The 2018 college football regular season and bowl season are behind us, and we are officially on the road to the 2019 NFL Draft. The Shrine Game and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl took place last week, and this week, we have the premier collegiate all-star game, the Senior Bowl.
The practice week is what really counts, but the game itself will still be worth a watch. In practice, 49ers coaches put the South squad through their paces, and got a chance to see how they executed on the field, and also how they processed the classroom portion each day.
Odds are pretty good the 49ers will draft one or two players from this year’s Senior Bowl class. Earlier this week, Derrik Klassen offered a rundown of defensive players to watch this week that could be on the 49ers radar. Tommy Call took a look at guards and wide receivers, both positions that the 49ers will be looking for depth. You can also run down the list of players the Senior Bowl declared “practice players of the week.”
Here is a rundown of how to watch the Senior Bowl, followed by a look at some players specifically to watch in the game, and some top prospects that fit the 49ers needs.
Reese's Senior Bowl
North vs. South
Location: Mobile, AL | Ladd-Peebles Stadium
Game time: 11:30 AM PT
Channel: NFL Network
North Coach: Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders
South Coach: Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers
Top offensive players that fit 49ers needs
Deebo Samuel, WR - South Carolina
Chris Lindstrom, OG - Boston College
Dalton Risner, OL - Kansas State
Elgton Jenkins, C - Mississippi State
Garrett Bradbury, C/OG - N.C. State
Andy Isabella, WR - Massachusetts
Top defensive players that fit 49ers needs
Montez Sweat, DE - Mississippi State
Jaylon Ferguson, DE - Louisiana Tech
Nasir Adderley, FS - Delaware
Germaine Pratt, LB - N.C. State
Rock Ya-Sin, CB - Temple
Isaiah Johnson, CB - Houston
Deebo Samuel, WR, No. 1 - South Carolina
Height: 6’0” | Weight: 209 | 40 time: 4.54
2018 Stats: 62 receptions, 882 yards, 11 touchdowns, 14.2 AVG
The most important thing to know about Deebo Samuel is that he is going to make whoever drafts him seem like geniuses. The seemingly unheralded receiver out of South Carolina has been turning heads all week in Senior Bowl practices leading up to the game - a game in which he hopes he can continue carrying his draft season momentum into and beyond. He has, in large part, been affected by poor quarterback play while in college and has often battled injuries throughout his career (more on that in a second) put has put up impressive numbers nonetheless (as seen above). If he can continue to impress as the offseason goes on then he stands a good chance at sneaking his way into the latter part of the first round.
The big knock that may hurt his stock has to do with his durability. He has had significant injuries these last few years (hamstring, broken leg, sprained ankle) and the 49ers have had their issues with keeping players healthy. That may cause one to hesitate but, honestly, if he is able to curb the injuries then he has a good chance of carving out a nice role for him as a pro.
Rock Ya-Sin, CB, No. 6 - Temple
Height: 6’1” | Weight: 190 | 40 time: 4.55
2018 Stats: 47 total tackles (36 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions
Take a shot every time you’ve heard something like this: “The 49ers have selected * insert name of developmental cornerback drafted higher than anticipated.” * While that may have been a staple of a Trent Baalke-led draft room, I could definitely see John Lynch taking a swing on a lanky corner who still needs development but has plenty of potential; even the most cynical of hearts have to admit that every draft accomplishment had by Lynch & Co. makes it easier to scoff at just how ineffective Baalke was when it came to putting a team together, as it would be borderline poetic for a Baalke-esque draft selection ends up working out well after he’s left the building.
Rock Ya-Sin is a developmental target for teams who like to rely on man coverage and are looking to develop a potential outside starter by Year 2 or 3. Ya-Sin is clearly comfortable playing in tight quarters, and has great body control and flexibility — both traits that project him favorably as man-coverage starter. That said, Ya-Sin must grow more comfortable playing the ball in the air and matching multi-break routes with measured footwork, or he will always remain a low-impact player on the ball despite his length. Ya-Sin’s wrestling background, esteem for hard work, and limited football experience all project favorably to a successful developmental track in the NFL.
Jaylon Ferguson, DE, No. 45 - Louisiana Tech
Height: 6’4 3/8” | Weight: 256 | 40 time: 4.84
2018 Stats: 15 sacks, 60 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 2 pass deflections, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 forced fumbles
Jaylon Ferguson is an athletic long-limbed (long arms) edge defender with good first-step quickness and strength. A tenacious disrupter in the backfield, Ferguson displays good speed to power conversion, great hand technique, and quality burst with closing speed finishing hitting with explosion (has power in his hands to take down opponents). Although he lacks bend and ideal agility coming out of the arc, Ferguson showcases decent change of direction skills and fluidity with average agility and speed when stunting. He shows discipline on the edge (excellent at setting the edge) with solid skills stacking and shedding taking on front-side blocks with strength and the athletic ability to win against back-side blocks with balance, foot quickness, and closing speed (although effort chasing from the back-side is disappointing).
