2013 NFL Draft: Senior Bowl Coverage - North Roster

UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin making his presence known at Senior Bowl practice - John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

We take a look at the North Roster and focus on positions the 49ers may target

The Senior Bowl is going to be a good one this year. With over a hundred players participating in the game, it isn’t hard to find some players worthy of mentioning. The North roster features a ton of talent and future NFL players. We’ll provide a practice report later in the week and a watch notes/open thread for the game on Saturday.

Here are some players on the North team to keep an eye on Saturday, they have good prospects who also could fill a "need" for the 49ers:

Running Backs

Johnathan Franklin, UCLA : Franklin ran all over the field against most teams this season, putting up over 1,700 yards rushing. His stock could be on the rise with a good finish to the week of practices and a good game Saturday.

Kenjon Barner, Oregon: Barner had a good season splitting time with DeAnthony Thomas. Many think that Barner will be a change of pace back at best in the NFL. He will need a good week of practices if he doesn’t want his stock to fall.

Wide Receivers

Markus Wheaton, Oregon State: Wheaton reminds me a bit of a young Anquan Boldin. He’s a very strong receiver who is hard to take down and possesses the ability to gain good chunks of yards after the catch.

Aaron Mellette, Elon: At 6-4 Mellette has a big catch radius and he certainly can catch the pigskin. With 97 receptions this season and 18 touchdowns, he can stretch the field and make some big time plays. He could be a bargain in the later rounds if his stock doesn’t skyrocket this week.

Denard Robinson, Michigan: Robinson has looked very raw since converting to a receiver, and it’s highly questionable he ever develops into an adequate one. Robinson is a freak of an athlete, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s an NFL player. His NFL career could be short lived like another Rich Rodriguez product, Pat White. Robinson can help his case if he does anything well this week.

Chris Harper, Kansas State: 6’ 1 and 228 lbs of muscle, Harper is another WR who could be a bargain in the later rounds. Harper is really hard to take down, has good hands, and is a crisp route runner.

Tight Ends

Ryan Otten, San Jose State: Otten will be a 3rd-4th round selection and there’s a lot to like about him. Otten is a crisp route runner who has good hands, but he needs to fine tune his blocking skills to be successful in the NFL.

Offensive Line

C Braxston Cave, Notre Dame: Cave needs a good Senior Bowl after being manhandled by Alabama in the National Championship. Cave lacks explosiveness once the ball is snapped and I don’t know if he’ll be effective at the next level. If he looked like a boy against men vs. Alabama, how will he fair in the NFL? OT

Kyle Long, Oregon: Brother of Chris Long, son of Howie Long, enough said right? He’s strong and has that mental toughness and intensity that runs in the family. He isn’t polished but with the right coaches he could turn into one hell of a player, and the third Long to be a pro bowler in the family.

Defensive Line

DE Margus Hunt, SMU: At 6’8 278 lbs, Hunt is a force to be reckoned with. He needs to be developed further but his raw skills are undeniable. With that kind of frame Hunt could develop into a freak of a DE. Hunt is 26 years old and that could hurt his stock a bit, and some inconsistent play at times too (not containing the edge, missed tackles, getting pushed back at the line). He has a lot of upside and he’ll be dangerous in the NFL if he figures it all out. Hunt has shown the ability at times in college to completely take a game over and give the opposing team nightmares.

DT Kawann Short, Purdue: Short had a great season with 14.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, four pass breakups, and four blocked kicks. Short has shown he is a powerful force inside who not only is a good run stopper, but can also get to the quarterback.

Linebackers

Trevardo Williams, Connecticut: Williams had a great season with 11.5 sacks. He’ll be a 3-4 OLB in the NFL but there are concerns he’s undersized at 253 lbs.

John Simon from Ohio State and Arthur Brown from Kansas State are players to watch for, but I feel they are undersized too and I question whether they can make the jump to the next level. They both could have Aaron Maybin careers in the NFL, or worse. Brown can fly in space though and is a sure tackler, he needs to improve his block shedding or he will be thrown around by NFL offensive lineman.

Cornerbacks

Jordan Poyer, Oregon State: Poyer is going to be a good one in the pros. He has great awareness; he’s physical and not afraid to press you at the line. Poyer needs to polish his tackling skills, but on the field he’s an animal who only has one speed, "go". He’s one of my favorite cornerbacks in this year’s class.

Desmond Trufant, Washington: Good coverage skills but is a liability in run support and needs to learn how to wrap up and shed blocks. Trufant was also burnt a couple times this season bad, I don’t think he’s an ideal man corner and would probably fit better in a zone based defense.

Will Davis, Utah State: Davis racked up 5 interceptions this season and has a knack for being close to the ball. Although not the fastest corner, his physicality and instincts make up for it.

Safety

Phillip Thomas, Fresno State: Thomas will be someone the 49ers will be playing close attention to if Dashon Goldson isn't re-signed. Thomas had an insanely productive year, totaling 8 interceptions, forcing 4 fumbles, and returned three interceptions for a touchdown. Thomas is a good tackler who provides good run support and covers well. If Thomas played for a bigger school he'd be more well known, but he would have done well in any conference.

Check out the full North roster at the Senior Bowl website. Nick and I will have further breakdowns and talk about more players in the next few days. Who do you like out of this group?

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