The NCAA's 2010 season is over. The bowls are empty and a champion has been crowned.
The East-West Shrine Game concluded this weekend, and the Senior Bowl is right around the corner. Although there's really nothing at stake for either team, it is one more last chance for many of the seniors entering the draft to impress NFL scouts. Then, of course, comes the Combine, followed by pro days.
Front offices of every team are already looking forward to next year. Real scouts, of course, never actually stopped looking.
It's a good time of the year for fans of suffering teams. The new year is still ripe with new beginnings, and the 2011 draft class holds a lot of promising athletes.
The following list of prospects focuses on players who's physical attribute stand out on paper. The ordering is in no way indicative of skill or projected draft position. Special attention is paid with respect to the San Francisco 49ers current situation, but a degree of objectivity is nevertheless attempted. Attributes were taken from CBSSports.com.
Naturally, a few more gold nuggets will separate themselves as scouting events pass. I the meantime, enjoy an abridged and semi-biased reference.
The 2011 defensive class may not have quite the same flash as 2010 did. Nevertheless, there is certain quality to be found.
Corner back seems to become more and more important in the NFL every year. This year's draft seems loaded at the position. San Francisco is going to strongly consider options while upgrading their coverage guys. They haven't had an elite defensive backfield since 1994.
Prince Amukamura—6'0—205—Nebraska (4.49)
Amukamara is a big-time shut-down corner. As an essential member of Nebraska's "Black Shirts" defense, Amukamara anchored their secondary and took away nearly half the field in many Huskers' games.
Patrick Peterson—6'1—222—LSU (4.42)
Peterson is valued highly especially because of his size and return ability. Many call him the best defensive back in the draft.
Jimmy Smith—6'2—205—Colorado (4.49)
Smith has a lot of upside, but could certainly use a small amount of refining.
Brendon Harris—5'11—195—Miami (4.43)
A junior out of The U, Harris also shows shut-down potential. Harris advanced quickly at Miami, and the trend is likely to continue at the NFL level.
Rashad Carmichael—5'10—182—Virginia Tech (4.38)
Carmichael has some of the most impressive speed currently. See if this changes after the Combine.
Aaron Williams—6'1—195—Texas (4.49)
Williams only did everything at Texas. In addition to playing top notch defense, he tied the University of Texas record for blocked punts.
Safety isn't as flashy this year as it was in 2010, but talents still abound. Many eyes will be on the following players.
Dom DeCicco—6'3—230—Pittsburgh (4.64)
DeCicco's size says it all.
DeAndre McDaniel—6'0—215—Clemson (4.54)
McDaniel anchored a secondary that produced the nation's leading pass rusher. He also had eight interceptions in 2009.
DeJon Gomes—5'11—200—Nebraska (4.59)
Gomes was another anchor against the pass for the "Black Shirts". Although perhaps a tad undersized, Gomes' name often came up on good defensive plays. He could make a very solid nickel back at the next level.
Eric Hagg—6'2—210—Nebraska (4.62)
Third team All American in 2010. Great size, but certainly looking to improve draft stock before April.
Robert Sands—6'4—221—Virginia Tech (4.57)
Sands' height sets him apart from others, some even list him as 6'5. You just can't teach a safety to be 6'5. It may be just a bit too lanky for the position though.
San Franciso find themselves needing pass rushing linebackers far more than run stoppers.
There may be fewer stand-outs at ILB this year, and it's a position that hardly needs urgent attention in SF (#52 is in the house) but if they drop a round or two, there are definitely options.
Martez Wilson—6'4—250—Illinois (4.59)
Wilson is probably the best ILB in the draft hands down, but a good combine could mean the difference between first-round and second-round money for him.
Central leader of LSU's mighty 2010 defense.
Pass rusher is said to be weaker this year, but many of these guys look like potential beasts.
Von Miller—6'2—243—Texas A&M (4.56)
Miller is one of the years most highly regarded pass rushers. About as pure a pass rusher as you'll find, he produced 17 sacks in 2009 and 10.5 in 2010. The drop off is attributed to an ankle injury from early in the season.
