Senior Bowl around corner for 49ers staff
The Senior Bowl has annually given potential NFL prospects the opportunity to show a big contingent of future employers what they have to offer. It is the single largest gathering of scouts at any one time watching players practice and scrimmage in full pads. Ultimately, some will rise up NFL draft boards because of solid performances while others will drop. Who are the players with the most to win-or-lose during Senior Bowl week? This scouting event has always been quarterback friendly. Philip Rivers made a monumental leap into the early part of the draft with his splendid performance in 2004. David Carr and Carson Palmer each cemented themselves as the draft's first pick in Mobile with outstanding showings. If there is to be any quarterback on this year's roster to follow in those footsteps it would be Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt. The Commodores' starting signal-caller since he was a freshman, Cutler was the SEC's leading passer last season. Averaging just under 300 yards passing per game, Cutler completed 59 percent of his throws and tossed 21 scoring strikes. He has recently taken on almost iconic status in the blogosphere. Many pundits who originally projected him as a second-round choice in November now view Cutler as a potential top 10 selection in April's draft. Next week is a make-or-break event for Cutler, who'll be surrounded by the top receivers in the nation and will be playing behind the country's best offensive lineman. The call has gone out for Cutler to throw accurate passes perfectly placed into receivers hands. A successful showing will make Cutler a rich man. Running backs have also made quite a name for themselves at the Senior Bowl. Last year, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams impressed coach Jon Gruden so much that Tampa Bay expended the fifth pick of the draft for his services. Previously, LaDainian Tomlinson also made a good amount of money for himself with outstanding performances in Mobile. The running back scouts will be focusing on next week is DeAngelo Williams. One of the most decorated ball carriers in the nation, Williams is twice an All American and considered hands down the top senior prospect at his position. His ability to not only carry the ball but to show himself as a complete player at the position by blocking and pass catching will enhance his draft stock. Two blockers from the SEC stand to gain from good Senior Bowl weeks. Coming into the 2005 season, Marcus McNeill of Auburn was rated by most NFL scouting services as the nation's top offensive tackle. Yet a disappointing senior campaign coupled with back problems has caused this potential top 10 choice to fall into the middle part of round one. Max Jean-Gilles is also highly thought of in scouting circles and the massive offensive lineman has effectively played both the guard and tackle positions at Georgia. Consistency, or lack of it, has held back Jean-Gilles, and something he must display next week. NFL coaches and general managers will closely inspect both players, as they will another offensive lineman, Miami Hurricane tackle Eric Winston. Like McNeill, Winston was highly rated by NFL scouts last September. Winston, who suffered a major knee injury in October of 2004, was not fully healthy and played well below expectations as a senior. And similar McNeill, Winston has taken a tumble of sorts down draft boards yet can rectify the situation next week. There will be plenty of other prospects from the offensive side of the ball to keep an eye on beginning Monday. Quarterback D.J. Shockley of Georgia and UAB's record setting passer Darrell Hackney both have plenty to gain from good Senior Bowl performances. Washington State's Jerome Harrison, college football's leading rusher in 2005, will have the opportunity to take his game to the next level in Mobile and prove to NFL scouts he is the real deal. Finally, UCLA tight end Marcedes Lewis has long been considered a game breaker at his position. Facing stiff competition next week, Lewis will be able to prove he has the skills to do it in the NFL. Lewis is a player the 49ers will be taking a considerably close look at, considering their needs at tight end. Upon our arrival on Sunday, the TFY Draft Preview along with Scout.com will have every angle covered in Mobile. From weigh-ins Monday morning through real-time practice reports all week, you'll have a first-hand look at everything that's going at the Senior Bowl. SFI also will be bringing reports from the 49ers angle while chronicling what Nolan and his staff is seeing and thinking at the week-long event. Every player in attendance can be charted with daily practice results through our premium service. All the news, information as well as scuttlebutt circulating throughout Mobile will be posted the minute it breaks. And a fan favorite, the players specific teams are showing an interest in, will be brought to you every day. To cap it off there will be a daily chat every evening starting at 6PM CST. So don't leave your computer screen and be prepared to take on the most knowledge faster than any football fan on the web!
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