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South team defensive prospects in the 2018 Senior Bowl

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We highlight and profile the 2018 NFL draft-eligible prospects on Team South’s defensive side of the ball from the Senior Bowl. North offense | North defense | South offense | South defense

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our coverage off the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl taking place in Mobile, Alabama. The Senior Bowl is one of the most rewarding opportunities for scouts, GM’s, and talent evaluators to assess some of the most exciting, talented, and intriguing prospects from around the nation. While there is a game played this weekend, it is the practices that are the most important part of the week. This is where coaches, general managers, and front office personnel of all thirty-two franchises have the opportunity to see these prospects up and close. Both on the field, and off to conduct interviews. For many of these prospects, this marks the first of a few major events leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. The others being the NFL Scouting Combine next month, and school Pro Days scattered throughout the spring.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers still have many needs on the defensive side of the ball. The most pressing needs include a pass rusher, linebacker, and cornerback. Today we will take a closer look at some prospects on the Team South defense. Please keep in mind, that the prospects that I will be highlighting play at positions of need for the San Francisco 49ers. Let’s get right to it!

Danny Johnson - CB

Danny Johnson, No. 1 - Southern
Height: 5’9” - 185 lbs. - Age: 22
40 Time: 4.40
2017 Stats: 55 Tackles, 12 passes broken up, 3 interceptions, 2 interceptions return for touchdowns; 3 receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown as a receiver

The Pre-Season All-American lived up to the billing his senior year at Southern. Don’t let where he played (FCS) his college ball scare you away. Johnson was of the most consistent and physical corners in the nation this past season. From the moment Johnson arrived on campus he earned a starting role in the Southern defense and would go on to be a consistent force for the next four seasons.

Danny Johnson has elite football instincts, and found himself on many occasions on the positive end of a crucial play when the game was on the line. Johnson possesses elite speed that let’s him stride toe-to-toe with the fastest receivers. Runs fluidly through his hips, and has the spring in his legs to contest with passes thrown his direction. Johnson sets a tone early and often, playing physical and disrupting the receiver along the line of scrimmage. Many times on tape, Johnson would out-angle and knock the receiver off of his route. His 40 time at the the combine will be worth the watch. Some scouts and evaluators believe he could be amongst the fastest prospects they time in Indianapolis.

Johnson’s height might cause a concern to some, but he makes up for it with his elite speed, burst, and physicality. These traits could make him a good fit in the 49ers defense. He would bring his speed, physical brand, and football instincts to an already improving defense. I like his toughness and his ability to change the momentum of football games. Something Johnson did on multiple occasions throughout his collegiate career.

Round Projection: 2nd

D’Montre Wade - CB

D’Montre Wade, No. 5 - Murray State
Height: 6’0 - 200 lbs. - Age: 23
Projected 40: 4.52
2017 Stats: 33 tackles, 2.0 tackles for a loss, 7 passes broken up, 6 interceptions, 0.6 interceptions per game (2nd nationally)

Wade ended his collegiate career on a high note being named an All-American from three different publications. After redshirting his first season, Wade would go on to serve as a four year starter for Murray State.

D’Montre Wade was a consistent, positive contributor for Murray State during his four active seasons. Plays with incredible awareness, and his ability to track down the ball while defending the receiver are amongst his best traits. On tape, Wade demonstrates the ability to isolate the receiver and take him out of the play. Wade makes great use of his size, and plays a physical brand of football. Wraps his arms around his opponent effectively, and has clean tackling technique. Quarterback’s rating dips when thrown in Wade’s direction. This week will be a great test for Wade to lineup against more elite competition.

Wade is a physical corner who uses his height and physical nature to his advantage. He could be an intriguing mid-round prospect for the 49ers and someone who could potentially gow and develop in their system. Wade is a raw talent, with a high ceiling who could be great value depth for the 49ers with his arrow pointing up.

Round Projection: 4th

Marcus Davenport - DE

Marcus Davenport, No. 93 - UTSA
Height: 6’5” - Weight: 259 lbs. - Age: 21
Projected 40 Time: 4.72
2017 Stats: 55 Tackles, 17.5 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, 4 passes patted, 3 forced fumbles

Every draft season, some prospects begin to rocket up team’s draft boards, and this year one of those rising prospects is Marcus Davenport. Throughout the course of this season, Davenport continued to build his draft stock with stellar play, and his physical traits that evaluators and scouts seek and desire at his position.

Davenport had a productive season in 2017 for UTSA. He was a constant and disruptive force in the opposition’s backfield, chasing down quarterbacks, and breaking up the run attack on or behind the line of scrimmage. Davenport is the program’s all time leader in tackles for a loss, sacks, and quarterback hurries. His physical traits are off the charts, and his lengthy arms and strong hands are what make him so dangerous and difficult to defend off the line. His high motor and burst off the line were amongst some of the best I have watched this year on tape at the defensive end position. His ability to beat blockers and maneuver in and around the edge were what gave linemen constant headaches.