Dontay Moch—6'1—236—Nevada (4.38)
See Moch's 40 time above. That can't be right, can it? Watch the combine or the East-West Shrine game and see for yourself.
Wayne Daniels—6'2—250—TCU (4.79)
A cornerstone of undefeated TCU's defense. Although not amazingly explosive off the ball, expect Daniels to turn a few heads in the lifting measurements at the combine.
Mark Herzlich—6'4—245—BC (4.75)
One of the most inspiring stories never heard, Herzlich missed the 2009 season with a rare form of bone cancer. He overcame it and played 13 games in 2010, racking up 65 tackles in the process.
K.J. Wright—6'3—250—Mississippi State (4.68)
Prototypical OLB size from the highly touted SEC.
Aldon Smith—6'4—258—Missouri (4.69)
Although his stats have yet to truly back it up, Smith has the ideal frame to become a top-notch pass rusher.
Akeem Ayers—6'4—255—UCLA (4.68)
Ayers "seems to enjoy the physicality of the game". Young and raw, Mike Singletary might have fallen in love with this pick had he stayed another year.
Thomas Keiser—6'5—244—Stanford (4.84)
Keiser is not going to be the last Stanford player mentioned as a possibility for the 49ers. Could use a boost in quickness, but has nice size for OLB. He also played end at Stanford before they switched to a 3-4.
Defensive line is not a gigantic need, considering they are staying with a 3-4 front and have Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, and Isaac Sopoaga, but could certainly use some help, especially with the pass rush.
Considering the 49ers have decent depth at DE, it's less likely they'll take an end in the first round. Picturing some of these guys opposite Justin Smith is just fun though.
J.J. Watt—6'6—292—Wisconsin (4.87)
A monster who decided to forgo his senior year, Watt excels against the run, but can pressure quarterbacks nicely as well.
Cameron Jordan—6'4—285—Cal (4.85)
Just a solid end, but seems better suited physically for a 4-3.
Da'Quan Bowers—6'4—275—Clemson (4.64)
Best pass rushing end in the draft. Possible top pick overall.
Robert Quin—6'5—268—UNC (4.64)
Rangy prospect at end, he was permanently suspended by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits and had to sit out the 2010 season. Considered a possible first-round talent regardless.
Cameron Heyward—6'5—288—Ohio State (4.92)
Impressive in the Sugar Bowl and throughout the last four years, Heyward can attack the backfield in a number of ways from either end position.
Adrian Clayborn—6'3—286—Iowa (4.79)
Uses his hands very effectively in pass rushing. Not amazingly explosive, but is an emotional leader and an inspiring personality with a first-rate work ethic.
Christian Ballard—6'4—298—Iowa (4.86)
Inside rusher with a good swim move.
Karl Klug—6'3—270—Iowa (4.79)
Strong against the run, can play end or tackle. Possible late round pickup.
Piere Allen—6'3—265—Nebraska (4.78)
Playing on a line featuring Ndamukong Suh and Jarred Crick makes it easy to go unnoticed. Still, Allen has looked like an NFL swing end, needs to stay lower.
Markus White—6'4—262—FSU (4.69)
Fast, explosive speed rusher. Just what you'd expect from Florida State.
Brandon Blair—6'6—272—4.98—Oregon (4.96)
Already physically mature at age 26, Blair has been dubbed as a 'tweener because he is not dominant in strength or speed. Questions have arisen about his ability to play in the NFL as a pure tackle or end. 49ers might consider him a 3-4 DE and he'll likely be available in the 6th or 7th.
Pernell McPhee—6'3—285—Mississippi State (4.76)
Big body, good speed, decent numbers. Could really benefit from a strong combine.
Sam Acho—6'3—260—Texas (4.72)
Has good techniques that can be great if refined.
Eddie Jones—6'3—260—Texas (4.75)
Seasoned fifth-year senior. Injury concerns abound..
Ryan Kerrigan—6'4—263—Purdue (4.82)
Strength-based inside rusher.
