The 49ers will be looking for their next crop of Day 3 prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft, and the Senior Bowl provided some enticing targets.
The San Francisco 49ers aren’t currently projected to pick in the 2023 NFL Draft until late in Round 3 once the compensatory selections begin.
However, with three such picks in the third round, the Niners should be set up nicely to land some mid-tier talent.
General manager John Lynch and his scouts probably observed a good deal of that talent during Senior Bowl week, which kicked off the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
Plenty of top names pushed themselves out of the Niners’ draft range, possibly into Round 1 consideration. But the Senior Bowl also affords plenty of less-known prospects with a chance to land on a team’s radar.
Plus, considering how much luck San Francisco has had with sleeper picks, the 2023 NFL Draft might be a place for Lynch and Co. to exploit their chances.
Here are four prospects from Senior Bowl week who’ll likely be great sleeper picks for the 49ers in this year’s draft.
49ers Senior Bowl sleeper No. 4: OL Cody Mauch, North Dakota State
The Niners already have a notable North Dakota State alumnus in quarterback Trey Lance, so why not go after someone who went to the same program? After all, San Francisco liked Lance in the 2021 draft because it felt he came from a pro-style system.
As far as offensive lineman Cody Mauch is concerned, the 6-foot-6 and 302-pound prospect has more than just a fun-looking face with no front teeth. He’s solid in both run support and pass protection, and scouting reports tout his ability to move well in bootlegs and pulls.
A tackle in college, Mauch will probably have a better NFL career on the inside.
With a strong showing at Senior Bowl week, Mauch could put himself into late consideration on day two of the draft, but he’s likely more of a Round 4 selection at best.
49ers Senior Bowl sleeper No. 3: CB Darrell Luter Jr., South Alabama
San Francisco already has its No. 1 boundary corner in Charvarius Ward, but fellow cornerback Emmanuel Moseley is a free agent and coming off a torn ACL. Reserve corners like Deommodore Lenoir and Ambry Thomas still have a lot to prove, too.
Stockpiling the depth would be nice, and a potential hidden-gem prospect is South Alabama cornerback Darrell Luter Jr., who at 6-foot-0 and 191 pounds, can play both on the outside and over the slot.
According to scouting reports, he can match with press-man coverage but also plays well enough from a distance.
He might not have the size to match up against bigger boundary receivers, but he’s versatile enough to be a likable day-three pick.
49ers Senior Bowl sleeper No. 2: S Jammie Robinson, Florida State
The 49ers could watch veteran defensive back Jimmie Ward sign elsewhere in free agency, while veteran free safety Tashaun Gipson is mulling retirement.
Either way, especially for the long term, the Niners need some safety help in this year’s NFL Draft.
Florida State’s Jammie Robinson is one of those draft-and-develop prospects who had a lot of the physical traits to succeed but would need some polish at the pro level, particularly when it comes to recognizing routes and anticipating them before they’re fully developed.
Probably a fifth- or sixth-round pick, Robinson would at least be a solid special teams contributor right away.
49ers Senior Bowl sleeper No. 1: TE Payne Durham, Purdue
One of the prospects who arguably rose his draft stock the most was Purdue tight end Payne Durham, who not only had some excellent catches in one-on-one and team drills, but he also showed his stout abilities in run blocking, too.
Sounds like one of the Niners’ own tight ends, George Kittle, right?
San Francisco has sought a quality No. 2 to pair with Kittle for years now, but those efforts have fallen short.
Durham, who would have been a day-three pick for sure prior to the Senior Bowl, might creep as high as Round 2 now, but he’ll certainly be worth targeting if he falls beyond that.
So much for sleepers who suddenly get attention, right?