As I watched a good part of the 2012 Senior Bowl on NFL Network, I paid special attention to a few key positions that would be relevant to the 49ers this offseason. I believe the Senior Bowl is a great way to judge collegiate athletes ability to play at the next level. A lot of players have had pretty good performances in that particular game, including our own Patrick Willis.
For you Niner fans who actually caught the game, you're probably wondering about Joe Adams of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Adams had a nice performance with 6 catches for 119 yards to rebound from a lost fumble early in the game. I liked what I saw from him besides the fact that he looks a bit undersized. Other than that, Adams clearly has playmaking ability; showcasing his skills after the catch, and making people miss. He could possibly develop into a DeSean Jackson-Percy Harvin-Steve Smith type receiver at the next level.
Continuing on the offensive side of the ball, (especially the WR position), Juron Criner continues to stay on my radar. I can't seem to shake him loose -- the kid just shows up to play. He has a bigger frame than Adams, and displays solid hands. The Arizona product has deceiving speed, makes the catches in traffic and with defenders hanging on him. I also like the way he seems to naturally use his body to shield the ball from the defender when attack the football. He had a touchdown reception from his quarterback at Arizona, Nick Foles.
On the defensive side of the ball, three players caught my attention; the first player is Clemson's Brandon Thompson. The defensive tackle is just disruptive and appears to have a lot of upside going in the NFL. As it relates to the 49ers, I could see him as a potential successor to Justin Smith at that right end/defensive tackle spot. However, he could go higher than the 49ers are willing to pick for a guy that wouldn't be starting for another few years.
The next player that got his name called was defensive lineman Vinny Curry from Marshall. Curry plays the end but could transition to the outside linebacker position in the pros, and the 49ers staff knows a thing or two about that process. If Ahmad Brooks leaves in free agency, it will leave a spot to be filled at the LOLB position. Curry had double-digit sacks this season at Marshall and registered one in the Senior Bowl.
Keeping in mind that Brooks may attempt to get a lucrative payday in the offseason, another linebacker I couldn't help but notice was Sean Spence from "the U already know." Spence is projected to be an inside linebacker but looks to be a natural tackler who could probably play any linebacker spot, especially so early in his career. As a Canes fan, I would love to see the 49ers bring in Spence if it fills a need. However, it's a more logical approach to look for a more pass-rushing type to fit this defense -- Bowman and Willis already do enough run stopping and pass coverage.
Which one of these players did you like for the 49ers?
Follow me on Twitter: @DeSimone80