Steven Friday—6'4—250—Virginia Tech (4.66)
Very athletic, but a bit undersized. May go undrafted.
Mason Brodine—6'7—252—Nebraska-Kearney (4.84)
Interesting upside. Has practice-squad potential.
Stephen Paea—6'1—312—Oregon State (4.98)
Probable first-round beast. Incredible strength and brings a rugby background, much like Sopoaga.
Phil Taylor—6'4—340—Baylor (5.26)
Now there's a big boy capable of playing nose tackle. A mid-round option.
Marvin Austin—6'3—310—UNC (4.96)
Another UNC talent dismissed for accepting illegal benefits, but a talent, nonetheless. Impressive at the East-West Shrine game.
Kendrick Ellis—6'5—340—Hampton (5.07)
Character issues had Ellis dismissed from South Carolina, and the fact that he's been playing (albeit dominating) at the division 1AA level will drop him down in the draft.
Jarvis Jenkins—6'4—315—Clemson (4.98)
A big part of Clemson's stifling run defense the past couple years.
Sione Fua—6'2—306—Stanford (5.16)
Another NT the 49ers will keep in mind on draft day, and a Stanford man to boot.
Marcell Darius—6'3—309—Alabama (4.95)
One of those unquestionable SEC talents coming out this year. Excellent inside moves.
Nick Fairley—6'4—298—Auburn (4.92)
Another SEC DT with tremendous interior moves, including the ability to "get skinny" and sneak his big body through gaps. Very explosive, and a former high school basketball player, expect an amazing combine from Fairley.
Lawrence Guy—6'5—300—Arizona State (4.90)
Big athletic force that causes chaos in the backfield.
John Graves—6'3—278—Virginia Tech (4.90)
Slightly undersized, but very capable and athletic.
Jerrell Powe—6'2—320—Ole Miss (5.16)
A big brute in the middle. Powe fought through double teams in the tough-as-nails SEC, yet still posted very decent numbers. Could be a steal in the 3rd, or even later.
Antonia Jeremiah—6'5—360—Michigan State (5.14)
He's just big.
Jurrell Casey—6'1—305—USC (5.08)
Has very good techniques getting into the backfield.
Corey Liuget—6'3—300—Illinois (5.12)
Versitlie, athletic, and reasonably big. Not elite, but very capable of succeeding at the next level.
Drake Nevis—6'1—285—LSU (5.04)
Smaller, but very athletic.
Even though the 49ers took two offensive linemen in the first round last year, the positions can always be improved upon. Roger Craig once told me "You can never have too many linemen." And while many experts are completely fixated on the quarterback position, a great offensive line is a necessity for any franchise looking to rise.
The 49ers would probably like to fortify the center position, given the injuries suffered by Eric Heitmann and David Baas in 2010. Getting a natural center to develop on-the-job at guard for a couple years might be ideal.
Mike Pouncey—6'4—310—Florida (5.29)
Very fast on runs to the outside. Twin brother Maurkice was drafted by the Steelers in 2010, and has not been a disappointment.
Stefen Wisniewski—6'3—306—Penn State (5.16)
Son of former Colts NT Leo Wisniewski, and nephew of eight-time Pro Bowl selection Steve Wisniewski. Big, strong, and very smart. One of the better centers in the draft.
Chase Beeler—6'3—285—Stanford (5.26)
Started in Jim Harbaugh's West Coast offense at Stanford.
Ryan Bartholomew—6'1—298—Clemson (4.95)
One of the faster centers in the draft, but speed isn't everything.
Jake Kirkpatrick—6'3—305—TCU (5.14)
From CBSSports.com: "[Kirkpatrick] Explodes quickly off the ball and gets a good push in the run game. Has good awareness and makes quick decisions. Gets outside quickly and block on sweeps and stretch plays. Effective zone blocker. Holds his ground and is tough to shed. Adept at chipping a down lineman and getting to the second level." Still, he will need more coaching at the next level, as do most centers.
Orlando Franklin—6'7—315—Miami (5.30)
Has a penchant for delivering pancake blocks.
