Senior Bowl

Why John Lynch believes 49ers' adversity makes Super Bowl run sweeter

Why John Lynch believes 49ers' adversity makes Super Bowl run sweeter

MIAMI, Fla. -- When John Lynch was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1993, it had been over a decade since the club has been a part of the postseason. 

Lynch's challenging journey to winning Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003 is very similar to the 49ers' path to Miami in 2020. 

“I remember in Tampa when we won our Super Bowl, Warren Sapp saying something like, ‘We’ve gone from a third world country to the Taj Mahal,’ ” the 49ers general manager said Wednesday. “So I think there was something sweet about starting at the bottom. 

“And I was there in ’93. They would make jokes about us all the time. We were the worst franchise in all of sports. So to end up winning a Super Bowl in my home town, I think that made it all the more sweet.”  

Just one year ago, the 49ers had the dubious honor of coaching the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., an opportunity given to the teams with the worst records. Of course, every cloud has silver lining, and the 49ers coaching staff worked very closely with Deebo Samuel and Dre Greenlaw, who each have made huge contributions on the team’s road to Miami.  

At some point during that week in Alabama, Lynch and his staff discussed the phrase, “Mobile to Miami” as a goal. Once the 49ers punched their ticket to Super Bowl LIV, Lynch proudly shared a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase. 

“You know, I think just not even Mobile,” Lynch said. “I think that first year being 0-9 and just looking at each other and going, ‘Wow,’ but still feeling good about where we were going."

[RELATED: Lynch hopes for "cool" weekend in Super Bowl, Hall of Fame]

Lynch believes that the struggles the team went through in his first two seasons as general manager built the foundation of the bond they all share today, just as it did for him in Tampa 17 years ago. 

“I think when you do go through struggles together and you come out the other side it make the bond closer because adversity, you’re really tested,” Lynch said. “Your beliefs are tested, your relationships are tested and you better stick to our beliefs. 

“I think the fact that we did, and not everybody as been together those three years, but there’s a great bond on this team that I think is born in a lot of those working through tough times, but coming out on the other side.” 

The 49ers have one more game to make the journey complete, paralleling Lynch’s first Super Bowl win as a player. 

2020 Senior Bowl: Ten risers who Raiders should target in NFL draft

2020 Senior Bowl: Ten risers who Raiders should target in NFL draft

Like 27 other teams, some members of the Raiders have spent the week in Mobile trying to get a feel for a talented crop of NFL draft prospects at the Reese's Senior Bowl.

The Senior Bowl was vital to the Raiders' draft success last year, and there are a number of participants this year who can help the Raiders fill their litany of holes.

With three days of practice in the books, a handful of prospects stood out from the rest and it's a group the Raiders should have high on their draft board come April.

Here are 10 risers from the week of practice.

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

I've written extensively about Herbert and why I believe he should be the Raiders quarterback of the future if Jon Gruden wishes to move on from Derek Carr.

Herbert has all the physical tools. He's mobile and has a rocket arm, but was inconsistent at Oregon, but showed scouts exactly what they wanted to see in Mobile.

He was accurate and on time in 1-on-1s, 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s, being named the Practice Player of the Week. NFL scouts have questions about his leadership which he can help put to rest Saturday by commanding the huddle in the game. 


Van Jefferson, WR, Florida

In a talented group of wide receivers, Jefferson stood at the top of the class.

The 6-foot-2, 196-pound receiver is a polished route-runner with good hands and burst off the line. 

He made a number of impressive catches and showed good footwork throughout the week.


Jason Strowbridge, DL, North Carolina

He entered the week as a Day 3 guy, but Strowbridge might have moved up to Day 2 with his showing in Mobile. 

The North Carolina product showed great quickness and hand usage during drills. He can play inside and outside and could be a nice addition to the Raiders' pass rush rotation. 


K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State

I mentioned Hill earlier in the week as a guy the Raiders should target, and he didn't disappoint.

The Ohio State product had a down senior season but he's a good route-runner who creates separation well and has great hands. He'd fit nicely as Gruden looks to "let it fly" more.


Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame

Pride came into the week needing to impress after a subpar final season in South Bend.

The 5-foot-11 cornerback locked down everyone that went against him this week. He has incredible speed and should be a Day 2 pick.


Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

Have I mentioned this wide receiver class is deep? It's silly.

The Baylor product caught just about everything in his zip code this week. He high-pointed the ball well, was quick out of his breaks and showed impressive catch radius.

For a team that needs at least three receivers, the Raiders have to be loving this draft.

Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State

Harrison is more of a run-stopping linebacker, but he showed he can cover as well this week.

He was constantly around the ball and made plays like this:

If the Raiders don't go LB with one of their first-round picks, Harrison is a guy they should grab on Day 2.

Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton

Yes, I know the Raiders already have Darren Waller, who is a budding star and Foster Moreau was a touchdown magnet during his rookie season.

But in the offensive age of football where the more weapons you have the better, Trautman is an intriguing piece.

He's 6-foot-5 and fit right in with Division I talent despite being from an FCS program, showing great skill as both a receiver and a blocker.


Davon Hamilton, DL, Ohio State

A fringe Day 2 prospect entering the week, Hamilton showed great power and quickness against his peers. He showed some secondary moves and was able to re-establish the line of scrimmage.

Certainly, a guy who could help the Raiders upfront.

[RELATED: Raiders should follow NFL draft blueprint, raid LSU-Clemson]

Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne

I've done so much talking about the versatility of Clemson star Isaiah Simmons that it would be negligent for me not to bring up Dugger to close this risers piece.

