The NFL Scouting Combine invitee list is an early Christmas list for teams across the league. It may not contain a NerfGun 3000 or the latest high-tech tablet gadget thingy, but there is some serious talent in this year's batch of prospects.
With the official release of the 2012 Scouting Combine invitee list last Tuesday, NFL teams can commence circling names.
The San Francisco 49ers certainly have their own copy and plenty of highlighters nearby.
Here are five players destined to appear on the 49ers draft radar after their respective combine performances.
Trumaine Johnson, Montana
6;2", 205 pounds
Pros: Ideal size and athleticism for an NFL corner. Has the speed to cover burners and the height to disrupt taller receivers. A strong defender skilled in not only coverage but stopping the run. Shows great instincts when the ball is in the air, really plucks the ball from the sky. Is a sure tackler and can contribute on special teams. Was a kick returner in college.
Cons: Seen as a tweener, landing somewhere between a corner and safety. There is room for improvement in his technique, and he tends to be inconsistent in coverage. Not too sharp out of breaks, though fast enough to recover. Dominated against weak competition, but there are questions about his ability against NFL talent. Had an off-the-field issue, but that appears to be out of the norm.
Outlook: The 49ers secondary was much improved this season, but depth issues need to be addressed. Even if Carlos Rogers (the team's shutdown corner) is re-signed, the 49ers will look to add more defensive backs during the offseason. In an earlier mock draft, I had them picking Janoris Jenkins in the first round, but it's looking more likely he'll be gone before the team's selection. So, ladies and gentleman, I present to you, Trumaine Johnson, a player with as much potential as Jenkins.
Johnson fits in perfectly with the physicality of this team's defense. He shines in coverage and is committed to stopping the run. With him and Chris Culliver, the 49ers would feature two of the bigger corners in the league and be set at the position for awhile. A stellar showing at the combine could bump him as high as the first round, but the 49ers may have a chance to grab him in rounds 2-4.
Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers
6'2", 215 pounds
Pros: Excellent route runner with burst off the line. Has exceptional hands and shown the ability to make every catch. Great body control and has the vertical to excel in jump-ball situations. Elusive with the ball in his hands and hard to take down in the open field. Is extremely versatile: contributed in the run game and as a kick returner. To top it all off, is a willing blocker and selfless teammate.
Cons: Lacks straight-line speed, but is quick enough to mask it. Has dealt with several injuries and really enjoyed only one successful season at the college level.
Outlook: A strong combine will solidify Sanu's first-round status, but a weak one could drop him to the second. He won't wow with his time in the 40-yard dash, but he has a lot of game speed. Scouts will salivate over his ability to catch pretty much anything thrown his way.
If the 49ers fail to land a corner in the first round, look for them to target a receiver. Sanu will be high on their list. With his natural talent and work ethic, he has the potential to be a star. He can move the chains and has the size to be a threat inside the red zone, an area of concern for the 49ers offense.
Robert Turbin, Utah State
5'10", 220 pounds.
Pros: Great size for a feature back and possesses a surprising burst. Can accelerate in and out of cuts at an impressive rate. Difficult to tackle and elusive enough in the open field. Played some of his better games against the toughest competition (Utah, BYU, Texas A&M, Auburn) and dominated the WAC en route to Offensive Player of the Year honors. Is also a reliable receiver out of the backfield. Owns a great work ethic and leadership qualities.
Cons: As most rookies, Turbin could improve his pass protection, though he is one of the best in the draft. Tends to run upright at times and must become better inside the tackles. Has already had a knee injury, but appears to have fully healed.
Outlook: Outside of Boise State, not too many people watch WAC football. The Utah State running back rushed for 1,517 yards and 19 touchdowns this season, but largely remains under the radar. That's good news for the 49ers, who would love to see him available in the 4th round and beyond.
Turbin has the potential to be the 49ers' version of Beast Mode and a perfect complement to Kendall Hunter. Frank Gore, as sad as it may be to admit, has no more than one season left in the tank. Therefore, it's time to prepare for the future while also improving the now. Drafting Turbin would allow him to learn from Gore for a season before becoming his successor.
A solid combine workout will place him on the radar of many teams, so the 49ers need to be ready to pull the trigger.
Alameda Ta'Amu, Washington
6',3", 340 pounds
Pros: Has a healthy appetite for gobbling up multiple blockers, freeing up teammates to make plays. For his size, Ta'Amu has surprising quickness and agility. Is solid in pass rush, but best at using size to plug up rushing lanes. Has a tireless motor and never gives up on plays. An ideal tackle for a 3-4 defensive scheme.
Cons: Massive in size, yet gets pushed around far too often. A lot of that has to do with being too upright in his stance, negating most of his power. Relies on a bull rush too often, needs to develop other pass- rush moves. Technique is still raw, but the potential is there.
Outlook: The 49ers' top-ranked defense needs little improvement, but depth is always a concern. DT Isaac Sopoaga had a breakout season plugging the middle and looks to be the clear starter for the time being. The backup role, however, is still up for grabs. Ricky Jean Francois and Ian Williams currently occupy the spot, but Ta'Amu could step in and compete for playing time.
Joe Adams, Arkansas
5'11", 190 pounds
Pros: Speed, speed and more speed. He is blazing fast, but also possesses good hands as a receiver. Versatile enough to be a return man (returned four punts for touchdowns during senior season at Arkansas). Put up great numbers in the SEC, considered to be the most competitive conference in college football. Adams, one of the more dynamic players in the draft, should make a smooth transition to the pros.
Cons: Listed at 5'11" and 190 pounds, Adams is small in stature. He should wreak havoc in the slot, but must improve his route running. Has had a problem with fumbles, but pure speed will be his biggest asset.
Outlook: Blink and you may miss his 40-yard dash. He's that fast. Timed in the 4.3 range, Adams is a threat both as a receiver and in the return game. Projected by most mock drafts as a mid-round selection, Adams' stock could skyrocket with an impressive workout at the combine.
The 49ers have a need at the receiver position and Adams could be their guy. His ability to stretch the field would force defenses to play more honest, allowing Vernon Davis and others to work their magic. Should Adams slide to the 3rd round, the team will not hesitate to acquire his services.