Another student of Harbaugh's who showed good stuff in the Orange Bowl.
Lee Ziemba—6'6—320—Auburn (5.22)
Mauler who has started since his true freshman year. A real terror in the middle, especially on running plays. Still needs refining, and will likely move to guard at the NFL level. Has started every game since 2007, a streak of 38 consecutive starts.
Zach Huard—6'7—325—Connecticut (5.16)
Huard's size speaks for itself, but he is also training with the Athletes Performance organization to learn nutrition and exercising techniques to succed at the next level. Will probably put on a show at the combine, Shrine game, and Texas Vs The Nation game.
John Moffit—6'4—314—Wisconsin (5.26)
Low to the ground, can also play center in a pinch.
Rodney Hudson—284—FSU (5.26)
Small by NFL lineman standards but fearless, tough and scrappy. Almost like a modern-day Guy McIntyre. Had 47 career starts.
Clint Boling—6'5—304—Georgia (5.16)
Per CBSSports: "Boling isn't an elite athlete, but he has a great deal of experience as a four-year starter for the Bulldogs' pro-style offense at both guard and tackle positions...Football Smart...can get to the second level and hit a moving target."
Nate Solder—6'8—315—Colorado (4.89)
Huge tackle. Prototypical blind-side bouncer. Long frame, low knees, quick lateral movement. Watch for an outstanding combine.
Gabe Carimi—6'7—327—Wisconsin (5.12)
Brutally quick and skilled pass protector from one of the NCAA's elite power-run offenses. Also huge.
Anthony Castonzo—6'7—308—Boston College (5.06)
Big and tall, but has issues against shorter, more powerful defenders.
Marcus Cannon—6'5—350—TCU (5.34)
Size: XXXXXL. Enough said. More? Okay, he's a surprising athlete considering his enormous size. Watch his combine and see for yourself. May move to the interior when he hits the NFL though.
James Brewer—6'6—332—Indiana (5.36)
In spite of his size, Brewer is considered more of a finesse blocker than a mauler, and has had injury issues at the ankle.
Chris Hairston—6'7—325—Clemson (5.18)
Big, quick, and big. Watch him in the Shrine game.
Kyle Hix—6'7—325—Texas (5.32)
Big, but needs a little more physical development before moving to the next level. The combine should let us know how that development is progressing.
Rich Lapham—6'8—323—Boston College (5.34)
Another large Boston College boy. Uncle, Dave Lapham, played on the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive line from 1974-83. Projected 7th rounder?
Derek Hall—6'5—305—Stanford (5.24)
Remembered best for his bone-head safety play in the Orange Bowl, Hall is typically a lot better than that.
Eric Mensik—6'5—290—Oklahoma (4.90)
Very fast for his size.
Derek Sherrod—6'5—305—Mississippi State (5.22)
Very good athlete, but a bit top-heavy.
Tyron Smith—6'5—285—USC (5.08)
Lacking a little in true NFL tackle size, but makes up for it with great form and technique.
Joseph Barksdale—6'5—336—LSU (5.34)
Durable and big. Mid-round to late-round selection likely.
With Frank Gore, why would the 49ers ever draft a running back? Because even Frank the Tank breaks down at some point almost every season. In 2010, it was a fractured hip. RB is the most punished position in football, and depth is important, even in a West Coast Offense. Also, it remains unknown whether Brian Westbrook will return to SF, and how Anthony Dixon will improve in his second year.
Roy Helu Jr—6'0—220—Nebraska (4.51)
300 yard game wasn't by accident. He's fairly big and strong, yet elusive. Mid-round pick. Local boy from Danville.
Mark Ingram—5'10—215—Alabama (4.48)
Ingram is the crème de la crème of RB prospects. He will be a first round pick, and we can be 99.999% sure he will not be a 49er. Watch his combine though, as it will surely be interesting to see his athletic ability broken down to raw numbers.
DeMarco Murray—6'1—208—Oklahoma (4.48)
A very talented back, Murray should be a mid-round pick.
