The 2018 NFL Draft is April 26-28 which means we must find ways to occupy our collective football imagination until then. Well, let me tell ya, the Senior Bowl is a wonderful way to get a look at some draft prospects who may eventually suit up for the red and gold.
This year the North and the South squads will be coached by Vance Joseph of the Denver Broncos and Bill O’Brien of the Houston Texans, respectively. This is really the last chance for these prospects to showcase their talents before April’s draft (other than the combine). Yes, all eyes will probably be on both Josh Allen and the Heisman Trophy-winning Baker Mayfield, but I am excited to see what some lesser known players have to offer (read that article here). For now, though, we are going take a moment to spotlight notable offensive prospects we should all keep our eyes on.
WR Allen Lazard, Iowa State
Measurements: 6’5”, 225 lbs, 40 time: 4.59
2017 season stats: 71 receptions, 941 receiving yards, 10 TDs, 13.3 ypc
If I were to tell you that Allen Lazard has the ideal measurements for a redzone target in a Jimmy Garoppolo-led offense then, well, quite honestly, that would be an understatement because the man is a beast. Quite literally he makes most other corners look like junior varsity players trying to take down a senior on the varsity team. Lazard has the ability to haul in any pass and can easily win those 50-50 balls on any fade route. Most importantly, though, I think head coach Kyle Shanahan will be impressed by Lazard’s tendency to block well - both in motion and at the point-of-attack. If Lazard can showcase some speed in the Senior Bowl and at the combine then look for him to shoot up many teams’ draft boards.
Round Projection: 3-5
WR J’Mon Moore, Missouri
Measurements: 6’3”, 205 lbs, 40 time: 4.50
2017 season stats: 65 receptions, 1,082 receiving yards, 10 TDs
J’Mon Moore is a name not many people know about - that will not last much longer, though. He is a little smaller than Lazard: what he lacks in size by comparison, though, he makes up for in speed. Moore earned All-SEC Second Team Honors on his way to being only the second Missouri receiver to post two seasons of 1,000 receiving yards (the other being Jeremy Maclin).
Moore possesses all the tools needed to be a playmaker in an NFL offense and he would thrive in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He has the necessary size, speed, hands, and toughness needed to be catching passes at the next level. I would be absolutely thrilled to see Moore suiting up for San Francisco and have him running routes opposite Pierre Garçon for the next few seasons.
Round projection: 2-3
G Will Hernandez, UTEP
Measurements: 6’3”, 330 lbs, 40 time: 5.72
The 49ers need an offensive guard and Hernandez has the potential to be in the lineup for years and years to come. He garnered AP All-American second team for the second year in a row while also earning All-Conference USA first team honors. In 49 career starts at the left guard position, Hernandez helped the UTEP Miners allow an average of just 1.47 sacks per game. He has good size and excellent athleticism, which is imperative for an offense ran by Kyle Shanahan.
San Francisco has an obvious need of filling up some holes on the offensive line and smart money can be placed on them spending some draft picks on a linemen or two. Hernandez has first round talent so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Niners trade back from the #9 or #10 slot to get some extra picks and using their first rounder on this guy.
Round projection: 1-2
TE Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
Measurements: 6’5”, 248 lbs, 40 time: 4.84
2017 season stats: 46 receptions, 547 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns
Towards the end of the 2017 NFL season we were able to witness George Kittle develop some chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo, which should payoff as time goes on. There is a need, though, for another reliable pass-catching tight end; Fumagalli would provide this. He doesn’t provide a ton of separation while running routes - as evidenced by the modest 40 time of 4.8 - but he will catch just about anything that his thrown his way. There will also probably be an unnecessary amount of time spent talking about the fact that he only has 9 fingers so be on the lookout for that.
There are talks about him going late in the first round but I don’t see San Francisco spending a late 1st or an early 2nd on the guy, unless there’s some wheeling and dealing going on (which there most certainly may be).
Round projection: 2-3
G/C Sean Welsh, Iowa
Measurements: 6’2”, 295 lbs, 40 time: 5.27
Another option for Lynch and Co. to plug up some holes on the offensive line is Sean Welsh from Iowa. He finished the 2017 regular season on a high note as he and the Hawkeye offensive line helped the team rush for over 331 yards against Nebraska in the finale. Overall, the unit he was a part of allowed just 22 sacks on the season.
The intriguing thing about Welsh is that, hey, he can easily slide over to play center instead of guard. This kind of flexibility would be valuable for a team looking to add some depth to an offensive line like the Niners are.
Round projection: 4-6
QB Luke Falk, Washington State
Measurements: 6’3, 211 lbs
2017 season stats: 3593 passing yards, 30 TD and 13 INT, 40 time:
This one makes sense to me solely based on the idea that, down the line, John Lynch decides to trade either C.J. Beathard or Luke Falk to a quarterback-needy team for draft picks. Falk is coming off an impressive year for the Cougars and he will look to carry that momentum into both the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. During his career at Wazzu he amassed over 14,000 passing yards, 119 touchdowns, and only 39 interceptions.
He has a tendency of throwing into tight windows and isn’t the best at picking up coverages - these are all things that could be worked on if he sat behind a solidified starter and learned how to play the position at the professional level.
Again, I don’t know if it’s super likely that Falk gets drafted but I think that, down the line, it would be smart for San Francisco to add some extra insurance on the depth chart at quarterback.
Round projection: 4-5
There are plenty of prospects to keep an eye on during this contest and I’d love to know who you’re excited to see play this weekend - just leave a comment below!