49ers Blog and Q&A

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February 19, 2009
Ten questions as 49ers hit the combine

By day he's Jeff Matracia, mild-mannered high school teacher in Columbus, Ohio. After hours, he's MadDog49er, NFL draft guru extraordinaire. I found MadDog last year on the 49ers Web Zone and ever since he's proven to be just as perceptive and accurate as the so-called draft experts who get paid to yammer on about the draft. MadDog and I have compiled what we believe to be some of the most intriguing questions about the annual scouting combine, which begins today in Indianapolis. Most of the questions have a 49ers twist. And before you ask, no, that wasn't me who almost ran down Maiocco this morning. It was my twin brother.

1.) Receiver Michael Crabtree's camp already has said he will not run the 40. But two other receivers, Jeremy Maclin and Percy Harvin, have plenty to gain with a blazing time. Maclin right now is on the bubble as far as being a top 10 pick; Harvin could slide into the first half of the draft with a great combine. Who will be this year's Chris Johnson? The receivers will run on Sunday.

2.) Which 3-4 will linebacker prospect will emerge as the top player on the draft board? The battle among Brian Orakpo, Everette Brown, and Aaron Maybin will be one of the highlights of the combine. Which guy will show in drills that he is athletic and smooth enough to drop back into coverage effectively? Keep an eye on how many times Orakpo hoists 225 pounds.

3.) Brown and Maybin's first test will be with the scale. Both were considered undersized last year in college, especially late in the season. Both need to be around 250 pounds to help their draft chances.

4.) Tennessee defensive end Robert "Don't call me William" Ayers was one of the most impressive players at last month's Senior Bowl. The question is whether he has the speed and agility to be a 3-4 linebacker. Keep an eye on Ayers' 40 and shuttle times.

5.) Which of the second-tier will linebackers will emerge as the best prospect? A host of players should have fun fighting for first-round consideration, with Michael Johnson, Clint Sintim, Larry English, Paul Kruger, Connor Barwin and Ayers all looking to capture the scouts' eyes. One or two of these guys should still be on the board when the 49ers pick in the second round.

6.) Who will emerge as the top left tackle in the draft? The Big Three: Andre Smith, Eugene Monroe and Jason Smith could all end up the top pick in the draft as Jake Long was last year. Michael Oher is in the next tier down and needs to ace the interview portion. A strong Wonderlic score would help him as well.

7.) Will Malcolm Jenkins run in the mid-4.4's or lower in the 40? This could determine if he plays corner or safety in the NFL, and also moves him between the 4th-10th slot.

8.) Can safety William Moore stop his catastrophic draft free fall? Moore entered the season as a first-round prospect, but after a poor Senior Bowl he is probably a borderline 2-3 round player. He could fall completely outside the top 75 or even 100 picks if he looks stiff in drills and runs poorly. Moore has to stop the bleeding.

9.) Who will emerge as the top middle linebacker after the combine? Rey Maualuga may pass on the positional drills, and that could hurt his status on draft day. Meanwhile, James Laurinaitis seems like he has a gigantic chip on his shoulders. In a news broadcast this week in Columbus, Laurinaitis said he wants to shock scouts and coaches with his athleticism. He feels some people label him a smart player with limited upside.

10.) Will Kansas State's Josh Freeman steal the show in the quarterback group this week and emerge as a high first round draft choice? He's got tremendous size and arm strength, and could emerge as the talk of the combine by the end of the week.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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