Tag:San Francisco 49ers
Posted on: December 2, 2011 1:30 pm
  •  
 

Barkley, Kalil not only Trojans exploring NFL

Considered possible top five picks in next April's NFL draft, it should come as no surprise that Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley and left tackle Matt Kalil are considering leaving school early.

According to multiple sources, these aren't the only Trojans exploring their options.

Defensive end Nick Perry, a 6-3, 250 pounder in the midst of a breakout campaign is also strongly considering making the jump to the pros. I've been told that if Perry receives a first round grade, the decision has essentially been made. Even if the grade he receives from the NFL Advisory Committee is "a little lower than [first round], he'd still likely go."

Perry led the Pac-12 with 9.5 sacks through the regular season. He also has 13 tackles for loss among his 54 stops, which ties him for third in the conference and three forced fumbles. While slimmer than scouts might want as a full-time defensive end in the 4-3 alignment, Perry's size and athleticism may make him perfectly suited to transition to outside linebacker for a 3-4 club.

Free safety T.J. McDonald is also strongly considering making the leap to the NFL early. The son of former USC All-American and San Francisco 49ers' All-Pro safety Tim McDonald, the 6-2, 205 pound Trojan star has a build and reputation as a big hitter reminiscent of former USC standout Taylor Mays. McDonald has proven to be more comfortable in coverage than his former teammate, however, and has better ball skills. He leads the team with three interceptions this year and had three in 2010, when he earned Second Team All Pac-10 honors in just his first season as a starter. McDonald led the Trojans in tackles (89) in 2010. He finished third this season with 67 stops, including 2.5 for loss.

Perry is currently rated 30th overall on my Big Board and is sixth overall among defensive ends on NFLDraftScout.com's rankings.

McDonald is my 40th rated prospect and ranks second behind only Alabama's Mark Barron among NFLDraftScout.com's 2012 free safety prospects.


Posted on: September 2, 2011 3:42 pm
 

Locker, Smith star in preseason finales

Many critics panned the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans for making Aldon Smith and Jake Locker the seventh and eighth picks of the 2011 NFL Draft.

While it is impossible to grade either team based on how their prized rookies performed in one meaningless preseason game, it is safe to say that the 49ers and Titans' staffs are feeling pretty good about their selections today. 

Locker completed 15 of 17 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. Locker also led the Titans with 39 rushing yards, including escaping the pocket for a 22-yard touchdown. While accuracy was a huge concern for Locker throughout his time with the Washington Huskies, it was clear the improvement he was making while working with former NFL quarterback Ken O'Brien. I saw the improvement in his throwing motion and accuracy first hand, traveling to Mobile to scout Locker in person at the Senior Bowl, sitting in the stands at the Combine while he threw and later at his Pro Day, as well.

Smith was a terror off the edge for the 49ers in their final tuneup before the regular season. Operating as a reserve outside linebacker and defensive end, Smith led the 49ers with seven tackles, including 2.5 sacks and four pressures. 

I was among those who questioned if Smith would be able to make an immediate contribution as an outside linebacker in San Francisco's 3-4 scheme. A defensive end who owed a significant portion of his sacks to moving inside to defensive tackle during obvious pass rushing downs, I still worry that Smith lacks the agility and flexibility to ever be a star as a true outside linebacker. 

However, what I didn't realize when writing my off-the-cuff grades during draft weekend was the multiple roles the 49ers had planned for Smith. These roles were made clearer during training camp and in the impressive performance Smith had last night against the Chargers. Defensive coordinator Vinc Fangio had Smith operating as an outside linebacker, but also dropped him back down to defensive end. Smith was at his best when at defensive end, routinely collapsing the pocket due to his speed, long arms and aggressive scheming by San Francisco, which used stunts to free Smith up. 

Ultimately, the fourth preseason game for each player isn't likely to boost them into the starting role. Still, the strong performances were exciting for the development of two of the 2011 draft's most hotly debated prospects.   

Posted on: August 20, 2011 3:01 pm
 

Pryor dazzles 17 teams w/speed. Less so w/ arm?

Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor proved both dazzling and perhaps a bit disappointing Saturday in hastily organized "Pro Day" workout at a Hempfield (Pa) high school in front of a collection of scouts, front office executives, Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin and even Indianapolis Colts' owner Jim Irsay.

Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel was also on hand for the workout, showing his support for the player some blame for the program's recent troubles.

Measuring in at 6-5, 232 pounds Pryor wowed onlookers with his straight-line speed early in the workout, posting times between 4.38-4.41 seconds on a soft FieldTurf surface, according to Zac Jackson's Twitter feed. The soft turf generally slows a player down, at least in comparison to a hard turf or track surface. Therefore, these are lightning fast times for Pryor; ones certain to boost the intrigue of teams considering the playmaker.

As impressive as Pryor was running for the stopwatch, he did not run routes or catch passes as a receiver and was apparently less impressive when throwing the ball. While he threw a tight spiral on many of his throws, he also threw a "duck" after instructing one of his four receivers on hand which route to run and there were several incompletions, according to Jackson.

According to The NFL Network's Albert Breer, Pryor completed 27 of 39 passes. Of the 12 incompletions, Breer counted four drops.

Having not been at Pryor's workout, myself, I can't fairly grade his performance during the throwing session. I have been to multiple Pro Day workouts from quarterbacks, most notably Sam Bradford's, Mark Sanchez's and Jake Locker's. Passes rarely hit the ground during these orchestrated workouts with no defenders.

There were 17 teams present at the workout: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Miami, New England, New Orleans, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Washington.

While the fact that more than half of the league's teams were represented at the Pro Day shows that there is a great deal of interest in the former Buckeye, it also should be noted that there were only a few decision-makers on hand. Most of the scouts in attendance were lower-level area scouts, likely close by due to their normal scouting responsibilities at local colleges during the late summer months. The Steelers, not surprisingly given their close proximity, were well represented. Besides Tomlin, Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert was also reportedly at the workout. Irsay tweeted that his Colts are "not taking Pryor" though he also mentioned that his team is "evaluating the QB [situation]."

The workout, while exciting, isn't likely to change the opinions of teams heading towards Monday's supplemental draft. I've argued for a long time that Pryor is quite an intriguing prospect at wide receiver. He, however, has indicated a strong preference for remaining at quarterback, though he did tell teams and the assembled media at the workout today that he'd play any position asked.

As a quarterback, Pryor's average accuracy and decision-making means that he's at minimum a two-year project for playing the traditional quarterback role. He could, however, make a significant and exciting contribution early in his career as a glorified Wildcat option for a club.

His athleticism and size are such a unique combination that Pryor most likely will earn a middle to late round pick. Most expect that it will come in the 4th to 5th round.
Posted on: July 12, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 6:10 pm
 

49ers converting 7th round DE Miller to fullback

Considering that they've had no minicamps with which to aid in the transition from college football to the speed and complexity of the NFL, many clubs are quietly conceding that their 2011 draft class might need a "redshirt" year before making a true impact at the pro level.

As such, the San Francisco 49ers are going to make that redshirt year count for 7th round pick Bruce Miller, as they're asking the two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year to make the conversion from defensive end to fullback, according to this report from Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Few prospects can claim Miller's level of consistency and dominance at the collegiate level, but at 6-1, 254 pounds, he lacks the size to duplicate his success off the edge at UCF in the NFL. An all-conference selection each year of his career with the Golden Knights, Miller left Central Florida as the school's all-time leader with 33.5 sacks. He also posted 57.5 tackles for loss and recorded six forced fumbles over his career.

Though shorter than scouts would like as a pass rusher, Miller's hustle, physicality and surprising all-around athleticism made him one of the more intriguing "Mr. Versatility" types of the 2011 draft class. He was scouted as a defensive end and linebacker by most teams, but a few asked him to work out as a fullback at UCF's Pro Day. NFLDraftScout.com rated Miller as the No. 22 OLB of the 2011 draft. The 49ers clearly made versatility an emphasis in their 2011 draft selections, taking Missouri pass rusher Aldon Smith (who played DE, DT and even some OLB) in the first round, South Carolina defensive back Chris Culliver in the third (played CB and S while with the Gamecocks) and USC wideout Ron Johnson (also a standout returner) in the sixth.

As Branch's article points out, Miller's acclimation to the offensive side of the ball has had its high and low points. While Miller is essentially learning a new language in terms of offensive terminology, he has already earned the praise of his most important teammate -- incumbent starting quarterback Alex Smith.

