The 2016 Senior Bowl is officially in our rear view mirror, and the road to the 2016 NFL Draft marches on. The next big event is the NFL Combine in February. That is followed by Pro Days and team visits. Teams are slowly putting together their big boards, and the week of practice at the Senior Bowl helped to some degree. Game tape is generally the most important part of the evaluation process, but these events during the lead up to the draft are valuable as well.
With the Senior Bowl finished, I thought it made sense to have Greg and Jake put together their first mock drafts of the offseason. We'll likely have another one after the Combine, and then another in April. I've posted their mocks at the bottom of the article. Before that, I have their thoughts on the player they picked for the 49ers. Both guys picked UCLA inside linebacker Myles Jack. Jack measures in at 6'1, and weighs 245 pounds.
"In every sport, one thing that's common is you stay strong up the middle." ~ 49ers general manager Trent Baalke.
Baalke tends to have a draft strategy building inside out, and the recurring theme Baalke has always reiterated, staying strong in the middle is the foundation to success. Although NaVorro Bowman had another All-Pro season, after the retirement of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, the inside 'backer position alongside Bowman has been a turnstile of potential never reaching fruition, with the likes of Desmond Bishop, Philip Wheeler, Steve Beauharnais, Nick Moody, Michael Wilhoite, Shane Skov, Nick Bellore, and Gerald Hodges vying, at one point or another, to try and fill the position. Hodges shows potential, but one exciting draft-eligible prospect could solidify the strength up the middle Baalke desires, and that prospect is Myles Jack.
Myles Jack's athleticism and skills are absolutely insane. He plays with tremendous vision and instincts, is extremely explosive with speed, physical with a bully mentality, a reliable tackler, and can line up on the inside, slot, or boundary with outstanding coverage skills. It's Jack's coverage and range skills that makes him dangerous, but he also possesses the quality bulk-ability (a trait required for box LB's) to take on the run too. He has an amazing skill to get lower than the lowest exploding with tremendous power through his hips jolting (bully mentality) larger blockers separating with his hands, quickness, and athleticism making the tackle hitting with explosion, which makes him an ideal candidate playing inside-out. Moreover, Jack is so athletically gifted, he could easily be a high round draft prospect as a running back, which not only adds value and versatility, but also is an asset when he utilizes his impressive ball skills on interceptions, quickly transitioning into a fierce runner with quick feet and change of direction skills, and a battering ram as a stiff arm.
One area of concern with Jack is the torn meniscus he suffered back in late September 2015, but Jack has been grinding after his surgery with no setbacks determined to have no restrictions at the NFL Scouting Combine scheduled for the end of February. Moreover, during his rehab training regiment, Jack has increased his upper body strength and size, and he says his legs are stronger than ever. Jack, a complete player, would be a stellar fit as an inside linebacker in the 49ers 34 defense, but with his versatility, he can be utilized practically anywhere.
Why would the 49ers select ILB Myles Jack with their seventh pick in the 2016 NFL Draft? Well, for starters, the departure of linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland has left a gaping hole in the middle of the defense. The return of NaVarro Bowman was definitely a plus, considering he's arguably the best linebacker in the NFL, but he can't carry a whole team. The 49ers finished 28th in both tackles (967) and in rush yards allowed per game (126.2). Keeping in mind that San Francisco's corners aren't the most willing DB's to hit in the league, almost all of the pressure to make plays falls on the front seven.
Jack and Bowman would create one of the scariest tandems in the NFL at the linebacker spot. Jack will most likely to be asked to be sent on a large amount of blitz packages, like he was at UCLA. He is a three-down linebacker, although he fits better in a 4-3 scheme rather than your traditional 3-4 defense. However, due to his versatility, he will be able to play in the 3-4 defense the 49ers run. At this point, Jack is just too good to pass up. If he is still sitting there at the eight spot, there's no way you can't take him just due to how badly the 49ers defense needs him.
Strengths: Athletically, Jack is on a different level. He has innate instincts, which shows through his great snap anticipation when he's contributing as a pass rusher. There is no hesitation in his movement. He doesn't think, he just does, due to his incredible instincts, as I mentioned. Jack is one of the most aggressive players in College Football when attacking the line of scrimmage or a screen to the outside. He has the speed to tail a ball carrier sideline-to-sideline, and the fluidity in his hips to drop back into coverage. He has the fascinating capability to cut on a dime and change direction (part of the relentlessness he plays with).
Weaknesses: At times, Jack plays too out of his mind. When you take a look at the film, you'll notice instances when he would rather blow up the lead blocker to make a big hit instead of trying to maneuver around them to make a play on the football. Jack could also improve his hand usage when coming downhill attempting to shed blockers. He also needs to work on turning his head to locate the ball when downfield, as well as not getting too grabby. His knee injury is also a scare, but by the looks of it, he will be able to participate in the combine.
|1||Titans||Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss||Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss|
|2||Browns||Jared Goff, QB, California||Jared Goff, QB, California|
|3||Chargers||Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State||Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame|
|4||Cowboys||Carson Wentz, QB, South Dakota State||Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State|
|5||Jaguars||Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State||Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State|
|6||Ravens||Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame||Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida|
|7||49ers||Myles Jack, ILB, UCLA||Myles Jack, ILB, UCLA|
|8||Dolphins||DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon||Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State|
|9||Buccaneers||Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State||DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon|
|10||Giants||Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson||Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame|
|11||Bears||Noah Spence, OLB, Eastern Kentucky||Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama|
|12||Saints||Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame||Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson|
|13||Eagles||Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson||A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama|
|14||Raiders||Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama||Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson|
|15||Rams||Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis||Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis|
|16||Lions||Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida||Noah Spence, OLB, Eastern Kentucky|
|17||Falcons||A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama||Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor|
|18||Colts||Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State||Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana|
|19||Bills||Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State||Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State|
|20||Jets||Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia||Erick Striker, ILB, Oklahoma|
|21||Washington||Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss||Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State|
|22||Texans||Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State||Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State|
|23||Vikings||Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss||Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss|
|24||Bengals||Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State||Maurice Canady, CB, Virginia|
|25||Steelers||Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State||Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State|
|26||Seahawks||Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State||Vadal Alexander, OT/OG, LSU|
|27||Packers||Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA||Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama|
|28||Chiefs||Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville||Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss|
|29||Cardinals||Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson||Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State|
|30||Broncos||Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana||Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State|
|31||Panthers||Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech||Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech|