SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The NFL's annual all-star circuit already has started, but the jewel of those games is the Senior Bowl, with festivities set for this week.
Over the next week, the NFL scouting world will converge on Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama, for a series of practices leading to the game on Saturday.
Here's a look at seven players to watch this week from a San Francisco 49ers perspective:
University of Texas-San Antonio DE Marcus Davenport -- Of all the names listed here that we're discussing as 49ers targets, Davenport is the best bet to be a first-round choice. Just how high he goes will depend on how he performs in events like, well, Senior Bowl week. With Boston College defensive end Harold Landry pulling out because of injury, all eyes will be on Davenport among the pass-rushers. At 6 foot 7, 255 pounds, Davenport has the frame to become an effective Leo edge rusher in the Niners' defense. He had 17.5 tackles for loss last year, including 8.5 sacks. Davenport is the classic case of a dominant player who racked up big numbers against lower-level competition. Over the years, many players fitting that description have arrived in Mobile and put on a show, proving they could handle a step up in opponent. If Davenport does that, combined with his size and athleticism, he could vault into the top-10 conversation. That's how much upside he has.
Another pass-rusher to watch: Oklahoma State's Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
Virginia Tech OG Wyatt Teller -- The Niners will be linked to Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson a lot in the run-up to the draft, and while that's a possibility that can't be ruled out, there's also no guarantee he will be available when the Niners pick. There are also questions about whether his road-grading style is a match for coach Kyle Shanahan's outside zone running scheme. Enter Teller. At 6-5, 315 pounds, Teller is considered a smooth athlete who has the ability to get out in space in addition to his reputation as a strong pass protector. Teller is a converted defensive end and also played offensive tackle, so he's comfortable working in space. He'll have a chance to show that in Mobile and cement himself as an option for sometime on Day 2 of the draft.
Another offensive lineman to watch: Georgia's Isaiah Wynn.
San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny -- The Shanahan family history would indicate that if the Niners intend to allow Carlos Hyde to walk in free agency and replace him, that will probably happen in the mid-to-late part of the NFL draft. Fortunately for the 49ers, if that's the route they choose to go, this is a draft loaded with running back talent. Penny will get his share of buzz before the draft even if he isn't a household name like Penn State's Saquon Barkley. Penny (5-11, 220) has the combination of power and speed to be the every-down back the Niners could seek. This week's practices would be a good time for Penny to show off his pass-catching ability to bolster his case as a potential mid-round option.
Another running back to watch: Iowa's Akrum Wadley.
LSU WR D.J. Chark -- The Niners' search for help at receiver isn't so much about finding a true "No. 1" wideout as it is finding someone who can bring something different to the table. Namely, someone who has the size and physical ability to regularly win contested passes, especially in the red zone. Ideally, the 49ers could find that in free agency (Jacksonville's Allen Robinson, for example, would make sense if available), but if not, they could look to the draft to develop someone who will be around for a while. At 6-4, 198 pounds, Chark certainly brings an added element of height, though he could use some additional bulk. He's probably a mid-round prospect at this point and might be one worth keeping an eye on for San Francisco.
Another receiver to watch: Oklahoma State's Marcell Ateman.
San Diego State CB Kameron Kelly -- Cornerback will be a priority for the Niners this offseason and, frankly, they probably need to add more than one. So even if they find a starting-caliber corner in free agency, adding another relatively early in the draft wouldn't be the worst idea. Kelly represents an intriguing fit because of his 6-2, 200-pound frame. Kelly has played all over the secondary and this week should allow teams to start sorting out where he best fits. The Niners don't have a pressing need at safety, but if Kelly can show an ability to use his length and size as a boundary corner, he could also emerge as an option in the middle rounds.
Another cornerback to watch: Florida's Duke Dawson.
Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield/Wyoming QB Josh Allen -- Obviously, the 49ers don't need a quarterback, especially one projected to go this high in the draft. But this isn't about finding a quarterback for the Niners to draft. This is about the potential for both of these prospects to solidify themselves as top-10 picks in the draft. Some would argue that they already are there, but there are still plenty of questions surrounding both Mayfield and Allen. A strong showing by both would help the Niners' draft cause. How? For one, if one of them fell to the No. 9 or 10 pick, the Niners could have some enticing options for a trade down with a quarterback-needy team such as Washington, Arizona or Buffalo, or even a team thinking about its future at the position, like the Chargers. Aside from that scenario, if both play well enough to land in the top eight, it would push two more talented players at other positions into range for the Niners' first-round pick. In other words, the Niners have plenty of reason to hope that Mayfield and Allen acquit themselves well on and off the field this week.