NFL Draft

Rice, Owens, Gore? How Lynch, 49ers evaluate legacy NFL draft prospects

NBC Universal, Inc. “49ers Talk” host Matt Maiocco is joined by San Francisco legend Terrell Owens at the team’s local pro day, where he talks about his son Terique’s ambition to make the NFL.

SANTA CLARA — The 2024 NFL Draft is full of genetically gifted prospects, which has the potential to make the 49ers' evaluations a little tricky.

General manager John Lynch on Monday expressed excitement over the staggering amount of legacy prospects in the upcoming draft, including the sons of Pro Football Hall of Fame receivers Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens.

“Well, I believe in bloodlines,” Lynch said. “I really do. I mean, I think there's evidence that you should. Then you have to step away from that, and you have to evaluate it. And that's sometimes difficult to do, and that's why [we have] a lot of different eyes, a lot of different perspectives.” 

Rice’s son Brenden spent his first two college seasons at Colorado before transferring to USC, where he became one of Caleb Williams’ top targets with 45 receptions for 791 yards and a team-leading 12 touchdowns.

Owens' son Terique began his college career at Contra Costa College and Florida Atlantic before transferring to Missouri State, where he registered 28 receptions for 528 yards and four touchdowns in his final season.

The list doesn't stop there.

Luke McCaffrey, son of Ed McCaffrey and brother to current 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey, is a potential draft selection. Frank Gore Jr., whose father is the 49ers' most productive ball-carrier in franchise history and a future Hall of Famer, also is a prospect the 49ers could target in later rounds.

Their names alone have the potential to influence an evaluation, which is why Lynch believes the 49ers need to ensure a fair look at all prospects.

“That's what we try to do when we have our [research and development] look at it,” Lynch said. “We have our coaches look at it, we have our scouting look at it. We try to hit it from a variety of measuring points and inflection points as to how you grade these guys, because you don't want to do it just off [their last names]. That wouldn't be smart.” 

Luke McCaffrey spent his final two college seasons at Rice after initially beginning his football career as a quarterback. The former Owl caught 71 of his 120 targets for 992 yards and 13 touchdowns and is projected as a third-round selection.

Gore Jr. impressed with two 1,000-yard seasons, carrying 229 attempts for 1,119 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final year at Southern Miss. The Golden Eagle also caught 27 of his 36 targets for 224 yards in 2023.

Fairness goes both ways, and while there might be inherent characteristics that even the untrained scout’s eye can see, Lynch understands expectations should not be predetermined by the prospect’s last name.

“These guys, there's some inherent pressure on who their dad is, but there's also some good genes and I think that matters,” Lynch said. “So, it's exciting that you have all these great, I mean, we're talking Hall of Fame players and great players and brothers of players, and it's really fun.” 

The 49ers GM knows that genetics do have an effect on players, even if not all of the characteristics directly translate to what they can do on the field. When San Francisco hosted over 30 prospects at Levi’s Stadium a few weeks ago for a local Pro Day, Lynch experienced a flashback of sorts.

“T.O. was out here at the local pro day and his son Terique performed really well, and that was pretty cool,” Lynch said. “I saw him running at me, and I played against T.O. a lot, and there was something in that stride that was very familiar. It was something about the gait.

“It's crazy how those things translate. Is that just gene pool? Is that modeling the way they watch their dad run? It’s interesting to me, but it's a fun element to this year's draft that I think is going to be interesting to watch to see how it unfolds.”

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