"The thing I've been most impressed with is just his athleticism," Smith said. "To see a guy who has been playing D-end his whole career come out and be that fluid catching the football and running routes is impressive. It just kind of caught my eye from Day 1, seeing him running around catching. Just how natural it was for him."
Posted on: June 9, 2011 4:59 pm
Edited on: June 21, 2011 11:03 am
This entry has been removed by the administrator.

Post Deleted by Administrator

This message has been removed by the administrator.

Posted on: May 14, 2011 4:46 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2011 3:08 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- Cornerbacks

Over the last week and a half I have been highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

Here are the links for the other positions:
Perhaps not surprising considering that I had LSU's Patrick Peterson as the No. 1 player in this draft, I was higher on this year's cornerback class, as a whole, than most. The three corners taken in the first round deserved to be so -- and that isn't always the case. Kareem Jackson (Texans), Kyle Wilson (Jets) and Patrick Robinson (Saints) were all selected in the first round last year and struggled as rookies. I don't believe this year's first round class will experience the same growing pains.

The 2011 corner class, however, wasn't just talented up top. There were a few middle round fits that I believe could pay off quickly, as well. A couple of other fits that I liked, but didn't make the final cut below were the Chargers plucking Shareece Wright in the third round, the Panthers, Chiefs, and Packers adding Brandon Hogan, Jalil Brown and Davon House, respectively in the fourth round.

Players are listed alphabetically.

Quality Fits:

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants: The day before the draft I started hearing rumors that Amukamara could slip out of the 13. Detroit, at No. 13, had previously been the furthest most thought the All-American would slide. I didn't understand it. I remain an Amukamara fan and love the fit in New York. His length, strength and speed will serve him well and he'll have the advantage of playing behind a disruptive pass rush. One of the reasons for Amukamara slipping, I've been told, is that as scouts watched more tape, they saw returning senior Alfonzo Dennard making just as many impressive plays as Amukamara.

Rashad Carmichael, Houston Texans: I could have just as easily listed the Texans' second pick -- former Miami cornerback Brandon Harris -- in this space, as I like both selections. Like Harris, Carmichael is a good -- but not elite -- athlete who projected nicely as a zone cornerback due to his instincts and tackling. Houston, you had a problem. In drafting Harris and Carmichael (and hiring Wade Philllips as defensive coordinator), the problem is being fixed. 

Chris Culliver, San Francisco 49ers: Having evolved from wide receiver to free safety to cornerback throughout his career, Culliver enters the NFL still learning the intricacies of the position. He is an impressive athlete who had been enjoying a solid first starting season at cornerback after having earned Second Team All-SEC honors (behind Eric Berry) in 2009. A torn pectoral ended his senior season after only eight games, however. Culliver also is a standout special teamer (South Carolina record 2,464 career kick return yards). I projected the 49ers taking a cornerback in the first round in my 2012 early mock. Culliver is a little raw, but he is an ascending talent who could allow the team to look elsewhere.

Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals:
The fact is, Peterson was my top-rated player in the 2011 draft, so the fact that he "fell" to the Cardinals at No. 5 already makes him a rare value. Value doesn't necessarily equate to schematic fit in some cases, but it does in this one. The Cardinals ask their cornerbacks to play a lot of press man coverage, which is Peterson's strength. With another premier talent opposite him in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a starting-caliber corner in Greg Toler slipping inside to nickel, the Cardinals' secondary is formidable. Against the relatively weak passing games in the NFC West, Peterson is all the more likely to impress early.

Jimmy Smith, Baltimore Ravens: Say what you will about Smith's off-field issues, the man can flat play some football. Smith's length, physicality and speed make him an ideal press corner. Smith also gets the advantage of going to a very good defense. He turned some off when boastfully praising his own ball skills to that of Nnamdi Asomugha. With this defense forcing wild throws, Smith might very well get the opportunity to prove his playmaking ability.