Mike LeShoure—6'0—230—Illinois (4.53)
A bigger back, LeShoure moves small for his size. Similar to Dixon.
Jamie Harper—5'11—235—Clemson (4.54)
More thunder than lightning.
Derrick Locke—5'9—190—Kentucky (4.36)
Lightning. Also a legitimate return man.
Noel Devine—5'8—180—West Virginia (4.34)
Even more lightning.
Anthony Allen—6'0—230—Georgia Tech (4.58)
And back to thunder.
John Clay—6'1—248—Wisconsin (4.67)
Real big thunder.
Daniel Thomas—6'2—228—Kansas State (4.63)
Among other things, a reliable receiver, which could fit well for a West Coast Offense.
Moran Norris isn't getting any younger.
Owen Marecic—6'1—245—Stanford (4.78)
What kind of player tops the depth chart at MLB and FB? One who loves contact and the game. Nobody in the entire galaxy expects him to over take Patrick Willis' spot though.
Henry Hynoski—6'2—260—Pittsburgh (4.82)
A big, bad "throwback" player who block great, but can also catch and run. Have you met Mr Rathman, Mr. Hynoski?
Ok, so as ILB and RB are not needs (not at all), the notion of drafting a TE when you have Vernon Davis is totally laughable. Nevertheless, humour youself by watching these guy's combines. Heck, one might even look draftable.
Konrad Reuland—6'5—258—Stanford (4.79)
Stanford calling again. This man may even go undrafted?
Kyle Rudolph—6'6—265— Notre Dame (4.64)
Very big, very smart, very capable.
Mike McNeill—6'4—235—Nebraska (4.70)
Smaller, but sure-handed.
Ifeany Momah—6'6—240—Boston College (4.65)
Jump-ball TE. Look for his vertical at combine if he makes it. May even go undrafted.
D.J. Williams—6'2—251—Arkansas (4.59)
Fast and athletic with good hands, but lacks bulk.
Lance Kendricks—6'3—242—Wisconsin (4.69)
Not huge, but reliable, as TEs are supposed to be.
Lee Smith—6'6—267—Marshall (4.79)
Give Nate Byham a run for his money?
San Francisco will never seem deep at WR after what Jerry Rice did here. It's a position the team will always be looking to improve at. Forever.
But they won't exactly be taking another first rounder this year; they're still hoping Crabtree becomes a reliable threat. They might be looking for a jump-ball WR, and a slot WR in later rounds. Check out what this year's class offers.
Terrence Toliver—6'4—205—LSU (4.49)
Currently projected as a fourth-round pick, Toliver caught three touchdown passes in the Sugar Bowl.
Niles Paul—6'1—220—Nebraska (4.50)
Lower to the ground, thus hard to jam at the line. Nice upper body strength, and quick hands. Currently projected third or fourth rounder.
Torrey Smith—6'1—205—Maryland (4.37)
Ferrari fast, great numbers, return man, decent size. Was a one-man receiving show for the Terrapins.
Jon Baldwin—6'5—230—Pittsburgh (4.48)
Very Big WR. Lanky, and comes with a couple personality concerns.
Julio Jones—6'4—220—Alabama (4.49)
A first rounder, Jones is a game changer who knows no other way.
A.J. Green—6'4—212—Georgia (4.49)
Phenomenal hands on a tall frame. Probable top WR taken, possible top overall pick.
DeAndre Brown—6'5—239—Southern Mississippi (4.52)
Huge target with a lot of athletic movement. Big and strong.
Chris Mathews—6'5—220—Kentucky (4.64)
57 catches for 897 yards and nine touchdowns in 2010.
Jerrel Jernigan—5'9—190—Troy (4.34)
Small target, but blinding speed. Watch for combine numbers.
And finally, the position you've all been waiting for. If you made it this far, you've probably thought once or twice about the future of the quarterback position in San Francisco. The crystal ball isn't exactly clear these days. Most QBs don't throw at the combine, and some just don't go. Here's a thorough look at the 2011 draft's class of passers.
Much has been made of Jim Harbaugh's ability to groom a young QB, and all eyes will be on whichever passer(s) he drafts.
