The Nothing But Niners draft team will be producing Need to Know pieces as we build towards the draft. As it’s Senior Bowl week, we bring to you a bumper Need to Know piece, giving an insight into players at positions of need for the 49ers who will be on show in Mobile this week. We will be splitting this segment up into two pieces — the offense and the defense. Be sure to check them both out so you’re all set for the Senior Bowl!
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RUNNING BACKS – Mike Caufield
Rashaad Penny: Penny has became a fan favorite among most draft experts and it’s easy to see why. His senior season was absolutely incredible; he finished with 2248 yards on 289 attempts and 23 touchdowns. He is a well rounded back that uses his speed to burst through the hole and breaks arm tackles. He has the quickness and the acceleration to hit a second gear in a flash. His biggest negative is his pass protection and that will have to be improved for him to see the field in the NFL. Penny has some special teams experience which will add to his draft value. The performance that he had versus Nevada was insane, he reached a school record with a total of 429 yards and 4 touchdowns. He would be a great addition to the 49ers backfield but he may get drafted too early for the team to consider him as he could go in the middle of the 2nd round.
Royce Freeman: Freeman is a strong and versatile runner, who uses his great vision to make quick cuts to find holes and explode through the line of scrimmage. The workhorse back ran for 1,475 yards and 14 touchdowns in his senior season at Oregon. He is also a good and willing blocker which is crucial at the next level. Freeman lacks straight line speed but he has great strength and balance which helps him gain yards after contact. He is a very good zone rusher and could fit very effortlessly into Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, he should go in the 2nd-3rd round range.
Kalen Ballage: Ballage is a bruising tailback that uses his big frame (6’3 222 lbs), lower body strength and quick feet to break tackles. He is also pretty explosive for player with his size and has shown flashes as a pass catcher as well. His biggest negatives are that he is very poor in pass protection and he dances too much instead of firing through the hole and finishing his runs. He rushed for 669 yards on 157 carries (4.3 ypc) and 6 touchdowns in his final season at Arizona State. With proper coaching, Ballage has the abilities to become a lead back and a sleeper in the upcoming draft and could sneak into the late 3rd round.
Ito Smith: The overlooked back that displays a great combination of speed, balance and agility. He shows great patience while waiting for holes to develop and uses his superb vision to change direction on a dime. He also has solid hands and above average route running. Ito had a very productive senior season rushing for 1,413 yards and reaching the end zone 13 times. The top concern on his size and durability at the next level. Smith will have to show to scouts that he is more than just a third down or change of pace running back in the NFL and his current draft range is as a 3rd-5th round pick.
Akrum Wadley: An aggressive runner who has great vision and balance but he also has the breakaway speed that scouts drool over. Akrum has reliable hands and showed the ability to make defenders miss in the open field. He showed a willingness in trying to pick up the rusher but still seemed to struggle with his pass protection and he will have to improve significantly to earn playing time in the NFL. Wadley ran for 1,109 yards on 252 carries and 10 touchdowns in his final season and is viewed as a mid to late round pick (4th-6th).
Jaylen Samuels: Samuels is a versatile prospect similar to Kyle Juszczyk; the offensive weapon played multiple positions in college. He lined up in the backfield, in the slot and outside. He had an excellent career at NC State as the team’s number one option hauling in 202 receptions for 1,855 receiving yards, rushing for 1,103 yards and totaling 47 touchdowns. He doesn’t have ideal patience while waiting for lanes to open up but he is able to change direction without losing speed. Samuels also struggles at pass blocking but is quite adequate at opening up lanes for the running back. He is viewed as a late round pick (6th/7th) as he doesn’t have a true position at the next level so a big week in Mobile could do wonders for his draft stock.
WIDE RECEIVERS – Mike Caufield
Michael Gallup: Biletnikoff Award finalist, Gallup is one of the most underrated receiving prospects in the 2018 draft crop but that could change as the off-season progresses. The Colorado State receiver has decent enough height and long arms (6’1 200 lbs) to make him a consistent target in the NFL. He is an agile YAC receiver who shows extreme toughness while going over the middle and he doesn’t shy away from contact either. Gallup could fit very well in Shanahan system, eventually stepping in to replace veteran Pierre Garçon. Some will question his level of competition, but Gallup even had a solid game vs Alabama. He earned the highest Pro Football Focus grade of all of the WRs in the 2017 season with 92.1. He will have to improve on his route running, blocking and hanging onto difficult catches. His production was definitely present in his final season as he hauled in 100 receptions for 1,413 yards and 7 touchdowns. If you don’t know Gallup yet you should, as he could get selected in the 1st round.
James Washington: Washington had arguably the best career of all of these receivers in the upcoming wr draft class and he ended it in style as he brought in 74 receptions for a 1,549 yards(most in fbs) and 13 touchdowns. While he won’t blow you away with his size or his overall speed, he does have a lot of very exciting traits. He plays much bigger than his height and he has elite body control. He rarely uses his body to catch the ball and tracks the ball really well. Washington will have to improve on his hands skills, as he’s had some questionable drops and will have to work on his route tree at the next level. He will be drafted no later than the 2nd but he could easily get selected earlier depending on how the 1st round plays out.
