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Senior Bowl gives 49ers coaches, scouts a chance to spend a week with draft prospects

There’s only so much one can hide spending a week in close quarters.

Kyle Shanahan’s season isn’t quite through. The San Francisco 49ers head coach next heads to Mobile, Alabama in three weeks to coach the 2019 Senior Bowl. The game gets going on January 26th, and the week leading up to it provides a great opportunity to see how the prospects respond to not just coaching, but Kyle Shanahan’s coaching and philosophy. Chemistry is the big thing here and it will give the entire coaching staff a chance to see if they mesh well with a particular player.

Shanahan and general manager John Lynch talked earlier this week about the value of the Senior Bowl. I especially liked what Shanahan said about the difficulty of being tricked when you’re working with someone for a week.

Shanahan: “I’ve coached it twice. This will be my third time. Not proud of that. It’s the same thing as the Combine to me. It’s not as much about the players. It’s not about the athletes and stuff because you can see that on tape pretty well. You can see that when we work them out. It’s about being around people. It’s hard in the interview process to fully get to know someone. It’s hard to get tricked when you’re with someone for seven straight days. That’s my experience and what I’ve gotten the most out of it. You know that group of guys better.”

Lynch: “I think it gives Kyle and his staff what you covet. You covet time and in this game, we’re not looking for rocket scientists. We’re looking for guys that can play football. We get to see them learn football and apply it to the field. You get to see them in that setting and I think it’s invaluable. Like Kyle said, it’s not something we’re proud of being there. But, we’re going to make the most of it and I think it’s a really good opportunity that we’re going to embrace and get it for everything that we can.”

Lynch mentioned the idea of players learning football and then applying it to the field. When the team goes to the Combine and later has private visits with draft prospects, they will test them by providing plays and then seeing how they respond to questions and implementation. Coaching the Senior Bowl allows them to do it on a broader scale while also seeing how they develop over the course of several days, rather than just in the course of a day at the Combine or the team facility.

This is the sixth time the 49ers have coached in the Senior Bowl. Dick Nolan coached in 1975, Bill Walsh coached in 1981, and then Mike Nolan coached it three times from 2006 to 2008. I took a look back through the Senior Bowl’s all-time roster to see how active the 49ers were that year. Nolan was particularly active in 2006 and 2007. At some point it would be interesting to analyze how much the 49ers pick from the Senior Bowl each year.

1975: DT Jimmy Webb, K Steve Mike-Mayer, DT Wayne Baker

1981: CB Eric Wright, DB Lynn Thomas

2006: LB Manny Lawson, RB Michael Robinson, LB Parys Haralson, DB Marcus Hudson

2007: LB Patrick Willis, OT Joe Staley, WR Jason Hill, DE Ray McDonald, LB Jay Moore, RB Thomas Clayton

2008: DL Kentwan Balmer, C Cody Wallace

The Senior Bowl will announce rosters on Wednesday, January 16th, but in the meantime you can follow roster acceptances here. The big name is Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen, and fingers crossed the 49ers get him on the South roster. We usually see more talent coming from the geographic south than the north, so there’s no guarantees Allen will be on the roster. But with the No. 2 pick in hand, it would be ideal if the 49ers could get a week to figure out exactly what he brings to the table.

But even beyond Allen, the 49ers will have their work cut out for them in the 2019 NFL Draft. They only have five picks, and barring any significant trades, that won’t change a whole lot. They’ll need to dive even deeper in order to make sure they aren’t anywhere near this position in 2020.