Chris Lindstrom, OG, No. 75 - Boston College
Height: 6’3 3/4” | Weight: 303 | Arm: 34 1/8”
40 time: 5.10
Chris Lindstrom is an offensive lineman prospect with tremendous versatility. An offensive guard at Boston College, Lindstrom has shown the ability to play tackle and all interior positions. Ideally a guard at the next level, Lindstrom is a highly technically sound prospect with a very high football IQ providing the utility style versatility and reliability (allowed zero sacks, zero QB hits and just three hurries on 370 pass blocks in 2018 according to Pro Football Focus) that would benefit any NFL team (scheme diverse). Moreover, Lindstrom is ranked No. 1 in the nation (per PFF) among guards this season with a pass block efficiency of 99.6.
Lindstrom is a smart physical player with tremendous functional strength. He showcases enough athleticism with great knee bend, balance, technique, and toughness finishing blocks all the way to the whistle. Although a bit stiff, he displays solid athletic ability to adjust in pass protection sliding laterally adjusting to movement staying square while mirroring (great awareness and patience). Lindstrom has excellent technique in his hands and has fluid feet working extremely well in concert with his upper body driving defenders off the ball taking full advantage of his functional strength and maintaining proper leverage. He does well with angle blocks and reaches the second level easily with a purpose.
Andy Isabella, WR, No. 5 - UMass
Height: 5’10” | Weight: 190 | 40 Time: 4.38
2018 Stats: 102 Receptions, 1,698 Yards, 13 Touchdowns, 16.6 AVG
One name getting a lot of attention this week is UMass wide receiver Andy Isabella. A clever and smart route runner, Isabella has demonstrated his ability to create space, and often beats defenders with his feet. Isabella has elite speed and can stretch the field. He has demonstrated his ability to take the top off of a defense. His speed can be a real weapon for an offense looking to move the ball vertically down field. Can make catches at all three levels of the field. Works his angles well, with the ability to start and stop, and throwing defenders off balance. His is literally a human joystick on the field! Has reliable hands that are soft, with the ability to take care of the football when turning up field. Isabella demonstrates his ability to accelerate and burst off the line. Is quick to create separation from defenders which gives him the opportunity to gain yards after the initial reception.
Due to his lack of size and frame, Isabella has a limited pass radius and throwing window for his quarterback. However, what I do like about Isabella watching his tape is his ability to play physical with defensive backs when fighting for extra yards up the middle of the field. Where Isabella really makes up for his lack of size is his speed and burst to create separation, and putting himself in prime position in open space. Isabella has well-rounded football instincts and anticipation. Isabella is a high-volume receiver who put up jaw-dropping numbers throughout his collegiate careers. Those stats above are for real! Overall, thanks to his speed, athleticism, and route running abilities, Isabella can be a unique and dangerous weapon in a Kyle Shanahan led 49ers offense. The Senior Bowl and 40 yard dash at next month’s combine will be big factors in determining where Isabella is selected on draft weekend. For now, his arrow is pointing up.
Isaiah Johnson, CB, No. 14 - Houston
Height: 6’2” | Weight: 203 | 40 Time: 4.41
2018 Stats: 66 Tackles, 2 Interceptions, 7 Passes Deflected
The cornerback out of Houston has the height and frame that scouts and evaluators seek at the next level. Has the length, and long strides to go along with efficient speed to stay with and defend receivers at all three levels on the field. His overall speed is one of his best qualities. Johnson runs fluidly through his hips and stays in phase in man to man coverage outside the numbers. Johnson will play physical and finish his tackles. However, he does lack some inconsistency when contesting and anticipating the balls arrival. Johnson will often look to disrupt and break-up a receiver’s route. Johnson often wins in the press, and uses his speed to stay with his receiver in man to man coverage.
I happen to really like Johnson’s versatility and his ability to adjust throughout the course of a game. Watching his tape, Johnson has the looks and feels to fit in the 49ers defensive Cover-3 Press Scheme. Johnson is not a finished product, but with the right development and coaching, he can potentially be a highly effective contributor down the road. Right now, I see Johnson as a late day two selection. The Senior Bowl and Combine will be critical steps in the draft process for Johnson to raise his stock.