Image Credit: Butch Dill/Associated Press
Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
While this may have been potentially lost in the fray of Super Bowl excitement (and understandably so), the Senior Bowl is happening this weekend. While the 49er coaches prepare for Kansas City, the scout team is heading to Mobile to watch the next crop of prospects who might wear scarlet and gold. At this time last year, Kyle Shanahan was getting his hands on guys like Deebo Samuel. Who should you keep an eye on this year for players who may follow the same route? That's what we are here to discuss this week.
A few notes before we get to the names. The 49ers have only six draft picks this year: A first-round pick, two fifth-round picks, a sixth-round pick, and two seventh-round picks. While they may consider a trade to pick up some picks on day two (I'm sure I will discuss that possibility at some point), I am going to focus on guys who may be available when these picks occur. If your favorite prospect isn't listed, it's likely because they fall in that day two range and will be unavailable.
As a reminder, heights are officially listed, for the draft process, as 4-digit numbers. The first number is their height in feet, the second two numbers are the inches of their height in addition to the feet, and the last digit is eighths of an inch. So a player who is 6023 is 6'2 3/8" tall. Got it? Let's go.
A.J. Green, Cornerback, Oklahoma State University
6013, 199 pounds
Green has quite a few things working for him. First and foremost, he is a long cornerback with some good athleticism. He was also one of the only cornerbacks in the nation who was able to limit CeeDee Lamb in the pass game, holding him to 4 catches on 36 yards. Coming from Oklahoma State, he has plenty of practice defending the pass, and I think his physical traits and savvy in zone coverage make him a suitable candidate for a Cover 3 cornerback role.
Ben Bartch, Tackle, Saint John's University
6056, 308 pounds
One of my favorite parts of the Senior Bowl is seeing the lower level guys, like D-III prospect Ben Bartch, come up to face the big guys. Bartch was a tight end for SJU until just this past season, when he put on weight and made the switch to tackle. If only the 49ers had someone on their roster who followed a similar route that could take someone raw like Bartch under their wing. He is athletic and moves well in space, and seems to have the making of a solid prospect that can be had in the later rounds.
Alex Taylor, Tackle, South Carolina State University
6084, 308 pounds
Taylor is another small-school guy that is making a name for himself against the big boys. You'll always have the concern of flexibility on a guy this big, with the need to get low to handle bend around the edge. Taylor seems to have that, and that could push his stock up quite a bit. There is still some concern about how much he will need to absorb at the NFL level, but he has a good shot at making it.
Eno Benjamin, Running Back, Arizona State University
5090, 195 pounds
Benjamin isn't one of the top running backs in this class, meaning he could drop indefinitely with the value placed on the position. However, he has a few things that are very important to Kyle Shanahan. He has great vision, he has speed to hit the holes when they are open, he has balance to keep that speed through contact, and he is decent at catching the ball. Look out for Eno as a possible day three grab if the 49ers are looking to move out from under Coleman's contract.
Harrison Bryant, Tight End, Florida Atlantic University
6046, 242 pounds
Harrison Bryant has something the 49ers don't have in a backup tight end: exceptional skill as a receiver. He has the size and the strength to become a better blocker, as well, but his best skill is as a receiver. Bryant could drop due to him being one-dimensional and not as good as prospects like Brycen Hopkins and Thaddeus Moss, but he would be a valuable depth piece to this 49er roster.
Devin Duvernay, Wide Receiver, University of Texas
5104, 202 pounds
Devin Duvernay is fast. He was the lightning to Collin Johnson's thunder as a receiving duo at Texas. I wanted to see something else. Being a fast receiver is great, but an every down receiver needs to be able to work every level of the field. Duvernay has impressed me this week with his ability to do just that. He has worked the underneath routes well, even catching the ball in traffic. This is the type of weapon Kyle Shanahan loves to have on his roster.
Kalija Lipscomb, Wide Receiver, Vanderbilt University
6001, 202 pounds
Lipscomb is the opposite of Duvernay. He was able to work underneath well for Vanderbilt as a chain mover, but was never the most explosive receiver. I wanted to see him work downfield so that professional cornerbacks couldn't simply jump his routes, and he has also been a pleasant surprise. When given the opportunity, Lipscomb has shown big play ability during practices this week. This variety makes him a more attractive target for San Francisco.
