WR Group: With the additions of Austin Collie and Lavelle Hawkins the competition in this group should only increase. Collie looks to be in good shape, and still has the play speed that made him one of the best young WR as recent as 2011. If concussions weren’t an issue, I would like his chances to make the team, but head injuries just terrify me. Kyle Williams returned Sunday looking to be fully healthy, playing fast and catching the ball very naturally. Williams is a lock for me to make the 53 man roster in my eyes. Another player who continues to excel/flash in practice is Marlon Moore – who had a couple nice plays Sundays and has the vertical speed to stretch the field. He will be a tough cut for the 49ers, and might make a case for them to keep 6 WRs. Last but not least Chad Hall looks to be fighting an uphill battle to make the team, with his limited role on special teams, it’s hard to justify keeping him as your sixth WR.
LaMichael James: He put on 10 pounds in the offseason, looks much more physically developed than he did in college, but still has the speed that made him a second round pick. His burst and explosion are special attributes which make him a unique offensive weapon. He should become a legitimate homerun hitter in 2013. Having played in Chip Kelly’s offense in college, he looks to have made the natural transition to the pistol. Special teams is another area in which he should excel as the potential starting punt and kickoff return man. He has the speed, instincts in space, and elusiveness to be one of the most electrifying return men in the NFL. I’m no fantasy football expert, but he should be one of the 49ers most productive all-around players this fall.
DB standouts: After Chris Culliver’s injury, I like many 49er fans were nervous that this group could be a position of weakness. After attending practice several times since I have seen many young corners step up. Tramaine Brock looks to finally be ready for some consistent action; he’s playing very instinctive, and making consistent plays. Perrish Cox had another good day – breaking up passes and looking like he may be able to function as a potential nickel corner. As these corners continue to step up, the added pressure will be on Nnamdi to play well in preseason games. There is not a lot a room for error for Nnamdi, while he has had a solid camp; he needs to impress the coaches in preseason games. Nnamdi is strictly an outside corner, he has proven in Philadelphia that he can’t play nickel. Unlike Cox and Brock, Nnamdi does not play special teams, an area backup DBs must contribute on. This should be a group to keep a very close eye on come Thursday’s preseason game.
QB Situation: The more I watch Terrelle Pryor the more I want to see him play in preseason games. He has been much more accurate as I have continued to attend practice, really showing improvement with every day. An area which is essential with a young passer. Pryor is a special athlete that would give the Raiders a lot of different options on offense. He threw a ball on Saturday that only several players in the NFL could make -a 60 yard strike to rookie Brice Butler for a TD. Pryor is playing confident, and doesn’t look scared in the pocket. He just needs to continue to develop his ability to get rid of the football. I’m not a Flynn fan because of his lack of arm strength, and his average athleticism. To me Pryor gives them a legitimate chance to win football games in 2013. I would love to see him running the option with Darren McFadden – Raider coaches really should take some notes from the Niners and just tailor the offense around a QB with special qualities. Pryor gives the Raiders a chance to not only be different, but win games.
Brice Butler: As I scouted the west coast for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012, I had a college coach tell me that Butler was the best HS recruit he had ever seen. This may have been part of the reason he ended signing with Pete Carroll in the peak of USC’s run. While he could never crack the field for the Trojans, he ended up transferring to San Diego State where NFL scouts had high hopes for the once prized recruit. He continued to under achieve despite dropping down a level of competition, but just didn’t dominate on tape. After Butler’s pro day, where he measured in at 6-3, 210 and ran a 4.38 – it was obvious he was going to get drafted. I have been to three Raider practices and he has stood out in each one. He looks fast, physical and a potential match-up nightmare for NFL defensive backs. Full disclosure – I was not high on Butler coming out of college because of his underwhelming tape. While I still need to see it on game days, Butler sure looks like an early steal for the Silver and Black.
Josh Cribbs: When I was in Philadelphia we signed Johnny Lee Higgins, thinking he could help out our special teams unit – but he had lost his stinger and had no value. When I say stinger, I mean that extra gear that make return specialist different and allow them to excel in arguably the most violent part of the game. When I go to Raiders practice, I see the same thing with Josh Cribbs. While physically he still looks like a guy that can break tackles and over power potential defenders, his speed looks to be a thing of the past. Cribbs just lacks the burst, explosion, and top end speed that made him a big time play maker in the NFL. I know many will say he’s holding out until games but I’m just not as optimistic. I think this could potentially be Cribbs last month in the NFL. His value is not on offense, where he never truly carved a role; it’s always been on special teams. Father time catches up to us all in the game of football, some sooner than later.