49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

January 14, 2010
Underclassmen spice up must-have positions for Niners

We won't know exactly how many underclassmen have declared themselves eligible for the draft until the NFL releases that information tomorrow. However, there is reason to believe it will be a good year. When a new collective bargaining agreement is (finally) written, there's a strong likelihood it will contain an NBA-like salary cap for rookies. That means there might be one more year for rookies to cash in right away - this one.

That being said, which are the positions that most receive a boost by an influx of juniors and other underclassmen? I talked with NFL Draft Scout's Rob Rang about it. Here's what he said.

Offensive tackle:
Bryan Bulaga, Iowa. 6-6, 312. Rang: he had a great Orange Bowl. I have him as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the draft. He got stronger as the season went on.

Anthony Davis, Rutgers. 6-6, 325. Rang: Based on size, you'd think he was just a right tackle. But he moves well. He also flashes some nastiness.

Bruce Campbell, Maryland. 6-7, 310. Rang: A freakish athlete for his size. He's going to end up weighing 320 but he moves around like he's 275. But he's raw. He has only a limited number of snaps in college.

Defensive end
Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech. 6-4, 272. Rang: In my opinion, he's the No. 1 defensive end in the draft. He had a monster junior year. He's got long arms and a very good burst off the edge. He's probably more of a 4-3 defensive end but is athletic enough to be considered as a 3-4 OLB.

Carlos Dunlap, Florida. 6-6, 290. Rang: he's got good quickness, but his best asset is that he's very strong. He could play in a 4-3 or a 3-4. A DUI charge this year decreases his value. He's someone who could go in the No. 7 to No. 15 range.

Jason Pierre-Paul, So Florida. 6-6, 265. Rang: A very raw talent, but he's got long arms. He's more of a classic 4-3 defensive end.

Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech. 6-2, 252. Rang: He's undersized. You see some of the agility and balance it takes to be a 3-4 OLB, but teams are going to be up and down on him.

Eric Berry, Tennessee. 5-11, 203. Rang: He's ESPN's No. 1-rated player, I would personally put him No. 3 behind Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

Earl Thomas, Texas. 5-10, 197. Rang: He's a red-shirt sophomore who's coming out. A legitimate first-round pick who makes plays all over the field.

• The best receivers in the class, such as Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant, are underclassmen. However, it's very difficult to see the 49ers using another top pick on a wideout. Instead, here are two underclass wideouts with return-man ability.

Golden Tate, Notre Dame. 5-11, 195. Rang: he's a Steve Smith kind of guy. He's not as fast, but he will go up and attack the ball like Smith does. Tate had 15 receiving touchdowns, two rushing TDs and a punt return for a score this past season.

Damian Williams, USC. 6-1, 195. Rang: He reminds me of Green Bay's Greg Jennings. He's a very sharp route runner and he catches everything. He was the Trojans' primary punt-return guy this past season and he took two back for touchdowns. He was sixth nationally in punt returns with a 14.2 average.

-- Matt Barrows

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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