He was one of the most dominant players on the practice field in Mobile, showing good body control, footwork and play-making ability.

Dugger could have a hybrid LB/S role in the NFL much like Simmons, and would be a big help to a Raiders defense that is lacking play makers.

NFL Draft 2020: Fifteen Prospects for Raiders to watch at Senior Bowl

NFL Draft 2020: Fifteen Prospects for Raiders to watch at Senior Bowl

Last year, Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock and the Raiders' coaching staff got a close look at a number of prospects who eventually would don silver and black while coaching at the Reese's Senior Bowl.

The Raiders won't be coaching this year, with their 7-9 record keeping them from the not-so-prestigious honor that is given to the Cincinnati Bengals and the Detroit Lions this season.

After hitting a home run with the 2019 draft class, Gruden and Mayock are looking to stack classes and fill some of their gaping holes via the 2020 NFL Draft. 

While they won't be coaching in Mobile, Ala., this week, the Raiders still will be hyper-focused on the talent at the Senior Bowl, of which there is a lot that could help the Raiders next season.

Yes, probable high draft picks Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon), Terrell Lewis (EDGE/LB, Alabama), Kristian Fulton (CB, LSU) and Javon Kinlaw (DT, South Carolina) all will be present at the Senior Bowl. And yes, all could intrigue the Raiders. But since the smart money is on Gruden selecting a wide receiver and a linebacker in the first round, we will spend this time focusing on some likely Day 2 and Day 3 guys.

Wide receivers

The Raiders need to select multiple receivers in the 2020 draft. I expect they'll grab either Clemson's Tee Higgins or Alabama's Henry Ruggs in Round 1 (CeeDee Lamb would be nice, but I don't expect he'll be available.) One receiver won't do it, though, and the Senior Bowl has a number of veteran pass-catchers who figure to be available later in the draft.

Michael Pittman Jr., USC: At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Pittman is a big-body receiver with bear paws for hands. He's a physical receiver and uses that to his advantage. Pittman has got a good catch radius and is a sufficient route-runner, but he lacks the ability to separate at the top of the route and isn't a dynamic catch-and-run guy. He'd be a solid Day 2 grab.

Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State: He'll likely start to shoot up draft boards (we have him mocked to the 49ers with the last pick in the first round), but Aiyuk brings all the tools you want in a wide receiver. He has good hands with great after-the-catch ability. Likely won't be there, but he's one to watch.

Chase Claypool, Notre Dame: As my colleague Dalton Johnson noted, Claypool is a touchdown machine. The 6-foot-4, 229-pound athletic marvel has great hands, is an efficient route-runner and is great in contested catch situations. Drafting him would give the Raiders a jump-ball threat if they choose to move on from Tyrell Williams. 

Jauan Jennings, Tennessee: At 6-foot-3, 208 pounds, Jennings has prototypical NFL size. He led the Volunteers with 57 catches for 942 yards and nine scores. Questions about his character likely will make him slide, but a good showing in Mobile will help his case. 

Collin Johnson, Texas: Size, size, size. Johnson is 6-foot-6, 220 pounds and a lethal red-zone threat. Great at attacking the ball at the high point while maintaining control of his body.

K.J. Hill, Ohio State: Hill doesn't have the breakaway speed you'd like, but he's solid sub package wide receiver with great hands and polished route-running ability. Definitely, someone for the Raiders to watch.


Edge rushers

Marlon Davidson, Auburn: A Day 2 pick with a specific skill set, Davidson has impressive strength and uses his hands well which allows him to win at the point of attack. Great at keeping runs inside. Not a game-changing rusher, but someone to watch.

Jabari Zuniga, Florida: Zuniga is a versatile edge defender who has a powerful first step and strong hands that have destroyed tackles at the collegiate level. His lateral quickness and wingspan make him a good run defender as well.

Kenny Willekes, Michigan State: Willekes has an insanely high motor and is ultra-competitive. He's the type of player Gruden would love to add to the DL rotation. He is a good run defender and has a solid array of pass-rush moves. Needs to get stronger, but has a high-floor.

Bradlee Anae, Utah: Anae is quick and has good hands. He's a versatile guy who can rush the passer from an up or down position.

Secondary

K'Von Wallace, Clemson: Another Clemson guy? Why not? The Raiders need another safety alongside Johnathan Abram, and Wallace comes from the winning-factory in Death Valley. Wallace is a high-IQ player who played all over the secondary at Clemson. He's most successful as a roamer. At 5-foot-11 his lack of size could be an issue covering downfield at the NFL level, but I wouldn't be shocked to see the Raiders go here.

Linebacker

Malik Harrison, Ohio State: The Raiders need an answer at middle linebacker and Harrison might be the guy. He's a physical thumper in the run game. Coverage ability needs some work, but Harrison should intrigue Mayock and Gruden.

[RELATED: Raiders should follow draft blueprint, raid LSU-Clemson]

Defensive tackle

Leki Fotu, Utah: A late Day 2/early Day 3 guy, Fotu is perfect for a team that needs to create more pressure up the middle. He's an explosive player with great hands. At the moment. he's a rotational piece but could become a starter in time.

Davon Hamilton, Ohio State: At 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, Hamilton is a mountain of a man. He's a smart player who was productive even when facing constant double teams at Ohio State. To beef up the defensive line, the Raiders should look at Hamilton.

Kicker

Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia: The Raiders almost certainly won't move on from Daniel Carlson, but if they do, Blankenship could be an option in the late rounds or as an undrafted rookie. He has a big leg and was very reliable during his time at Georgia.