Greetings Faithful! The San Francisco 49ers are NFC champions and are Super Bowl-bound! It has truly been a special season for the team who are one win away from championship glory! In the meantime, before the 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs kick-off, we have what many people call the unofficial start to the draft season with the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
This time last year, Kyle Shanahan and his staff were in Mobile, Alabama coaching this very game. It was in this crucial week of practices and games that the team most likely set their sights on Deebo Samuel. While Kyle Shanahan has a much bigger game to coach at this time of year, it is still important to get to know some of the top names and talent from around the country.
For this article, I will be highlighting players at key positions of need for the 49ers. Even a team who is Super Bowl-bound has needs and must continue to address the future if they hope to remain on top of a league that sees plenty of turnover year in and year out. Let’s jump in and see who 49ers fans should keep a close tab on moving forward.
How to watch:
2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl
The North roster will be coached by Matt Patricia and the Detroit Lions coaching staff. The South roaster will be led by Zac Taylor and the Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff. The Lions own the 3rd overall pick while the Bengals are on the clock, selecting 1st overall. Many expect the Bengals to select LSU quarterback Joe Burrow first overall. It would have been intriguing to get the first glimpse of Burrow working with Taylor. However, Burrow declined his invite to play.
As for the San Francisco 49ers, some positions I will be keeping closer tabs on include defensive backs, offensive line, and wide receiver. You can also make an argument for tight end in the back half of the draft.
On one final note about the 49ers…Currently, as of this writing, the team has no 2nd or 3rd round picks. I am going to project that the team will look to trade out of the first round (31st or 32nd) overall and look to acquire multiple-day two picks in return.
North Roster Players to Watch:
Michael Pitman Jr., WR, No. 6 – USC
Height: 6’4” – Weight: 220 lbs.
2019 Stats: 101 receptions, 1,275 yards, 11 touchdowns, 12.6 AVG.
Every year at the Senior Bowl, you get a couple of prospects who do absolute wonders to their draft stock. Michael Pitman is this year’s example of raising your stock value. Pitman has the ideal size and physicality that scouts and evaluators seek at the next level. Has strong and reliable hands, and eats up yardage after the catch. Speaking of his play after the catch, Pitman plays a physical brand of football and often breaks initial contact and tackle attempts. He is one of this year’s in-your-face receivers who are willing to take a hit and try to fight for additional yards. Keep a close eye on Pitman in this game.
Jonah Jackson, Guard, No. 73 – Ohio State
Height: 6’4” – Weight: 305 lbs.
Jonah Jackson has been one of the most consistent and highest-graded guards this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Here are some stats…over his entire career, Jackson only allowed 25 total pressures on 1,020 pass-block snaps. Jackson is reliable and demonstrates poise along the offensive line. Jackson trusts his feet and moves well along the line. He has a natural blend of lower and upper body strength and uses his physicality to push oncoming defenders and pass rushers into a backpedal. Jackson is versatile and can play anywhere along with the interior.
Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, No. 11 – Liberty
Height: 6’4” – Weight: 220 lbs.
2019 Stats: 79 receptions, 1,396 yards, 10 touchdowns, 17.7 AVG.
Antonio Gandy-Golden is not going to receive the national attention and media exposure as other top receivers big-name programs. In fact, some are calling Gandy-Golden, the best player you have probably never heard of! However, that doesn’t take away the fact that he is a dangerous, mismatch offensive weapon. Gandy-Golden has natural hands, creates yards after the reception, and is often a mismatch for opposing defenders and corners. Stays cool and focused when pressure is closing in and is willing to fight for contested jump-balls in man to man coverage. He has good speed with a little to be desired. This will be the biggest question mark as he transitions to the pro level. However, there is a lot to like about the overall package. Gandy-Golden is a small school prospect who should be on everyone’s radar.
Essang Bassey, CB, No. 21 – Wake Forest
Height: 5’10” – Weight: 190 lbs.
2019 Stats: 41 tackles, 1 interception, 11 passes deflected.
If we are going from an experience factor, then nobody in the country has played more snaps at the position than Essang Bassey. Bassey has had a productive collegiate career. He put his name on the map his sophomore year and doubled down for an outstanding junior year. While his senior season was quiet for his standards, he still found positive production on a team that otherwise didn’t have a talented defensive unit. Bassey does a great job isolating the receiver in man to man coverage, and often times will throw them off of their route. While he has posted a high volume of incompletions, he is susceptible to the deep ball from time to time. Bassey isn’t a finished product. However, he seems to have well-rounded abilities for the position. With more coaching, he can develop into a quality corner at the next level.
