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From Rice to Harrison, bloodlines run deep in 2024 NFL Draft

NFL: Combine

As payback for an elbow to the Adam's apple in a game that season, John Lynch nearly threw hands with Terrell Owens poolside in Hawaii before a Pro Bowl more than two decades ago.

Lynch was held back by his wife that day, but the current GM of the San Francisco 49ers might need to be restrained from jumping headlong into a draft class with depth in the gene pool.

Owens' son is part of the cluster of former pro progeny eager to be selected in the 2024 NFL Draft.

The best-known sons of former NFL stars on the draft hopeful list this week are Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt. They're projected to be drafted early in the first round. Harrison is the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison, perhaps best known as the primary pass-catcher for Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts. Alt was a high school tight end but moved to offensive tackle after training and film study with his dad, John, who happened to be an expert in the field of OT play from his days with the Kansas City Chiefs (1984-96).

Harrison Jr. said he is still fighting to overcome perceptions from peers and opponents that he's being given something he doesn't deserve because of his dad. On the flip side, he credits the 2016 Hall of Fame inductee and three-time All-Pro for setting "pure perfection" as the standard to achieve from a very young age.

"The work ethic definitely comes from him," Harrison said. "To always push myself to be the best player that I can be."

Lynch, a Hall of Fame safety drafted in 1993, has publicly endorsed the idea of coveting the Jr.'s this week.

Lynch maintains the value of a player's lineage can be critical in a final draft grade and scouting report.

"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 (you need) a lot of different eyes, a lot of different perspectives.

"There's some inherent pressure on who their dad is, but there's also some good genes and I think that matters. And so, it's exciting that you have all these great -- we're talking Hall of Fame players and great players and brothers of players and it's really fun. T.O. was out here at the local pro day and his son Terique performed really well and that was pretty cool. 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. And 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."

Michigan defensive lineman Kris Jenkins, the son of former Panthers and Jets defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, is another potential first-round pick. The elder Jenkins was a second-round pick in 2001 and a two-time All-Pro. Scouts circled his name after the Maryland product ran a 5.18 40-yard dash and bench-pressed 225 pounds 33 times at the Scouting Combine at 6-4, 320 pounds.

Clemson linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. is the son of former Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who played in the Super Bowl for Andy Reid in Philadelphia and also had a tour with Washington before returning to Philly. Trotter Sr. was more of a straight-ahead thumper, a run-stuffer from a bygone era, whereas his son was a two-time second-team All-American with the Tigers. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin met with Trotter Jr. at the combine and chatted with him again at Clemson's on-campus pro day.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman didn't identify Trotter Jr. by name but said he'll be fighting emotions not to lean toward "guys with Philly ties, who know what it's like to play here."

"I'm biased towards our hometown players. I'm biased towards the people who have legacy with this franchise. So I think that's hard," Roseman said.

Beyond Lynch and Owens, there are plenty of 49ers connections in the draft.

Running back Christian McCaffrey's brother, Luke, is the son of former Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey. A wide receiver from Rice, Luke McCaffrey is projected as a mid-round pick.

Brenden Rice entered the draft early following two seasons at Colorado and last season at Southern California, embracing that "pressure" to live up to his father Jerry Rice's legacy as one of the NFL's all-time greats. Rice caught 20 total touchdown passes in three years of college football and attended the Senior Bowl in January. He said he's excited for any opportunity to prove he's "the total package."

Southern Miss running back Frank Gore Jr. was the Most Valuable Player at the Shrine Bowl. Gore Sr. is third all-time in the NFL with exactly 16,000 career rushing yards, ranking ahead of Barry Sanders and behind Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith.

"It's a blessing," Gore Jr. said of following in his dad's footsteps. "I have the responsibility to take it further."