Marcell Ateman: Ateman is a big-bodied receiver (6’4, 216 lbs) who plays with a sneaky aggression while battling with CB’s. He has the potential to become a #1 option in the NFL but will have to improve on his off the snap explosion, as seems lazy at times. He has excellent quickness to go along with tremendous length, which he uses to high-point the ball very well making him a great red zone option. Ateman has received a higher grade than his teammate James Washington according to many scouts as he may have more of a ceiling at the next level. One of his biggest negatives is that he will turn 24 years old in September but he could make an impact on a NFL team roster day one. His senior season was great as he hauled in 59 receptions for 1,156 yards and 8 touchdowns. Ateman is viewed as a 2nd/3rd round pick and could gain more stream with a impressive off-season.
Allen Lazard: The towering yet scrawny receiver (6’5 222 lbs) has pro bowl potential at the next level, he was the marquee option in the Cyclones offense and still consistently performed. He doesn’t have the best agility, quickness and overall speed (projected 4.6). He has great size that makes him an immediate red zone threat and a constant mismatch. Lazard caught 71 receptions for 941 yards and ten touchdowns in 2017. If he has a productive off-season and, he could sneak into the mid 2nd round.
D.J. Chark: Chark has many of the areas that scouts are looking for while evaluating prospects. He has great height, arm length, above average hands and is very explosive. However he does have his share of negatives as he’s viewed as a one trick pony who relies too much on is speed and he doesn’t use his body to his advantage as he doesn’t track the ball well. He will need to show that he’s a more polished route runner and complete receiver. He is the type of receiver that the 49ers could be interested in as he is a contrast of the others on the current roster. Chark finished his final season with 40 receptions for 874 yards and 3 touchdowns which is pretty solid considering LSU’s offense was very run heavy. He could be drafted between the late 2nd and the middle of the 3rd round.
Darren Carrington: A tremendously talented prospect but he has several red flags including arrests and failed drug tests. He was kicked off of Oregon and transferred to Utah. In just 9 games (due to injury) with the Utes, Carrington hauled in 70 receptions for 980 yards and 6 touchdowns. Athletic ability runs in the family, his father was a former NFL safety. He has solid agility, balance and speed for a guy his size (6’3, 205 lbs), he also tracks the ball really well in the air. Darren is not the best blocker and will have to fine tune his route running. The 49ers along with many other teams might not feel comfortable selecting him. This off-season will be huge for him to secure getting drafted in rounds 2-4, as he will have to answer a lot of questions on his past.
Javon Wims: The most reliable receiver for the Georgia Bulldogs team during their memorable season which led to a appearance in the National Championship game. He finished his senior year with 45 receptions for 720 yards and 7 touchdowns. The former 4-star recruit utilizes his size and quickness off of the snap to beat press coverage. He also has a 39 inch vertical which shows as he’s able to snatch high and off target throws. Wims would be a solid addition to the 49ers roster as he is quite different than the other receivers on the current roster and he would be a instant red zone threat. He is currently viewed as a mid-round pick but his stock could rise significantly with a strong off-season. His draft status could vary (4th-6th) depending on how he performs in Mobile and at the Combine.
J’Mon Moore: Moore has been a complete star while at Missouri, he had 65 receptions for 1,082 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2017. He has excellent change of direction ability and the balance needed to run clean routes. He has solid speed for a receiver his size (6’3, 205 lbs) and displays a willingness to be a blocker. Moore has decent hands but he seems to struggle more in traffic as he tends to be more of a body catcher and will have to develop more of a complete route tree. He is trending towards a mid round grade and should be drafted around the 4th round.
Cedrick Wilson: An underrated receiver that has nice height with decent agility and straight line speed. He does tend to catch the ball too often using his body which results in some concerning drops. Wilson had a successful senior season bringing in 83 receptions for 1,511 yards and 7 touchdowns. His father Cedrick Wilson Sr was a Super Bowl-winning receiver and was drafted by the 49ers, in total he played in the NFL for 7 seasons. Wilson should be selected in the late 3rd-5th round.
Jaleel Scott: With his incredible size (6’6, 215 lbs), Scott is a instant red zone and jump ball threat (Check out his one-handed td catch versus Arizona State). He also has the body-control, concentration and strong hands that makes him a very intriguing mid-round prospect. Scott brought in 73 receptions for 1,042 yards and 8 touchdowns. The Senior Bowl will be huge for his draft stock as he will be going against much higher level of competition than he did in the Sun Belt conference. How he performs at the Senior Bowl and how he is timed at the combine will determine his draft status, currently he’s in the 4th-6th round range.
Tre’Quan Smith: Even though he didn’t have record-breaking numbers, he certainly came up big in crucial situations for UCF during the program’s historic season ending in a 13-0 record. He had one year of eligibility left but the red-shirt Junior has graduated and declared for the draft. Smith ended his Knights’ career with 22 touchdowns and 2,748 receiving yards. He is not overly fast but he is a tremendous blocker and has reliable hands. Smith showcases a superb catch radius but he needs work hard on separation and his overall route running. He’s currently looked at as a day-three selection (6th/7th round) but with a strong performance in Mobile his stock could rise.
