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any talented linebackers later in the draft. Indiana LB Tegray Scales is one of those that will be available later in the draft, and is still very talented. I’ve seen mock drafts having Scales go as early as the second round, and I’ve seen some that have him going as late as the fifth round. One of Scales’ best traits on the field is his ability to fly to the ball, no matter how far he is. He always seems to be the first to make contact with the ball-carrier. I’d pay close attention to Scales run the shuttle drill, as his sideline-to-sideline ability is outstanding; he could really open some eyes at the NFL Combine. Also, he has an uncanny ability to drop back into man-coverage and more than hold his own.
Name: Oren Burks
Measurables: 6’3, 233 LBS, 33 3/8 inch arms
Rounding out the bottom of the talented linebackers likely available in the mid-late rounds is Vanderbilt product Oren Burks. Burks might be coming into the NFL at just the right time. Previously, defenders regarded as “tweeners” (players that are just in between to positions that don’t really fit anywhere) were often tossed to the side. However, in today’s NFL, “hybrid defenders” as they’re now called, are becoming more valuable than ever. Burks is thought of as an extremely athletic, smart, and versatile linebacker. If he is able to put his versatility center stage at the NFL Combine, he could become a household “sleeper” name by the time the NFL Draft arrives. I mean, he even played safety while at Vanderbilt! Burks truly is a ‘plug & play’ type of player. I’m excited to see how fast he looks on the field — shuttle drill, cone drill, 40-yard dash — I think Burks will really turn some heads in Indianapolis this week.
Name: Fred Warner
Position: Outside/Inside Linebacker, Safety
School: Brigham Young University
Measurables: 6’3, 236 LBS, 32 inch arms
Warner is another hybrid defender on this list, as he is officially listed as an outside linebacker, he operates on the field like a safety. Depending on what scheme he ends up in, he could find some success in the hybrid role. Warner’s performance at the Combine can have strong implications on where teams think he’s suited best to play. He’s listed as an OLB, but he really is another “tweener.” I’d pay attention to the three-cone drill to examine his bendability, if he absolutely kills it, I could see teams wanting to stay as an edge-rusher at the next level in the NFL. On the other hand, if he wants to stay as an inside linebacker, Warner needs to do well on the bench press drill. Teams are looking to see if he’s bulked up to man the middle of the field.
Name: Marcus Davenport
Measurables: 6’6, 264 LBS, 33 5/8 inch arms
The Combine could make or break Davenport’s stock. As an upside and traits based pick, and he needs to show he has the explosiveness in his upper and lower body and the requisite flexibility to make the transition from the C-USA to the NFL. Whilst not a great test of upper body explosiveness, the bench press will be important as he tries to demonstrate his strength will translate to the NFL, given his regular use of power in college. If he shows up well here, that could be enough for some NFL teams to take him purely as a power rusher. However, the 49ers will want to see Davenport’s lower body explosiveness and flexibility too – will he be able to get upfield off the snap and challenge the outside shoulder of offensive tackles? His 10 yard split on the 40 and his broad jump will test his initial explosiveness, whilst the agility drills will show his potential as an edge bender. If Davenport tests well, he could become a candidate for the 49ers at 9 or 10.
Name: Harold Landry
School: Boston College
Measurables: 6’2, 252 LBS, 32 7/8 inch arms
After a staggering year as a junior, Landry’s performances dropped off noticeably as a senior (perhaps due to injury), seeing his stock drop noticeably as a result. The Combine could reverse that however. Unlike the aforementioned Davenport, who was already weighed and measured at the Senior Bowl, Landry’s Combine starts at the weigh ins/measuring stage; Landry’s height, weight and arm length will all play a major role in his evaluation. The 49ers would probably like him to be at least in the region of 250lbs. Then, when it comes to the testing, Landry will need to show the explosiveness and bend that he demonstrated as a junior and occasionally flashed this past year. His 10 yard split in the 40 and his three cone could well be the best amongst EDGE types at the combine. If he did that, his stock would probably lift off, firing him right back into contention for the 49ers in the top 10.
Name: Jeff Holland
Measurables: 6’1, 249 LBS, 33 1/2 inch arms
Holland likely fits in San Francisco as a sub-package edge rusher early on, and looks likely a day two prospect at the moment. He shows the ability to get upfield off the snap and turn the corner – and a good 10 yard split in his 40, combined with solid efforts in the broad jump and 3 cone will suggest that those abilities are translatable to the NFL.
Name: Hercules Mata’afa
School: Washington State
Measurables: 6’2, 254 LBS, 31 1/2 inch arms
Mata’afa is a bit of a bizarre prospect – a 250lb guy who generally lined up inside in college and did serious damage. He’s unlikely to play there in the NFL – adding another 20/25lbs to play even at the 5-tech spot will probably rob him of the explosiveness that he makes him such an intriguing prospect. At times however, we did see him stunt from inside to out and get round tackles – a rare glimpse into his potential on the edge. The most important drill for Mata’afa will be the 3 cone – how agile and bendable is he? If he shows up well, his potential as an NFL EDGE, and more specifically a 49ers LEO, is massively increased. His 10 yard split in the 40 and his broad jump will hopefully just confirm what shows up on tape – Mata’afa is über explosive.
Name: Isaiah Oliver
Measurables: 6’0, 201 LBS, 33 1/2 inch arms
Nothing But Niners’ own Eric Crocker is an enormous fan of Oliver, and reports are that he’s likely to test extremely well. The question really is just how extremely well that is and if his physical testing might be enough to elevate him into the discussion for the 49ers in the top ten. So far he’s generally been discussed as a trade down candidate.
Name: Kevin Toliver
Measurables: 6’2, 192 LBS, 30 1/8 inch arms
Eric Crocker also loves Toliver, and has been a fan of him since long before the draft process started. Toliver is another prototypical cover 3 press man corner. The Combine will likely show just how awesome Toliver’s size is, whilst hopefully confirming his speed. The agility drills will be huge for Toliver – we know he’s fast and should show up well as a deep third corner. But does he have the quickness and agility to be a viable man cover option in the NFL as well? If he does, suddenly he starts looking like a comfortable day 2 prospect. Those two picks at the top of the third suddenly start looking like his sort of range.
Name: Quenton Meeks
Measurables: 6’1, 209 LBS, 31 3/4 inch arms
If the Stanford connection is real, Meeks could be a legitimate day 2/early day 3 option for the 49ers. But there are several doubts about his long speed and his movement skills before the Combine. A 40 in the low 4.5s or less will reduce fears about the former, and the three cone and corner drills will give us a better idea about how well Meeks moves in space. If Meeks has the athleticism to pair with his technical prowess, he could be following his former teammate Solomon Thomas in staying in the Bay.
Name: Isaac Yiadom
School: Boston College
Measurables: 6’1, 190 LBS, 32 1/4 inch arms
Yiadom could be an excellent fit and flashes physicality and speed on tape. But much like the aforementioned Meeks, there are some question marks about his movement skills and top end speed. A good Combine performance could help reduce those fears and see Yiadom become more of an early day three, possible late day two candidate.