Ashtyn Davis, Safety, No. 27 – Cal
Height: 6’1” - Weight: 200 lbs.
2019 Stats: 55 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions.
The defensive back out of Cal brings with him elite straight-line speed, and the ability to track down the football. Davis began his career as a walk-on and has slowly built up his resume and now his draft stock. He has a good blend of athleticism and football instincts. Can track down the football and can knock receivers off of their routes. He has risen up the ranks, and Davis looks to be a day two, and dare I say fringe day one prospect at the safety position.
South Roster Players to Watch:
Kyle Dugger – Safety - #2 – Safety – Lenoir-Rhyne
Height: 6’2” – Weight 215 lbs.
Now, here’s a prospect you probably never heard of. Kyle Dugger is a name you should get to know. The small school prospect has the physical features and frame that evaluators seek at the pro level. Dugger was named on the NFL’s preseason watch list, and he is an exciting prospect to watch. Don’t let his small school presence fool or scare you. Dugger plays a physical brand of football and has a natural blend of size and speed for the position. Will get physical inside the box against ball carriers, and will cover a lot of field against the pass. Has demonstrated his ability to defend at all three levels on the field. If the 49ers are thinking of adding a safety at the beginning of day 3, Dugger could be the next sneaky good small-school defender who can make a presence at the next level.
Kristian Fulton, CB, No. 22 – LSU
Height: 6’0” – Weight: 201
2019 Stats: 28 tackles, 1 interception, 14 passes deflected.
Krisitan Fulton plays an aggressive and physical brand of football, and his style fits the demand of the competitive SEC conference. Fulton has good height and measurables for the position, and his straight-line speed can keep him on pace with receivers at all three levels on the field running fluidly through his hips. Most importantly, Fulton has developed the instincts, intangibles, and football IQ needed for the next level. This season Fulton has 27 tackles and one interception. I know the stats are not eye-popping. However, his presence has left a positive impact on the Tigers’ defense. Fulton is a fringe, first-round prospect. He could end up being a steal in the second round, and with a strong combine and leadup to the draft…Fulton could be that physical corner that can be an instant contributor for the 49ers.
Collin Johnson, WR, No. 9 – Texas
Height: 6’6” - Weight: 220 lbs.
2019 Stats: 38 receptions, 559 yards, 3 touchdowns, 14.7 AVG.
His measurements and frame are what scouts and evaluators seek at the next level. Johnson has the height and weight to out-box and physically dominate corners in one-to-one matchups. He has good speed for the position and can create separation at all three levels on the field (Short, Intermediate, and Deep Routes). On tape, Johnson has demonstrated his ability to create yards after the catch. He has strong hands and is a reliable pass catcher. Johnson is continuing to develop his route tree. A smooth runner, who brings a physical presence along the line of scrimmage, and can move the chains and advance the series. He has a favorable wingspan and creates large windows for his quarterback. He should prove to be a red-zone threat at the next level. Adding more speed and agility will benefit Johnson and his draft stock moving forward. Should he declare for next year’s draft, he is looking like an early day two prospect at the moment. There is certainly more room for growth and development.
Eno Benjamin, RB, No. 3 – Arizona State
Height: 5’10” - Weight: 201 lbs.
2019 Stats: 1,083 yards, 4.3 AVG., 10 touchdowns, 42 receptions, 347 yards, 2 touchdowns.
The do-it-all workhorse running back from Arizona State is a name to watch in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. Benjamin has great size and measurables that scouts and evaluators seek at the next level. On tape, Benjamin demonstrates his vision and ability to cut through gaps and holes and bust out for big gains. Will also challenge defenders along the edge and stretch out to extend the play. Has some of the best contact balance this draft class has to offer. His ability to cut on a dime makes him a human joystick on the field and a pain for defenders to tackle. Lastly, his abilities as a receiver give Benjamin every opportunity to be a true three-down workhorse at the next level. Every year we have at least one running back from day two who becomes a star at the next level. Benjamin is one to watch in 2020. I have a second-round grade for Eno at the moment.
Josiah Deguara, TE, No. 83- Cincinnati
Height: 6’3” – Weight: 240 lbs.
2019 Stats: 30 Receptions, 424 Yards, 7 Touchdowns.
The senior out of Cincinnati had another productive season for the Bearcats. While he is a bit undersized for the next level, he made his major contributions as a receiver. He was particular efficient in the red-zone and made his presence known there. It will be interesting to see how teams scout and evaluate him. He may be able to transition to that H-Back position to find further success at the pro level. Deguara is a day three pick at the moment.
Who are YOU excited to see in this year’s Senior Bowl? Please share in the comments below!