2016 NFL Draft: Five Sleeper Picks for the 49ers
By Jerod Brown
James Burgess-Inside Linebacker-Louisville
Unless you believe that the 49ers are going to enter the season with either Gerald Hodges or Michael Wilhoite playing next to NaVorro Bowman long-term, it’s reasonable to suggest that the 49ers might take an inside linebacker at some point in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The team probably won’t have a shot at UCLA’s Myles Jack but they will be able to choose from many capable linebackers later in the draft.
If they decide to wait until the third day to select an inside linebacker, Baalke should address the need by grabbing James Burgess from Louisville.
Burgess is six feet tall and 229 pounds. Ideally, he would put on a little bulk in lining up next to Bowman but he flashes impressive instincts and quickness on film. The 49ers, regardless of who they decide to draft, would have to spend time developing the player. Working next to NaVorro Bowman, even if just in practice, would be a wonderful way to engage a rookie to improve.
Just as former-49er Patrick Willis served as a veteran mentor to Bowman, Bow could assume that role moving forward. Burgess will need help in diagnosing plays and attacking blockers but he offers an athleticism in coverage that could pair well with Bowman as the man in charge.
I recently scouted a Texas A&M player and couldn’t help but notice Louisville’s Burgess on the very first play in the team’s Music City Bowl game.
The hit earned Burgess an ejection, which is a subject for a different day. But the play itself immediately reminded me of a 49ers play just a few years ago.
If Burgess can manage that aggressiveness to continually make plays on defense, he’ll be an interesting selection for the 49ers to make late in the draft. He fills a need, could learn from Bowman and compliments the traits that Bowman has made a reputation on.
Next: Weak-Armed Quarterback