MOBILE, Ala., — The 49ers are using their time at the Senior Bowl wisely. More contact with players allows the staff to evaluate their character much more in depth than the 15-minute meetings allowed at the NFL Pro Scouting Combine.
Both coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have expressed how the week of working with draft prospects at the Senior Bowl is a huge advantage for them. While they’d prefer to be in the playoffs, they are going to get everything they can out of being in close proximity to the players.
The 49ers went through a lot of ups and downs with former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, who had some questions regarding off the field issues coming out of Alabama. Shanahan said the situations with Foster don’t really change how he views players prior to the draft more than any other experience.
“Not much,” Shanahan said. “Every player is different, every situation is different. Every situation I’ve had with every single player in the 16 years I’ve been coaching affects every decision.
“Learned a lot going through Reuben -- some good, some bad, but that’s no different than any other player.”
One of the standouts from the three days of practice in Mobile is Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat, who was suspended for violating team rules while at Michigan State.
No explanation was given by head coach Mark D’Antonio about the suspension at the time, and Sweat subsequently transferred to a junior college before finally landing at Mississippi State. Sweat was noticeably absent from media availability throughout the week, but the team likely has the full story.
Lynch explained the same philosophy as Shanahan when discussing how Foster has influenced his evaluation process as they look forward to players like Sweat.
“I think we always sit down at the end of a season,” Lynch said. “We always take every opportunity to assess what we’ve done, what we’ve done well and what we fell like we can do better. So, of course you learn from your experiences.”
The 49ers locker room was very close in 2018 as they faced the adversity of a losing season both with and without Foster on the team. The same could be said about the locker room in 2017 where the team faced an 0-9 start before managing their first win.
“I think one thing I’m really proud of,” Lynch said, “is the character of our team as a whole. I think we’ve got a lot go guys who kind of represent our core beliefs on how you build a winning franchise, a championship franchise. And going into year three you just want to continue to add.
“The big thing for us is we want to have competition at darn near every position. You want to have guys that bring out the best in people. It brings out the best in a roster and it adds to the depth of your roster.“
The 49ers have a lot of choices to make in the coming months and the the staff’s week in Mobile will play a big part in the process.