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The 2019 NFL Draft is upon us. The draft is the ultimate reality television show, it is extremely unpredictable. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in league history and he was a sixth-round draft choice in the 1999 Draft. The draft is currently seven rounds and many players who go undrafted will ultimately wind up making an NFL roster in late August. Here are my ten favorite offensive players that are available this weekend.
Clayton Thorson – Northwestern University
The 2019 Quarterback draft class is not a star studded group, but my favorite prospect is Northwestern’s signal caller Clayton Thorson.
Thorson was a four year starter and leaves Northwestern as the school’s most accomplished quarterback. He led Northwestern to its winningest 4 years in program history (36-17). He made 53 college starts, and overcame a torn ACL and returned to the field in seven and a half months.
He’s a smart (two-time All Academic Big-10) and respected team leader. He has good size (6’4 222lbs), plenty of arm strength and can make all the throws. Thorson is likely a day-three pick, but his combination of smarts, size, competitiveness, and game experience in a pro style offense will help him carve out an NFL career. At worst, he’s a solid #2 quarterback, but I think he has a chance to be a starter.
Running back is an instinctive position. The athletic measurables are noted, but the film should tell the real story. There is no such thing as a productive NFL runner who wasn’t productive in college. Generally the best backs are quite simply the ones who gain the most yards and score the most touchdowns. Production is the overwhelming key.
The 2019 RB class is not considered to be overly strong and there is an outside chance that no running backs will be selected in round one. The 49ers aren’t likely to be in the market for a running back because it may be the deepest position on the current roster, but there are two special prospects who may be getting overlooked.
Trayveon Williams – Texas A&M University
Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams and Boise State’s Alexander Mattison are really exciting prospects. Williams reminds me of a poor man’s version of ex-Cowboys great Emmitt Smith. He has a compact build, natural running instincts, and elite vision and cutting ability.
He was incredibly productive for the Aggies, averaging over 6 yards per carry over three seasons. He put up 1,760 yards rushing in the SEC this year. This kid is special. Football is important to him. Can he stay healthy in the NFL? That’s the only question.
He’s likely a 3rd round pick and he could be a star. Watch his video below and you’ll see the talent, drive, and confidence that he possesses. I wouldn’t bet against him.
Alexander Mattison – Boise State University
Mattison was also very productive in his 2 years as Boise’s starter. He has a compact, powerful build and has produced big numbers (1,415yds, 17 TDs) this season. Mattison has a great combination of big play speed and incredible, Marshawn Lynch-like, determination.
He may be a mid-day three selection, but he should emerge as an NFL starting running back. If Mattison is still on the board in round four, he’s a ridiculous steal. Mattison is a special runner, but his story of how he came up in San Bernadino is equally compelling. This guy is going to be great.
The 49ers need an impact wide receiver, the type of player who tilts the field and opens things up for others. They currently have a decent wide receiver corps, but they haven’t had a truly special big play wide receiver since Terrell Owens got away. The 2019 draft is loaded with exciting wide receiver prospects.
Hakeem Butler – Iowa State University
Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler is a Mike Evans clone. He’s an enormous receiver who can make big plays down the field and should become an elite red zone threat. Butler dominated the Alamo Bowl and had a remarkable one-hand catch to highlight an amazing night. He averaged 22 yards per catch this year and yet he’s still a raw prospect. Two years from now, Butler will be a monster.
AJ Brown – University of Mississippi
AJ Brown is a versatile wideout who has dominated SEC secondaries from the slot and then from the outside when DK Metcalf went down with an injury. He’s a huge talent and he has recently worked out and run “the hill” with Jerry Rice.
Brown really seems like he wants to be a 49er. He’s the total package. He has size, speed, hands, route running ability, and the extra gear to separate when the ball is in the air. I was hoping he’d be there for the 49ers at #36, but now I believe he’ll go in the early 20s and thus the 49ers will likely need to trade up to land him. Good Brown breakdown here by NFL Network’s Nate Burleson.
Deebo Samuel – University of South Carolina
No wide receiver dominated the Senior Bowl week practices like South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel. Greg Cosell says the word around the league is that Samuel is simply “a football player”. He’s a real threat with the ball in his hands and is productive running after the catch.
Samuel is both an excellent route runner with elite footwork but he’s also a big play threat as an open field runner. He is very polished and should contribute as a rookie.
Penny Hart – Georgia State University
Now if the 49ers fail to land a top wide receiver on day one or two, there are still two sleeper day 3 wide receivers that could be available on Saturday, Georgia State’s big play slot receiver Penny Hart and Jazz Ferguson from Northwestern State in Louisiana. Hart is only 5’8 and 180-pounds, but Hart’s long arms enable him to play much bigger. No corner could stay with Hart during the Senior Bowl week practices in Mobile. The 49ers coaches were front and center for the show.
Jazz Ferguson – Northwestern State University
Ferguson is a talented player, but he’s had his issues. He began his career at LSU. He had academic troubles and a failed drug test, so he was forced to transfer to Northwestern State in 2017. He had a bust out season in 2018 with 66 receptions for over 1,100 yards and 13 TDs. Ferguson is the brother of Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon.
Jazz is 6-foot-5 and 227lbs and ran a 4.45 40-yard dash. He can high point the football and despite being a raw route runner, he could be a red zone threat immediately as a rookie.
Jace Sternberger – Texas A&M University
Greg Cosell compares Texas A&M Tight End Jace Sternberger to Chiefs’ All Pro Tight end Travis Kelce.
Sternberger has flown under the radar to a degree because he attended three schools and really only had one year of college production. He is 6-foot-4, 250-pounds and runs strong routes. Sternberger has elite movement skills and could be an outstanding pro.
Nick Allegretti – University of Illinois
This draft’s ultimate sleeper is Illinois’ Center/Guard Nick Allegretti. Nick is tough, smart and nasty. He will bury you in the run game. Allegretti (6’4 310lbs with 10 1/8” hands) was a dominating high school wrestler and understands how to play with leverage.
He’s a day three pick and he may go undrafted, but this kid will make it and carve out a 10-year NFL career as an interior offensive lineman.
For more draft coverage from Larry you can check out his most recent seven round 49ers mock draft here. Wednesday we’ll be posting Larry’s favorite 10 defensive players in the NFL draft.