The 49ers desperately need an efficient pass rusher who can disrupt and create pressure on the passer. What intrigues me about Davenport is his length, and his consistent ability to muscle past blockers. Should his draft stock continue to rise, perhaps he will land on the 49ers radar as their next pass rusher, if he isn’t on their already.

Round Projection: 1st

Kylie Fitts - DE

Kylie Fitts, No. 11 - Utah
Height: 6’4” - 265 lbs.
2017 Stats: 23 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble

It has been an up and down collegiate career for Kylie Fitts. When he is healthy and on the field he is a force. However, injuries have plagued him these last two years. Watching his tape, I like Fitts’ speed off the line and his ability to make his presence known in the opponents backfield. He checks off the boxes for a prototypical pass rusher and has a great blend of size and speed for the position. His strong hands give Fitts the ability to push off and evade blockers. While it is difficult to look past the injuries he sustained during his junior and senior seasons, his production on the field was positive and eye-catching.

A team can never have too many pass rushers, and injuries aside, Fitts is someone to keep a close eye on this week. The 49ers need someone who can rush the quarterback and cause disruption in the backfield. Should they address this position later on in the draft, and Fitts raises his draft stock these next few months, it could be a nice match for both sides.

Round Projection: 5th

Oren Burks - LB

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Oren Burks, No. 20 - Vanderbilt
Height: 6’3” - Weight: 270 - Age: 22
Projected 40 Time: 4.70
2017 Stats: 82 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, 1 interception, 3 passes broken up

Like Marcus Davenport, Oren Burks’ stock continued to rise throughout the course of the season. A swift sideline-to-sideline linebacker, who can cover a considerable amount of field. His ability to contribute in pass coverage continues to draw positive attention from scouts and evaluators. His strongest suit is against the run, and his ability to lineup in blitz packages. Burks has a great combination and blend of size, speed, and physicality for the position. He finishes his tackles effectively with superb technique and form. Runs parallel fluidly through his hips, and often breaks up a run off the edge. His football instincts, vision, and toughness make him a positive contributor, and his leadership both on and off the field is what any team would desire. Check out his work off the field. He has done quite a bit!

The 49ers will need to address the linebacker position once again, and who will play alongside Reuben Foster. Burks’ awareness and abilities can serve as an intriguing compliment to Foster’s style. More than likely, he will not cost the 49ers their first round selection. Instead, Burks can be a great value pick on day two in the second or third round.

Round Projection: 3rd

Uchenna Nwosu - LB

Uchenna Nwosu, No. 42 - USC
Height: 6’2” - 245 lbs. - Age: 21
Projected 40 Time: 4.73
2017 Stats: 75 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, 1 interception, 13 passes broken up

A linebacker with effective speed and awareness for where the play is going to happen. Nwosu was a burst of energy who uses his speed to put himself in a position to make a play on the ball. His best traits are stopping the run and rushing the passer. With nearly ten sacks this season, Nwosu constantly found himself in the opposition’s backfield. Other USC players such as Cameron Smith might be getting more attention, however Nwosu had many game changing momentum-swing moments throughout the year. Has strong leadership skills and plays a tough, physical brand of football. Carries himself extremely well both on and off the field and had the honor of wearing the C and serving as a captain of the Trojans defense.

The 49ers can use an outside linebacker who can defend against the edge, both against the run, and in the short and intermediate pass protection. Nwosu brings strong leadership along with his great speed and awareness. Those three skills combined make for a great linebacker prospect. An early day three prospect who can certainly raise his stock with a strong Senior Bowl.

Round Projection: 4th-5th

Other Notable South Defensive Prospects To Watch

NCAA Football: Alabama at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Quin Blanding, No. 3 - Virginia - Safety - 6’2” - 209 lbs. - Age: 21 - 4.51

Darius Leonard, No. 10 - LB - South Carolina State - 6’2” 229 lbs. - Age: 22 - 4.58

Da’Shawn Hand, No. 9 - DE - Alabama - 6’3” - 282 lbs. - Age: 22 - 4.69

Siran Neal, No. 5 - CB - Jacksonville State - 6’0” - 206 lbs. - Age: 23 - 4.46

Shaquem Griffin - No. 18 - LB - Central Florida - 6’0” - 223 lbs. - Age 22 - 4.61

Christian LaCouture - No. 90 - DT - LSU - 6’4” - 290 lbs. - Age 23 - 4.79

Levi Wallace - No. 39 - Alabama - CB - 6’0” - 176 lbs. - Age: 22 - 4.46

Who are YOU excited to see in action this weekend for the Reese’s Senior Bowl? Please share in the comments below!