Questionable Fit:

Demarcus Van Dyke, Oakland Raiders: In all honesty, it isn't fair to characterize Van Dyke as a poor schematic fit, as he certainly possesses the size (6-1, 176) and straight-line speed (4.25) that Al Davis has always placed a premium on at cornerback. "DVD" as he was called at Miami, obviously has a unique combination of size and speed, but he rarely demonstrated the physicality, toughness and technique while with the Hurricanes to stand out. As such, I and scouts I've spoken with, thought that Van Dyke was a significant reach at No. 81. Quite frankly, I believe that the Raiders will ultimately be more pleased with the play of 4th round pick, Chimdi Chekwa (No. 113 overall), than they will with Van Dyke, taken in the third. At that point in the draft, I belive the stakes were too high to make this gamble.

Posted on: May 10, 2011 2:11 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- Defensive Ends (4-3 and 3-4)

Over the next two weeks I will be highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

Defensive end was one of the strengths of the 2011 draft class, but a disproportionate number of them were five technique defenders best suited to holding the point in a 3-4 scheme. There were few classic 4-3 RDEs to be had in 2011, with former North Carolina standout Robert Quinn being the most explosive of the bunch. In many cases, top collegiate defensive ends -- such as Texas A&M's Von Miller, Missouri's Aldon Smith and Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan will be moved to outside linebacker. As such, much of the focus below is on DEs capable of playing immediately in the scheme in which they were drafted, though they may not be used as defensive ends with their NFL teams.

 Like my picks on the offensive side of the ball (the quarterbacks , running backswide receivers , tight end and offensive line fits), I highlight players taken in the middle and later rounds, as well as 1st and 2nd rounders.

Players are listed alphabetically.

Quality Fits:

Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints:
New Orleans' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is one of the creative minds in the business, making the versatile Jordan an ideal fit in the Saints' defensive line rotation. Jordan, who emerged as a star at defensive end in the 3-4 while at Cal, proved the ability to be just as disruptive as a 4-3 pass rusher while at the Senior Bowl. At 6-4, 287 pounds, Jordan also has the size and strength to slip inside at defensive tackle in nickel situations.

Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins:
The Big Defensive Player of the Year as a defensive end, Kerrigan will be asked to drop to outside linebacker in the Redskins' odd-man front. Kerrigan was widely characterized as strictly a 4-3 defensive end, but some of the clubs I'm closest to who work for 3-4 teams absolutely loved the former Boilermaker's burst and passion as a stand-up OLB. The biggest knock on  Kerrigan coming out of Purdue was that he didn't use his hands well enough to keep NFL offensive tackles from latching on to him. The theory went that by moving him further away, he could use his speed to blow past tackles. Playing opposite an established rusher in Brian Orakpo, Kerrigan could prove an immediate impact player from this draft and ultimately quite a steal at No. 16, overall.

Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams:
Like the Saints, the Rams simply got lucky when a top defensive end that fit their system simply fell in their lap. Quinn was rated by many as a top 10 prospect, but with four quarterbacks surprisingly making the Top 12, Auburn's Nick Fairley and Quinn fell to the Detroit Lions and Rams, respectively. With the exception of the Broncos' Miller (who will be asked to move to OLB), Quinn was the most explosive pass rusher in this draft. Playing opposite a strong, stout defender like former No. 2 overall pick Chris Long, Quinn's speed should give the Rams' otherwise aging defensive line some real playmaking potential. Quinn is already being viewed by some as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

Jabaal Sheard, Cleveland Browns:
Knowing that the Browns desperately needed to get bigger and more productive up front in their transition back to a 4-3 defense, I had Cleveland pegged to take Quinn at No. 6, overall. That may or may not have been the direction they were going to with that pick, but when Atlanta offered them five selections (including their 1st and 4th round picks in 2012) to move down, the rebuilding Browns jumped at the opportunity. In Sheard (taken No. 37 overall), Cleveland got a high-effort pass rusher with an underrated combination of power and burst off the snap. He isn't as explosive as Quinn, but might be a safer pick and could surprise with his immediate production in this scheme.

