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January 23, 2009
Senior Bowl: Three who are 10-worthy

Perhaps time will prove everyone wrong, but the general consensus in Mobile this week was that there was a dip in talent level from last season. In fact, you could say that the draft pool as a whole is more shallow than it was last year. Still, it seemed that there were a few players worthy of the 49ers' 10th overall pick.

  1. B.J. Raji, DT-NT, Boston College. Raji was one of the most hyped players coming into this week and he didn't disappoint. He weighed a nose-tackle worthy 334 pounds on Monday and proved that he could move that weight in practice all week. He had his way with all of the North squad centers save Cal's Alex Mack, and his match-up against the less acclaimed South centers Saturday will be worth watching. The 49ers have shown no signs of re-signing back-up nose tackle Ronald Fields at this point, and although Aubrayo Franklin came on at the end of the season, the 49ers have signaled in the past that they want to upgrade the position.
  2. Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss. Another big body who can move. Two other offensive tackles, Virginia's Eugene Monroe and Alabama's Andre Smith, also have been mentioned as worthy of a Top 10 selection, but it's hard to imagine them being any better than Oher, who absolutely crushed and demoralized some of his opponents this week. Questions remain, however, about how quickly Oher can pick up a team's playbook. The 49ers are set at left tackle with Joe Staley but need a long-term solution at right tackle. But would they select their right tackle at No. 10 and pay him more than Staley?
  3. Rey Maualuga, LB, USC. It's hard to rate linebackers at Senior Bowl practices because they're not allowed to hit. And that happens to be Maualuga's specialty. The USC linebacker weighed in at 254 pounds and he seems custom-built for the 49ers' "Ted" linebacker position where the team has no young prospects. But like offensive tackle, there is politics to consider. Say the 49ers re-sign Takeo Spikes. How would he feel knowing there's a No. 10 pick waiting in the wings? Also, Maualuga would earn more than the understood star of the linebacking corps, Patrick Willis.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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