49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

February 28, 2011
Combine thoughts: Who's left if Miller's off the table

Only one big event remains at the combine in Indianapolis. The defensive backs will go through the drills tomorrow with special attention being paid to cornerbacks Patrick Peterson's and Prince Amukamara's 40 times. Otherwise, the combine is over for the other position groups, and it is over for reporters, who had their last interview sessions with players on Sunday afternoon. Some thoughts so far:

* We know from various sources that the 49ers had formal interviews with three players: quarterbacks Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick as well as Peterson. To keep that in perspective, the team was allowed 60 interviews in Indianapolis and there will have been hundreds of one on ones before the commissioner announces the first pick. The Newton interview is not surprising. The 49ers need a quarterback and Newton is considered one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Furthermore, he's a junior who was not at last month's Senior Bowl. Teams must try to gather as much information as they can in a small amount of time. Kaepernick, meanwhile, was at the Senior Bowl, and the 49ers presumably got a good look at him there. The difference is that Jim Harbaugh and the coaching staff were present for the combine but not the Senior Bowl.

* Tom Condon knows what he's doing. While one top-quarterback possibility, Newton, was being critiqued by everyone with a laptop over the last week, the other possibility, Blaine Gabbert, comes out squeaky clean because he elected was told not to throw. Gabbert will throw for scouts at his Pro Day on March 17 at Missouri where the receivers will be hand-selected and the environment controlled. That's a strategy that worked well for recent Condon clients Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford. Sadly, if Gabbert ends up getting drafted earlier than Newton, it will be another reason for agents to keep top clients from throwing at the combine.

* Again, it seems as if the strength of the quarterback class is in the middle rounds where Kaepernick, Florida State's Christian Ponder and TCU's Andy Dalton will be available. In terms of podium presence, I really liked Alabama's Greg McElroy, who came off as smart and savvy. He's in the Shaun Hill mold - self-effacing but as competitive as anyone. He did not throw because of a broken hand suffered at the Senior Bowl. The wild card may be Washington's Jake Locker, who seemed to be slipping miserably last month but who hoisted himself up nicely with a terrific combine. Where does he get drafted? If he falls to the end of the first/beginning of the second, he will be in pouncing distance of the 49ers.

* Von Miller is turning heads at the combine the way that Aaron Curry did two years ago. Curry was picked fourth overall by the Seahawks in 2009 even though he wasn't known as a sack master. Miller is, which makes you figure he could go at least as high. Miller proved today the extra nine pounds he gained in February wouldn't slow him down. He's still fast - he ran an official 4.51-second 40 - and fluid enough to play all over the field. Another thing that scouts like about him: arm length. They measured 34 inches, which, to put it in perspective, is a half inch longer than Cal's Cameron Jordan, who is two inches taller and 40 pounds heavier.

* UNC's Robert Quinn, another possibility at pick No. 7, ran an unofficial 4.7-second 40 at the combine. Let's say that Miller and Peterson go in the Top 6 on April 28. The next tier of candidates might include Quinn and Nebraska's Amukamara. Look for Missouri LB/DE Aldon Smith's name to be mentioned as well. Smith ran an unofficial 4.74 at 264 pounds. (Teammate Gabbert ran a 4.62).

-- Matt 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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