Clinton Portis: Denzel Perryman can fill Patrick Willis' void on 49ers

Denzel Perryman's shoe size probably isn't much more impressive than his height (5-foot-11), but the way two-time Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis sees it, Perryman could be filling some awfully big shoes as an NFL rookie.

Those of Patrick Willis.

"If you put him in the right scheme he will be excellent," Portis told "I can see the 49ers taking a long look at him with Patrick Willis retiring. Picking up a linebacker who comes with his attitude would really help them."

Willis retired last week at age 30 after a prolific but abbreviated eight-year career. Perryman was the soul of the Hurricanes' defense last year and is their top defensive draft prospect amid a cast of offensive prospects that includes running back Duke Johnson, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, tackle Ereck Flowers and tight end Clive Walford.

But while Perryman might be a good fit for the 49ers, the draft order suggests he might not fit any of the club's draft choices. Perryman is regarded as a late-first or early second-round prospect. Two of five NFL Media analysts project him as a late first-round pick, and Portis sees him as a late-first or early second-rounder as well. The trouble is, San Francisco picks at No. 15 in the first round -- perhaps too rich of a pick for Perryman's draft value -- and by the time the club selects again in the middle of the second round, Perryman could easily be wearing another club's hat.

A trade up or down might be required to facilitate a Perryman-49ers marriage. Regardless, Portis likes Perryman above all the other Miami prospects on the offensive side of the ball. He likened Perryman to former NFL linebackers London Fletcher, Al Wilson and Nate Webster.

"I definitely think he will go at the end of the first or early in the second round," Portis said. "Watching the film of all of the players from Miami, the person who stood out the most was Denzel, because of how he attacked the ball. He sometimes even played off double teams -- a linebacker should never face double teams."
Other thoughts from Portis on Miami's top prospects:

» On Johnson: "I think Duke probably is most talented running back to ever come out of the University of Miami."
That's high praise, given the long list of UM backs to have big NFL careers, including Edgerrin James and Portis himself.

» On Dorsett: "When you look at that Florida State game, Phillip Dorsett still hasn't been covered. They should have never stopped getting him the ball."
Dorsett had four catches for 90 yards and a touchdown in a 30-26 loss to the Seminoles last season. Of note in that game is that FSU's two cornerbacks, P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby, will both get draft-day calls, as well.

» On Walford: "If you look at his ability to get open and catch the ball, he follows well in the UM tradition of Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow and Jimmy Graham. Walford is going to be in that category."

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