Navorro Bowman as a game-changer: Does size really matter?

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The rimshot was echoing in my head with that title, but it seemed like the only real option for this post. Originally I was planning on putting together the next 53-man roster projection post for today, addressing the inside linebackers. However, my initial research raised some questions that I wanted to open up for discussion.

In doing some preliminary research for the post, I came across a comment over at Navorro Bowman's Rotoworld page from back in April. The comments linked to a report in which Mike Singletary confirmed that Bowman would initially focus on special teams. Obviously Rotoworld's comments should be taken with a grain of salt, but they basically inferred he was too small to be effective as an inside linebacker in the 49ers version of the 3-4.

If he is in fact too small for the position, did the 49ers just draft another Jeff Ulbrich? That's not the worst thing in the world, but spending a third round pick on a career special teamer (as they did with Ulbrich) isn't exactly the wisest investment of such a pick. It's not the worst thing in the world, particularly if he lasts ten years like Ulbrich. However, it'd be nice to get more out of a third round pick than that.

I did a little searching around, and I've seen Bowman measured as "small" as 6-1, 232 lbs to as large as 6-0, 242 lbs. However, further research into his progress over the minicamps and OTAs would seem to indicate size concerns might not be an issue. A few such reports after the jump.

Both of the Matts had some comments about Bowman last week as OTAs wrapped. Barrows was putting together some overall team OTA observations, while Maiocco's was in the context of a review of all the defensive players.

Barrows

Bowman is someone to watch in training camp. As you'll recall, the Cowboys had him rated as a first-round pick and -- who knows -- the 49ers could have rated him just as highly. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky noted this week that it's hard to get a good read on linebackers and linemen in non-padded practices. "We don't know his striking ability or his leverage that he plays with," Manusky said. "You can gauge a little bit of it, but for the most part, it's kind of hard." What's clear, however, is that Bowman has plenty of speed, both from sideline to sideline and on blitzes up the middle. Bowman played both "mike" and "ted" linebacker this week.

Maiocco

53-Navorro Bowman: Lined up at left inside linebacker with the second team. That is the backup to Spikes. He runs very well, as advertised. He also saw some action at right inside linebacker with the third team. So he saw action at both the "ted" and "mike." The first impression was a favorable one.

Generally, it seems like most everybody is pretty pleased with Bowman's performance to date. As always, OTAs are difficult to judge since pads are not in play, and for a heavy tackling position like inside linebacker, that's especially true. Coach Manusky is excited by his potential, but obviously Bowman has a ways to go in proving himself.

Given all that, what kind of impact do folks see Bowman making in 2010? Even if he spends most of the season on special teams, he can definitely make his mark. Given his speed, it would seem like he's in a good position to make some kind of impact. The question is whether he'll grab the bull by the horns and do that.

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