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Something to Prove...Something to Gain

As we approach the NFL Combine, ESPN will be pumping out stories and updates until we all go insane.  Today, Todd McShay discussed various players who have a lot at stake in the combine.  Unfortunately this an ESPN Insider subscription article. For those that don't have a user name and password, I'll try and get enough of the pertinent information across to you, thanks to the wonder of blocked quotes.

McShay put together a list of the five seniors, five juniors and five sleepers with the most at stake next week, with Brady Quinn, Dwayne Jarrett and OLB Justin Durant (Hampton University) topping the respective lists.  Not all fifteen players are being targeted by the 49ers, but many of them could prove valuable to draft.  McShay spoke about some obvious choices for the 49ers like Jarrett, but I'm going to highlight some of the names we have not heard as much about:

Michigan CB Leon Hall
Hall's lack of recovery speed was exposed versus Ohio State WR Ted Ginn Jr. and during Senior Bowl week. Clocking a 40-yard dash time in the 4.4-second range at the combine could re-establish Hall as the top cornerback prospect in the 2007 class.

I'm really not sure what to think of Hall.  He's got talent, but I've heard enough whispers to make me question whether he can back the talent up with performance.  Consider it a thumbs down considering the talent that will be available at the 11th pick and the possibility of signing Nate Clements or Asante Samuel.

Purdue DE/OLB Anthony Spencer
Spencer's draft stock skyrocketed during a 2006 campaign that saw him record 26.5 tackles for loss, including 10.5 sacks. If he runs as well as expected during agility drills inside the RCA Dome, Spencer can land a spot late in the first round.

I've got this fascination with the idea of undersized defensive lineman moving to outside linebacker in the 3-4.  It worked with Manny Lawson, Julian Peterson was a hybrid at the position and my personal favorite Jay Moore falls in that category.  I think I might have to look a little further into Mr. Spencer.

Georgia DE/OLB Quentin Moses
Moses' stock is freefalling due to a disappointing senior season, followed by an underwhelming showing at the Senior Bowl. The only way to stop the bleeding is to wow NFL scouts and coaches in attendance at next week's combine. In order to regain a spot late in the first round, Moses needs to run the 40 in the 4.6-second range and also show fluid hips when working out as a linebacker in position drills.

Consider this a ditto like Spencer.  And yet underwhelming is not something that will get Mike Nolan's attention.  When you're playing for a chance at the NFL, there shouldn't be much more motivation needed.

Florida DE/OLB Jarvis Moss
Moss displayed flashes of explosive pass-rush potential while at Florida, but his first-round potential hinges on postseason workouts. The 6-foot-5, 256-pounder needs to runs well and show enough hip fluidity during linebacker drills to draw mid-to-late first-round consideration as a rush-end in a 4-3 or a rush-linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL.

If you think I'm looking too much into potential big linebackers, I apologize.  I simply think that even if we sign Adalius Thomas or Lance Briggs, we need serious depth if this team is going to move to the next level.

Hampton OLB Justin Durant
Durant isn't a great run defender at this point, but he is an excellent athlete with the tools for NFL teams to mold. A powerful open-field tackler, Durant possesses the burst to pursue the run from sideline-to-sideline, the agility to hold up in man-to-man coverage and the top-end speed to get downfield quickly covering kicks. If placed in the proper system -- ideally an undersized Tampa 2-like scheme -- and given the proper coaching, Durant will be a Day 2 steal.

After reading this, count me among the intrigued.  Our new defensive coordinator has a long linebacker lineage and could definitely help Durant.  I'll be paying extra attention to Durant next week.

Lane WR Jacoby Jones
Though he needs to get stronger and add some weight, Jones has the frame (6-2, 191), speed and athletic ability to develop into a decent No. 2 or quality No. 3 receiver in the NFL. It doesn't hurt that he is a dangerous return man who should contribute on special teams, either. Running the 40 in the low 4.4-second range could do wonders for Jones' already ascending draft stock.

I'm noticing that the more I read about small school guys, the more excited I get.  Jones had a great performance at the East-West Shrine game and in the pre-game practices.  Maybe the next Marques Colston?  It may be early but I have no problem priming the hype pump on these guys.  Consider him added to my list!

Obviously there are hundreds of players out there and many more will have their day in the sun at the Combine.  Someone is going to run a barn-burner of 40 yard dash and skyrocket up the draft boards.  Hopefully though, this gives everyone a few more names to keep in mind in the coming weeks.