Blaine Gabbert—6'5—235—Missouri (4.72)
Somehow, when Andrew Luck decided to return to Stanford for his senior season, and Gabbert decided to enter the draft, the Missouri QB shot straight to the top of the positional draft board. Many mock drafts have the 49ers taking him at the seventh pick.
Cam Newton—6'6—250—Auburn (4.52)
The most impressive physical specimen at QB with a handful of come-from-behind victories under his belt now, a Heisman Trophy, an unbeaten 2010 record, and a national championship.
Jake Locker—6'3—230—Washington (4.53)
Supposedly would have been the first-overall pick in the 2010 draft, but a rough senior season has dropped his stock considerably.
Ryan Mallett—6'7—238—Arkansas (5.12)
Giant size to see over the line. Long arms make his release deceptive and his windup awkward, but his over-the-top delivery allows him to put excellent zip on the ball. Speed and character issues may drop him to the second round.
Christian Ponder—6'2—227—FSU (4.68)
Lacks great arm strength, but hits underneath routes very well, which could translate well to a West Coast offense. His strong character is also a plus.
Pat Devlin—6'4—227—Delaware (4.82)
Decent size, moderate arm strength, and unrefined as far as reading coverage goes. A product of a QB friendly spread offense.
Andy Dalton—6'2—220—TCU (4.94)
Won 42 games as a Horned Frogs' quarterback.
Greg McElroy——6'2—225—Alabama (4.96)
CBSSports: "A winner, even a national champion, both in high school and college. Can be very accurate with good footwork"
Colin Kaepernick—6'6—225—Nevada (4.53)
Excellent size and athleticism, but will be a project passer, as he ran an unorthodox Chris Ault's Pistol Offense in college.
Tyrod Taylor—6'1—216—Virginia Tech (4.55)
Short on size, but stacked with athleticism. Look for Taylor to have some very good combine numbers, especially in the shuttles.
Ricky Stanzi—6'4—230—Iowa (4.80)
18-4 over last two seasons with Iowa. Looks good on film, and should be noticeable during the Senior Bowl.
Nathan Enderle—6'5—242—Idaho (4.98)
Mediocre accuracy. Average Arm. Good, quick release. Smart kid with good size who can sense pressure coming.
Mitch Mustain—6'2—200—USC (4.74)
Not incredibly flashy, but has a tremendous winning record dating back to eighth grade.
Scott Tolzien—6'2—209—Wisconsin (4.86)
Lead the nation in passing percentage in 2010, holds Wisconsin record for the same, and had the nation's fourth-leading passer rating. Excellent with play-action, and has a completely adequate arm.
Jerrod Johnson—6'5—250—Texas A&M (4.76)
Nice, big quarterback, but needs to improve footwork and throwing motion.
Taylor Potts—6'4—222—Texas Tech (4.94)
Potts has a rifle for an arm, but needs to get a better feel for the pass rush to avoid sacks
Ben Chappell—6'2—242—Indiana (4.97)
Could go undrafted. Indiana has not really been a football powerhouse, to say the least.
Jeff Van Camp—6'5—222—Florida Atlantic (4.92)
Invited to the combine, Van Camp will surely attend, and could likely throw too; his stock has little to lose.
I saved the best for last. Kidding. Here's the names of some kickers, because that's really more than most people care about when it comes to the kicking game. Joe Nedney isn't getting any younger though.
Josh Jasper, LSU
This year's draft class has become pretty interesting. The 49ers will certainly be a team to watch, as this year could dictate the direction of their franchise for some time.
Exactly what direction they are going to head in will remain top secret. Trent Baalke does have some of former 49ers GM Scott McCloughan's traits as a scout though; he often looks for larger athletes, believing they'll hold up better at the NFL level.
Baalke will work closely with Jim Harbaugh in selecting players. Harbaugh should have special input on the quarterback position, and when they take one, and who are the real questions. If has nothing to do with it.
In the end, the philosophy may hardly stray from the tried and true: seek the best athlete available at a position of need.