I've just returned from the scouting combine, and my overarching thought is this: In a year in which the NFC West appears to be as ripe for the plucking as it's ever been, the 49ers are sitting pretty. Not only do they have two first-round draft picks in what promises to be a strong draft class, that class is deep in all the area where the 49ers can use help.
I bumped into one team official in the airport who said he didn't think the wide receiver group was all that good. Fine. The 49ers drafted a wide receiver last year. Another said the quarterback class was lousy. The 49ers got one of those a year ago, too, and probably weren't going to take one anyway. At least in the early rounds, the draft will be deep at nose tackle and offensive tackle. The safety class has real talent. And while there may be few elite cornerbacks, that position appears to have a lot of second- and third-round guys. Some random thoughts:
* If I was banging the drum for Clemson's C.J. Spiller before the combine, I'm pounding it with both fists afterward. He and Jahvid Best put on a show Sunday. The difference between the two is that Best has been injury prone; Spiller has not. I can't get past the fact that simply having this guy on the field makes the offense better because defenses must account for his speed.
* In terms of personality, there were definitely some winners and losers. Winners in my book - and, yes, this is entirely subjective -- included offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga of Iowa and USC's Charles Brown. I thought Tennessee's Eric Berry came off very well. He had a real command on the podium and seems like just the kind of guy you'd want running your defense. I liked Dexter McCluster and Toby Gerhart, too. Gerhart seemed extremely focused, and it showed in his combine results. McCluster ended up running more slowly than expected. The same goes for Texas receiver Jordan Shipley.
* Some of the things GM Scot McCloughan said were interesting. While he said that it was important to stick with the team's big-body philosophy, he also said he was not averse to taking a change-of-pace running back if that back provided special teams value. (See: Spiller, C.J.)
* Both McCloughan and Mike Singletary seemed optimistic that offensive tackle Tony Pashos might return. Pashos, of course, was squeezed out of Jacksonville last year after the Jaguars drafted OT Eugene Monroe in the first round and OT Eben Britton in the second. The 49ers, meanwhile, are expected to take an offensive tackle this year whether Pashos is on the roster or not. Still, Pashos was a good fit in the locker room in 2009, and that could drive his decision. He becomes an unrestricted free agent at 9 p.m. Thursday, so we shall see ...
* Asked whether the 49ers need to find a replacement for safety Michael Lewis (concussions, age, salary), McCloughan said, no. First he noted that Lewis played well last season. Second, he said that youngsters Reggie Smith and Curtis Taylor would have to step forward if Lewis were not there or could not play. He drew a comparison to Dashon Goldson's season last year: Sometimes you have to toss the kiddies in the pool and trust that they'll swim.
-- Matt Barrows