Questionable Fit:

Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers:
While some pointed to quarterback or cornerback as the 49ers' biggest areas of concern, I've maintained that the team desperately needed to address their lack of a consistent pass rush. The 49ers clearly agreed, but I have real reservations about the player they chose to fix their concerns. It isn't that I dislike Smith. Actually, I'm quite high on the former Tiger's upside... I just liked him much more as a 4-3 defensive end rather than as a 3-4 rush linebacker. I didn't see the balance and change-of-direction from Smith that I believe translates into a high degree of success as a 3-4 OLB. Taking into consideration Smith's long, relatively lean frame (6-4, 263 pounds and exceptionally long arms, legs) and age (20), I see Smith getting naturally bigger as spends time in an NFL weight room. Quite frankly, I see Smith growing out of the position and struggling to put up the numbers expected of a player taken so high (No. 7) in the draft. 

Posted on: May 4, 2011 8:24 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- Running Backs

Over the next two weeks I will be highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

With quarterbacks the focus yesterday , I'll move to the next highest profile prospect on the offensive side of the football with the running backs.

Before I break down a few backs that I believe are great (or in the case of one, troubling) fits with their respective NFL franchises, I did want to point out the statistical anamoly that was last year's running back class. There were 24 running backs selected in 2011 -- exactly double the number of runners who were drafted a year ago. The 12 true running backs selected in 2010 was the lowest total in modern league history.

Anyway, back to the point. Here are a few backs whose fit in their NFL schemes I believe could result in surprising success.

Players are listed alphabetically, not in the order in which I see their fit with their respective teams.

Good Fits:

Jamie Harper, Tennessee Titans: The Titans boasted one of the more exciting 1-2 punches in football just a few short years ago with Chris Johnson and LenDale White. White's penchant for trouble, however, led to his trade to Seattle and ultimately his falling completely out of the NFL. Harper, at 5-11 and 233 pounds, has a similar powerful build as White and might possess the softest hands of any back in this draft.

Roy Helu, Washington Redskins: Mike Shanahan is well known for his ability to find late round diamonds in the rough at running back and in Helu, he may have scored yet another one. Helu is an upright runner who didn't always run with the toughness and physicality some teams would prefer. He does, however, possess the ability to stick his foot in the ground and get downhill quickly. With very good straight-line speed (4.40), he is an ideal fit in Shanahan's zone scheme.

Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers:
The 49ers obviously boast one of the league's best all-around backs in Frank Gore, so Hunter isn't about to win the starting job here. However, the 49ers best back-up to Gore is another powerful runner in Anthony Dixon. Hunter's agility, speed and hands out of the backfield make him a nice fit for the 49ers, especially considering the fact that the sooner they play rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the more likely they are going to need secure outlet receivers.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons: Rodgers is in a similar position behind Michael Turner in Atlanta as Hunter is behind Gore in San Francisco. The former OSU standout, however, is actually a very different back than Hunter, though the two are similarly sized. Rodgers is a good fit in Atlanta's drive-blocking, power-base rushing attack. Rodgers, all 5-6, 196 pounds of him, is a surprisingly powerful runner who will score his first NFL touchdown by burrowing his head into the chest of an unsuspecting defensive back rather than dancing around him. How do I know? I've watched him win First Team All Pac-10 honors all three years of his career at OSU. He'll prove a steal at the No. 145 pick.

Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins: It is a shame that Thomas' name is last alphabetically, as I believe he could have the most immediate impact of this year's rookie runners and therefore should be more prominently featured. The Miami Dolphins are thought likely to consider adding a significant free agent runner like DeAngelo Williams since they're likely to lose Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, but considering how much emphasis Tony Sparano places on running the football, Thomas could still impress as a rookie. Thomas runs a bit too upright for my taste, but has good vision, is surprisingly agile and possesses good acceleration for a back of his size (6-0, 230). Depending on what the Dolphins do in free agency, you could be looking at a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year in Thomas, who led the Big 12 in rushing yards his only two seasons in the conference. 

Questionable Fit:

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys drafted Murray to potentially fill-in or replace the big play potential lost whenever Felix Jones is sidelined. While they received better value in Murray in the third round than they did with Jones as the No. 22 overall pick of the  2008 first round, the team could be getting a similarly finesse back who relies on his speed and hands to make big plays, rather than demonstrate the instincts or toughness to be a consistent force. The Cowboys, of course, boast lots of talent in the backfield and won't have to lean on Murray to be a feature back. Murray has fantastic hands out of the backfield and in that way is a nice schematic fit, but in the physical NFC East division, his role could be just that and very little more.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com