Kendall Hunter Making an Impression at the 2011 Combine Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Panning For Gold: NFL Combine

The NFL Combine is set to kick off this week in Indianapolis and that means GM Trent Baalke and the front office will be hard at work scouting the future stars of the league. While the scouting combine is normally overrated by diehard fans that have gone weeks since anything resembling football has taken place, it can make or break guys. A tenth of a second in 2 attempts running a forty yard dash can take a WR from a top 10 pick to a late first rounder. In turn it can also take a 2nd or 3rd round prospect and turn him into a top 15 pick. Just look across the bay to Oakland and you’ll see a team full of the latter.

While I love to watch coverage of the combine, there are certain things to remember that will save you a lot of headache come draft day. First thing and probably the most important, these guys are in shorts, not pads. Sure someone can run a 4.3 coming out of a sprinters stance on a pristine field, but how’s he going to fare on a wet field and Ray Lewis is coming to hit him? The combine brings out the best athletes, not the best football players. Secondly is the combine is for measuring tangibles. Last time I checked, they don’t measure how long a player studies film on his next opponent. The combine isn’t for finding out which guys take plays off or is a problem in the locker room. The intangibles are what separate good players from great ones.

The front office had a great draft in 2011. Just about every one of the 10 picks the 49ers had were able to contribute, weather it was pressuring the quarterback, adding depth, adding an extra weapon or lead blocking. This Niners regime will look to build on what they were able to accomplish last year and the first step is to find out as much as possible on these few hundred players.

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

The combine sometimes gives opportunity to players who aren’t even there for their position. T.J. Yates of the Houston Texans was invited to the combine last year, to throw to defensive backs. He wasn’t there to impress scouts with his arm, but managed to get noticed by throwing intentional interceptions to be drafted, make the team, and win a playoff game in his rookie year.

Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys got a start much the same way. He got an invitation to the combine to throw to receivers. There he was able to impress then assistant coach Sean Peyton enough that the Cowboys were able to pick him up as an undrafted free agent.

While the Niners are unlikely to strike it rich with these type of finds, there is always the outside possibility of a once in a lifetime find like Tom Brady. Of course odds are you end up with a Tim Couch before you find John Elway.

We are already in mock draft mode, reading every time Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper Jr., and countless others put out there mocks and players to watch. While they do a great job informing us who teams are likely to target early not many focus on the back end of the draft and undrafted free agents. We can all speculate who the 49ers should take in the first 4 rounds, but let’s throw out some names of guys who could go in the final 3 rounds.

5 Guys worth taking a look at late in the Draft

CB Josh Robinson- Robinson was recruited by big schools such as Auburn and Michigan but chose to stay close to home (Central Florida). He has a quick break on the ball and I think he can play both FS and corner. He was good every year and college and improved. I had this spot going to D’Anton Lynn whose father played for the 49ers in the 90’s, but I think Robinson is more talented and better in coverage.

WR Marvin McNutt- This is a name already flying up mock drafts and big boards. He has the size, hands; route-running you want in a receiver, the only thing keeping this guy from being a top 100 pick is speed. Yet despite his lack of speed, he managed to get open in college. McNutt could prove to be a late round steal for a team looking for a big possession receiver.

QB Kellen Moore- Moore would be a 1st round pick if he was 4 inches taller. He is the all-time wins leader in NCAA history. He plays great in big games and has great touch on the ball. The 49ers aren’t in dire need of a quarterback as they most likely resign QB Alex Smith and they already have backup Colin Kaepernick whom they drafted last year. Moore would be a very good 3rd string quarterback and could prove a lot of people wrong about smaller Qb’s. Just ask Drew Brees.

WR T.J. Graham- This guy is more of a track star than a football player, but he could do 2 things that 49ers fans will love, return kicks and stretch the field. Let’s face it Ted Ginn Jr. hasn’t done enough to earn a new contract and do we really want to see Kyle Williams back there ever again? The receiver position needs to be addressed by more than just one player.

DE Donte Paige-Moss – He is a tremendous talent, but off the field issues have affected him in the past. Reports are he is cleaning up his act, but we’ve heard that about plenty of players who were trying to get paid. He is coming off a torn ACL in his bowl game which may cause him to miss early in the season. He can be a tremendous force, and seems really motivated to play football, but his past actions will cause him to go late or undrafted come April.


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