The 2012 Senior Bowl is officially in our rear view mirror and the NFL Combine is next on the horizon in the lead up to the NFL Draft. Senior Bowl week provided college seniors with the opportunity to impress scouts in the numerous drills and workouts conducted by the Vikings and Redskins coaching staffs. Some players impressed while others struggled. For those who have followed the last week closely, did anybody jump out at you as a "must have" or a "don't touch" player come April?
Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead was named MVP of the game and it sounds like he had a very solid week of practice. Pead got eight carries at running back, but he did his best work as a punt returner. Pead returned one punt 60 yards and another punt 38 yards. The 49ers are in an intriguing position this offseason. They have Gore and Hunter as their top two options at running back, but could potentially use another body. Potentially more important is that their primary return man, Ted Ginn Jr., is a free agent and coming off another great year of punt returns. Add in Kyle Williams performance and the return position could potentially turn into a glaring hole.
Another player who stood out this past week was Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry, who has been a beast in the pass rush. He measured in at 6'3, 265 pounds, which is actually pretty close to Aldon Smith's measurements last year. There are some who think Aldon Smith is better suited as a 4-3 defensive end, but the 49ers are doing what they can to convert him into a 3-4 outside linebacker.
The 49ers will likely try and work Smith fully into the rotation at OLB next season, but the plans at the position will depend in part on what happens with Ahmad Brooks, who is a free agent this year. If Brooks walks, my moderately educated guess is the 49ers go into 2012 with Aldon Smith and Parys Haralson manning the two OLB positions. If that is the case, does OLB become a significant position of need this offseason? Or do they look for a rotational backup at most?
One other position that could prove similar in nature to outside linebacker is the cornerback position. Carlos Rogers is a free agent looking for a sizable contract. If he returns, the 49ers will have Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver as their 1-2-3, with a good deal of talent playing for a fourth and fifth spot. Tramaine Brock, Cory Nelms and Curtis Holcomb would be the primary participants, with Shawntae Spencer likely getting released.
If Rogers walks, there is still intriguing young talent, but the depth chart takes a significant hit. Where does that warrant a replacement, if at all? North Alabama (previously Florida) cornerback Janoris Jenkins is an intriguing talent who had a strong Senior Bowl week, but could very well drop due to character concerns. It sounds like Jenkins was the best defensive back all week in Mobile, but baggage could drop him to the end of the first round.
I don't think the 49ers use a first round pick on the cornerback position, but maybe it opens the door for a trade down? We always want to know about where a team might trade up, but it is arguably just as important where they might trade down to acquire some future picks.