Ashtyn Davis, Free Safety, University of California
6'010, 195 pounds
Ashtyn Davis is a playmaker, pure and simple. He is willing to get his nose dirty underneath making tackles, and excels at attacking the ball when it is in the air at every level of the field. I hope he is given the opportunity to just roam the field during the Senior Bowl so that this playmaking trait can be on full display.
Nick Harris, Center, University of Washington
6012, 293 pounds
This name is on here as a warning. With Tyler Biadasz having a poor final season and Creed Humphrey returning to school, people are clamoring to find the next IOL1 they can reach for. Don't push people up your boards because others are no longer in the class or are no longer playing well. Some mock drafts have given that spot to Nick Harris, including mocking him to the 49ers in round one. Harris, while he can move to the second level well, has constantly been getting demolished in pass rushing drills. Imagine this guy going up against Aaron Donald twice a season. Now wake up from that nightmare. No thanks.
Charlie Heck, Tackle, University of North Carolina
6077, 309 pounds
Heck is another guy who is very raw. In high school, he was a 6'0"-tall, 150-pound soccer goalie. When he grew into the behemoth he is now, that path shut down and he instead turned to follow in his father's footsteps (Andy is the offensive line coach for the Kansas City Chiefs). Heck has the size, strength, and athleticism to excel, but is a little stiff and his hands are all out of whack. Some nurturing could be in his future, but will also allow him to drop a bit in the draft. He could be a guy to take a chance on.
Adam Trautman, Tight End, Dayton University
6050, 251 pounds
It's been since 1977 that Dayton has had a player drafted, and that was tackle Bill Westbeld in the eleventh round. Trautman will almost certainly break that trend this season, but the lack of pedigree at this school is sure to make teams think twice about what he was able to put on tape. However, it's clear to me that he is for real. His footwork is incredible for a player of his size, and he has some of the softest hands in Mobile. He hasn't been put through too many blocking drills, but I think the form he showed at Dayton is good enough to project him as a decent blocker in the NFL.
Charlie Taumoepeau, Tight End, Portland State University
6022, 244 pounds
Taumoepeau is similar to Harrison Bryant, only a little shorter and a little faster. It's unlikely that he will be much of a blocker given his smaller stature, but his ability as a receiver is impressive. If the 49ers need another mismatch in their arsenal, he could be a player to watch.
James Proche, Wide Receiver, Southern Methodist University
5105, 196 pounds
This is my 2020 version of Deebo Samuel, in the sense that I absolutely love Proche as a prospect. First off, with his measurables, his 9 5/8" hands are massive for a player as short as Proche. This gives him an advantage when catching the ball in traffic. Second, he is the best slot receiver in this draft. He doesn't have the breakaway speed needed to play on the outside at his size. Instead, he has the twitch and the nuance to get open. Watch in this video below. The quick jab to the outside moves the cornerback just far enough so that Proche can get to the inside. However, he doesn't sprint at full speed, because that would allow the defender a chance to get underneath and break up the pass. Instead, he modulates his speed to stay directly in front of the defender, flashing his number to the quarterback. If the cornerback wants to play through Proche's back, it's a penalty. If the cornerback wants to reach around to knock the ball out, Proche catches the ball ahead of his body to maintain possession. It's an incredibly nuanced route that gives his quarterback the most chance for a successful play. If Trent Taylor can't get healthy, Proche would be the perfect replacement.
Quartney Davis, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M University
6011, 199 pounds
Davis was a hot name coming into this week, and he has impressed. He has had quite a few impressive catches, and has shown a great ability to work deep. I will want to see him work the underneath routes a little bit more so that he isn't a one-trick pony, but the one trick he has shown is an important one.
Antonio Gandy-Golden, Wide Receiver, Liberty University
6035, 222 pounds
This is the guy to really keep an eye on if you want a sleeper for a "number one" wide receiver. Gandy-Golden has shown really good footwork and is quick in and out of his breaks, which is impressive for a player of his size. He is good at dropping his hips to get that burst out of his breaks, which is important for a guy who won't have blazing top end speed. He has also caught just about everything thrown his way. I want to see how he does in the game where he is going against a team defense rather than just one-on-one (or just against air), but he's a sneaky talent.
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