Braxton Berrios: Berrios is a very shifty, athletic receiver and has the ability to be quite explosive in space, but he will have to show that he has developed more of a complete route tree. He finished his senior year with 54 receptions for 670 yards and 9 touchdowns. He may get categorized as a gadget player with the standard “Wes Welker” comparison and the cliché “quick not fast” label as he doesn’t usually creates much separation. He could benefit greatly from a strong performance at the Senior Bowl, showing that he’s much more than that. Berrios might not be high on the 49ers draft board as he is very similar what they already have with the position. At this point, he is viewed as a late round selection (6th/7th round).
CENTERS – Stewart Mathurin
Frank Ragnow: this Arkansas mauler stands at an impressive 6’5, 315 lbs, he’s an excellent blocker who is capable of pulling and getting to the second level whilst run blocking. Ragnow is no slouch in pass protection either, through seven games this season in the vaunted SEC he gave up one pressure per Pro Football Focus before his season was ended by an ankle injury. One of the most dominant centers not only at the Senior bowl but in the entire 2018 NFL Draft — it’s just what the 49ers need.
Scott Quessenberry: A smooth and agile player Quessenberry has good size at 6’3, 310 lbs. He plays with excellent awareness and deals with interior rushers with ease. The former UCLA Bruin does a decent job in both the run and pass game. He adds to a very good class of interior players at the Senior Bowl.
Mason Cole: At 6’5, 305 lbs, Cole played Left tackle at the University of Michigan. He is a good run blocker who uses his strong arms to keep rushers at bay. Cole shows the ability to get out and block in the run game but he can get overwhelmed by defenders at times. He provides the versatility of being able to play multiple spots on the offensive line which will intrigue teams.
Bradley Bozeman: the Alabama center has great size at 6’5, 315 lbs, he combines that with decent athleticism. Bozeman is another versatile interior-offensive lineman having played guard and center for the Tide. He anchors well in the pass game and opens up rush lanes in the run game. He heads to the Senior Bowl hoping to prove he can be scheme diverse in the NFL.
Austin Corbett: A physical lineman who played Left tackle at the University of Nevada. Listed at 6’4, 305 lbs, Corbett has decent size but he needs to improve his pass-protection. He is not extremely agile which would probably explain why he would need to move inside in the pros. A talented player that will benefit from NFL coaching, teams will be hoping to find a sleeper in Austin Corbett.
GUARDS – Stewart Mathurin
Will Hernandez: The best Offensive guard prospect at the Senior Bowl, Hernandez — a 6’3, 330 lbs. powerful and athletic run-blocker combines a strong punch with excellent ability to shadow rushers in pass-protection. Hernandez will hope to erase any questions about the level of competition he faced in Conference USA. If he performs well at the Senior Bowl he’ll be soaring up draft boards.
Coby Gossett: Gossett is a very good pulling guard who plays with a nasty edge. He is a monstrous 6’6, 320 lbs, strong at the point of attack and has a decent pass set. He has started over 40 games as an OG at Appalachian State and is one of my favorite prospects at the Senior Bowl. He comes from a run-oriented scheme and would definitely improve the 49ers run-blocking issues.
Sean Welsh: this Iowa alumni joins a group of great guards like Marshal Yanda and Brandon Schereff who have passed through Hawkeye doors. At 6’3, 290 lbs, Welsh does everything with ease — he anchors well in pass-protection and does a solid job when asked to pull on run plays. You’ll seldom see him lose a one v one match-up, as a three year starter he heads to the Senior Bowl hoping to solidify himself as a day-2 pick.
Isaiah Wynn: Georgia Bulldogs had a great run to the college championship game with a former guard at left tackle. He isn’t the prototypical left tackle at 6’2, 302 lbs, but he excelled in pass-protection. Wynn has impressive hand usage which allows him to win consistently in isolated match-ups. His versatility will excite teams, he’ll be hoping that the Senior Bowl helps prove that left tackle is his home, but if it doesn’t work out he’ll be a great guard. One area which needs some work is his run-blocking.
Taylor Hearn: This 6’5, 330 lbs. guard out of Clemson has impressive size and plays with excellent leverage. He does a decent job in both the run and pass game. He displays very good strength which allows he to handle powerful interior defensive linemen. Shows ability to get to the second level whilst run blocking.
Wyatt Teller: very athletic guard prospect with great size 6’5, 315 lbs. He needs to show improvement with his footwork and be more consistent with his leverage. He anchors well in pass protection and gets to the second level when run-blocking. Teller will be looking to improve his stock at the Senior Bowl.
Skyler Philips: A versatile player for Idaho state, played both left tackle and right guard. He isn’t the most athletic player and can get stronger. Philips does a nice job in the run game, he combines excellent hand placement and timing in pass protection. There is enough talent to get NFL teams excited about his future.
Be sure to check out the Defensive Edition — here!