Several current San Francisco 49ers jumpstarted their pro careers by playing in the college all-star game.
While there is one game left to close out the year, the rest of the league has turned its attention to improving for next season. With the draft less than three months away, the evaluation period of NFL hopefuls resumes this week at the 2021 Senior Bowl.
Talent evaluators from all 32 teams have descended upon Mobile, Ala. for the post-season college football all-star game featuring some of the top talent primed for the NFL Draft. This year's Senior Bowl takes on more importance with the changes and challenges to collegiate scouting due to the effects of COVID-19.
Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers staff coached the collegiate showcase back in 2019, where the 49ers received unique access and extensive evaluation for now-starting talent like Deebo Samuel and Dre Greenlaw.
In each of the past two drafts, the Senior Bowl has produced 93 total draft picks, including 40 in the first three rounds. The 186 total players represent 37 percent of the past two draft classes.
The 72nd annual Reese's Senior Bowl kicks off Saturday, Jan. 30 at Hancock Whitney Stadium on the campus of the University of South Alabama. The game will be coached by the Carolina Panthers (American Team) and Miami Dolphins (National Team) and will air live on NFL Network at 11:30 am PT.
In preparation for Saturday's game, here are 10 prospects to keep an eye out on:
QB Sam Ehlinger, Texas
(6-foot-3, 225 pounds)
The fourth-year quarterback has appeared in 46 career games with 43 starts and guided Texas to 27 wins as the starter, the fourth-most in school history. In 2020, Ehlinger started all nine games for the Longhorns and completed 194-of-322 passes (60.2 percent) for 2,566 yards and 26 touchdowns to five interceptions. He also rushed for 377 yards and added eight touchdowns. He ranked either first or second among Big 12 quarterbacks in passing efficiency (150.7), passing touchdowns (26), passing yards per completion (13.23), points responsible for (208), points responsible for per game (20.8) and total offense (294.3) this season.
RB Najee Harris, Alabama
(6-foot-2, 223 pounds)
An Antioch, Calif. product, Harris is projected as a Top 3 running back in this year's draft. In 12 games in 2020, Harris registered 229 carries for 1,387 yards (6.1 average) and 24 touchdowns. His 24 rushing scores led the NCAA this season. He also hauled in 36 catches for 346 yards and another three touchdowns. In the College Football Playoff National Championship game against Ohio State, Harris rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns and added seven receptions for 79 yards and a score in Alabama's 52-24 win. During his 2020 campaign, Harris put his name in the Heisman debate, finishing fifth in voting.
OL Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State
(6-foot-6, 298 pounds)
Radunz made 32 consecutive starts at left tackle for the Bison dating back to 2018. He was a key members of an offensive line that won NCAA Division I FCS national championships in 2018 and 2019. North Dakota State was forced to postpone their 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
LB/EDGE Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State
(6-foot-4, 245 pounds)
Rashed Jr. started all seven games he appeared in for the Beavers in 2020 and finished the season with 23 tackles, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. In 2019, he led the nation with a school-record 22.5 tackles for loss and finished tied for third with 14 sacks. Coming off of his notable season, he was selected First-Team All-Pac-12.
DB Camryn Bynum, Cal Berkeley
(6-foot-0, 200 pounds)
Bynum started all four games in the Golden Bears shortened season due to COVID-19 and contributed 19 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, an interception and two pass breakups. He is the only Cal player to start all 42 games from 2017-20, with each of his starts at cornerback. Bynum registered a total of 188 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, six interceptions, 29 pass breakups and 35 passes defended during his time at Cal. His 29 career pass breakups rank fifth in school history and his 33 passes defended are tied for fourth among active FBS players.
QB Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
(6-foot-3, 217 pounds)
Mond started all nine games in 2020 and finished the season completing a career-high 63.3 percent of his passes for 2,282 yards and 19 touchdowns to three interceptions. He currently holds Aggies records for career passing touchdowns (71), passing yards (9,429), completions (785), attempts (1,332) and total offense (11,001).
WR Kadarius Toney, Florida
(6-foot-0, 193 pounds)
A Mobile, Ala. native, Toney is coming off of a breakout season with the Gators. He registered 70 catches for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games in 2020. He also added 19 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown along with a punt return for a touchdown in his final season at Florida. He finished his career with 2,170 total yards from scrimmage. Toney was named a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, an award given to the nation's most versatile player.
DB Aaron Robinson, UCF
(6-foot-1, 193 pounds)
Robinson transferred to UCF following his freshman season at Alabama. He played predominately at slot corner with the Knights and registered 103 tackles, two forced fumbles, an interception and 16 passes defended between both programs.
DL Carlos "Boogie" Basham Jr., Wake Forest
(6-foot-5, 275 pounds)
Basham Jr. finished his career with the Demon Deacons with 19.5 sacks, 173 tackles, 35.5 for loss, eight passes defended, seven forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries, one returned for a touchdown. He currently owns the longest active streak in the FBS with 23 consecutive games with a tackle for a loss. He also registered a sack in his first five games of the 2020 season.
DB Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
(6-foot-3, 213 pounds)
In 29 games (19 starts) at cornerback, Melifonwu registered 88 tackles (71 solo), 23 passes defended and three interceptions as a three-year starter for the Orange. Melifonwu was a 2020 All-ACC selection and was rated as the seventh-best cornerback duo in the FBS with teammate Garrett Williams by Pro Football Focus. In 2020, he finished the regular season tied for sixth in the ACC in passes defended (10) and fifth in breakups (9).