49ers

2019 Senior Bowl: 49ers should keep an eye on these inside linebackers

danielsauburn1.jpg
USATSI

2019 Senior Bowl: 49ers should keep an eye on these inside linebackers

Coming off a disappointing 4-12 season, the 49ers need to address many positions in the upcoming NFL draft. One that might not be at the top of the list, but is still a priority, is inside linebacker. 

While rookie Fred Warner developed into a very solid addition as the MIKE backer, the team still needs to address the WILL spot that was previously played by Reuben Foster. The team had a few players on rotation in 2018 but still needs to look for a solid replacement. 

Malcolm Smith is under contract until 2021 but spent his first season on injured reserve with a torn pectoral. He was only healthy enough to play in 12 games in 2018, as he dealt with a nagging Achilles injury. 

The inside linebacker class of 2019 is not particularly strong, but there are players that could develop into contributors. There is not one an elite standout, but rather players that would need to carve out a place on a rotational basis and on special teams. Most have a lot to prove at the Senior Bowl. 

Here are the inside linebackers for both squads who are intriguing draft prospects.

SOUTH TEAM

Deshaun Davis, Auburn, 5-11, 246
While he is a little smaller in stature, Davis is known for having high football IQ. He registered 112 tackles in his senior year at Auburn, 57 were solo, 15 were for a loss. He also registered 3.5 sacks. Davis is not the best in coverage but does tackle with aggression. He could have late-round value. 
Projected: Rounds 4-6.

Bobby Okereke, Stanford, 6-3, 234
Okereke has some size to him and is known as a good run defender. He has good lateral speed that could be a nice compliment next to Warner. While he needs to work on his ability to finish tackles, he does have decent coverage skills as a result of his athleticism. 

Okereke registered 94 tackles in his final year in Palo Alto, 52 were solo and 7.5 were for a loss. He also managed 3.5 sacks, five pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. 
Projected: Rounds 4-6.

[RELATED: Wide receiver prospects to watch at the Senior Bowl]

NORTH TEAM

Te’Von Coney, Notre Dame, 6-1, 240
Coney has good size to him and uses it well as a solid tackler. He registered 123 tackles in his final season at Notre Dame, including 9.5 for a loss. He snagged one interception and broke up four passes. 

Coney is stronger in the run game than in coverage but has decent range. He is explosive when hitting and running downhill. 
Projected: Rounds 2-4.

Germaine Pratt, North Carolina State, 6-3, 240 
Previously a safety, Pratt has decent coverage skills and range. He is a solid tackler and could be the most interesting of the group. He registered 104 tackles, 54 of which were solo and 10 for loss. He also had six sacks, three pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.

Pratt would provide later round value but as with most of the inside backers attending the Senior Bowl, they lack the coverage skills and ability to change directions that would make them elite. 
Projected: Rounds 4-6.

Colin Kaepernick 'Icon' jersey offers NBA stars another way to show solidarity

Colin Kaepernick 'Icon' jersey offers NBA stars another way to show solidarity

Recently, some prominent NBA stars have come out in support of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, displaying their solidarity in different manners.

The Warriors' Kevin Durant, for instance, donned a black No. 7 jersey to and from a recent game at Oracle Arena, bearing the phrase "#IMWITHKAP" on the chest.

Steph Curry, wearing the same attire, recently posed for a photo with his son Canon.

The Lakers' LeBron James wore a nearly identical jersey getting off the plane when he and Los Angeles made the trip to Oracle to face Golden State earlier this month.

James took his support of Kaepernick a step further when he was asked about Kaepernick's reported settlement with the NFL at All-Star Weekend in Charlotte.

[RELATED: NFL compensating Colin Kaepernick for not playing football]

If Durant, Curry and James -- or anyone else for that matter -- like the black-and-white look, and want to show further solidarity for Kaepernick, well, they're in luck.

On Wednesday, Nike announced the release of a limited-edition Colin Kaepernick 'Icon' jersey -- the same one James wore as a tease getting off the plane in Oakland. As Kaepernick explained in a tweet, the jersey is dedicated to "those true to themselves on and off the field. Proudly, unapologetically and against all odds."

"We believe Colin Kaepernick is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward,” a Nike spokesperson told The Undefeated. “The jersey marks Nike’s continued product collaboration with Colin."

The NFL logo is notably absent from the jersey, which should not come as a surprise given Kaepernick's recent litigation with the league. 20 percent of all proceeds from the sale of the jerseys will go to the Know Your Rights Camp he founded, which raises awareness for youth "on higher education, self-empowerment and instruction on how to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios."

So, if you're in the market for a new black-and-white look, or simply want to show more support for Kaepernick, there are certainly worse ways you could spend your money.

49ers receiver Trent Taylor excited to learn from new coach Wes Welker

trent-taylor-us.jpg
USATSI

49ers receiver Trent Taylor excited to learn from new coach Wes Welker

As a short, slot receiver, Trent Taylor has been compared to All-Pro wideout Wes Welker for his entire life.

Now, Taylor will have the chance to learn from Welker directly, after the 37-year-old reportedly will become one of the newest members of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan's staff.

Taylor didn’t hold back when asked what his thoughts were when he first heard about Welker heading to the Bay Area.

“I thought it was freakin’ sick,” Taylor told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He’s been a baller in the NFL for 10 plus years and it’s always just cool having a guy like that coaching you. A guy with that type of experience and the guy people have compared me to my whole life.”

With only an inch difference in height between the two -- Taylor is 5'8", Welker is 5'9" -- Taylor is more than ready to learn from Welker. Tips from the receiver who led the league in receptions in three different seasons and racked up over 1,000 yards five times will be very valuable.

Even more than Welker’s physicality, Taylor believes his mental approach to the game is even more powerful.

“It’s going to be a cool opportunity to be able to work with him and hear what he has to say to me, what kind of advice he has, and I just know he has that ‘dog mentality’ that you want in a football player," Taylor said. 

“It’s cool to have that in the coaching position, and it will be cool to see the way that he coaches us and the fire that he brings into work every day. I think it’s going to be great.”

While Taylor knows what his new coach is capable of, he can’t wait be in the same room with the five-time Pro Bowler to watch Welker’s own game film.

“I haven’t been able to just sit down and break down his film,” Taylor said. “But I feel like we will have the opportunity to do that. I’ll probably press that subject pretty hard. I feel like he’s going to try to be humble about it but we need to see his film. That’s for sure.”

Welker’s level of productivity is the gold standard for a slot receiver, and that’s the goal for Taylor and the rest of the receivers room. Taylor understands its immense value.

“I think it will be good to be able to ‘learn’ somebody who played the same type of position with the same body type,” Taylor said. “You don’t run into to many guys like that in the NFL. So it will be an interesting perspective to hear from.”

Welker reportedly will be joined by former Cowboys wideout Miles Austin in the receivers room, who was hired as an offensive quality control coach. Taylor appreciates that both coaches are not that far removed from the game, which helps them be even more relatable.

“Two guys who played a long time in the NFL, and haven’t been out of the league for that many years,” Taylor said. “They’re still pretty fresh in it. It’ll be great. I think it’s going to work out great."

[RELATED: Why 49ers can't miss out on Brown or Beckham Jr. this year]

Taylor, however remains inspired by Welker's mental toughness and looks to get everything possible out of his new coach.

"I think he always wanted it more than the guy across from him," Taylor said. "And that’s what made him so great. that’s what makes anybody great. Just having that 'want to' and that fire that you’re never going to stop. That you’re not going to give up."