Exactly 330 college football players will descend on Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Field next week. The NFL Network's Mike Mayock has been studying all of them. (Ok, most of them). Mayock spent an hour answering pre-combine questions this morning. Here are the ones I felt were most pertinent to the 49ers, who have the No. 7 pick.
On LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, whom many believe the 49ers will snag in the first round.
Mayock: "Patrick Peterson is potentially a Top 10 pick. He's a big corner .... And here's my take on Patrick Peterson: Whenever you see a corner of his size -- a plus or minus 220-pound corner - he's got a little bit of stiffness to him. The longer, bigger corners always do, usually do. So he's most comfortable in press man (coverage). If you try to play him in off man, he's going to struggle a little bit. I believe you need a team that will let him press, get up in your face, knock you around at the line of scrimmage and turn and run. He's got a little stiffness to him, and ultimately he might be best served as a safety. I mean, I think he can play corner. But down the road a little bit, because he's a big, strong guy that can run, I think he might be an all-pro safety."
Mayock said that last year's top cornerback, Joe Haden , was a smaller, quicker guy with better feet. Still, he said that Peterson could go as high as No. 3 overall to the Buffalo Bills. He said he thought the Bills also could go after OLB Von Miller.
On Auburn quarterback Cam Newton:
Mayock: "He comes from a very simple pass offense at Auburn. Can he process and assimilate from a football IQ perspective a complicated NFL pass offense? That's No. 1. No. 2 - there's some baggage to the kid. You've got to figure that out. It's the same thing with (Arkansas quarterback) Ryan Mallett. There's baggage to the kid. Can you figure the kid out? Those two kids might have the best - I'm amazed with how those two kids throw the football. In a pair of gym shorts, you say, 'I want them on my team.' But you don't play in gym shorts on Sunday. And you better figure out their work ethic, toughness and football IQ. And I think therein lies the run with the Top 8 quarterbacks.
Mayock has Newton and Mallett ranked third and fourth respectively behind Missourri's Blaine Gabbert and Washington's Jake Locker. TCU's Andy Dalton is fifth on Mayock's list.
On approaching the draft differently if it preceded free agency:
Mayock: "I think the best thing you can do is take a step back and say, 'We're going to do what we always do - we're going to draft the best football players that fit our scheme. Because we can't worry about things we can't control right now."
On UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers:
Mayock: "I've got him as, I believe, my No. 2 outside linebacker prospect. He's played both with his hand in the dirt and up. He played linebacker at UCLA. I think he's got first-round ability because of his natural ability to get to the quarterback. Most of the 3-4 teams are very interested in him although he can play in a 4-3 scheme. So if you're scheme diverse, that's a good thing."
On which players would boost the 49ers' pass rush. (Q came courtesy of some guy named Eric Branch):
Mayock: "I think that Von Miller from Texas A&M is the prototype 34 rush linebacker. He's got an innate ability. He not only has a great get off and quickness, he also can bend his body and twist and turn and flatten the corner to get to a quarterback. He's a tiny bit undersized. You've got to get yourself comfortable with that. He's not as big as, say, DeMarcus Ware was when he came out, but I think he's tough enough to overcome that. And I think if you're talking about the first round at no. 7 and you're looking for an edge rusher, I think Von Miller's the guy as far as the outside linebacker's concerned. I think there's a bunch of guys, as I mentioned before defense end is a good one, you could probably pick a good one up early in the second round. I think if you look at (Adrian) Clayborn from Iowa, a diverse guy, a defensive end that could play outside linebacker, he didn't have a great senior year. And outside of that - (Clemson's) Da'quan Bowers and (UNC's) Robert Quinn are two of the most gifted pass rushers in this draft. Both, though, are more fitted for a 4-3 though than they are a 3-4."
Editorial comment: I thought the end of that paragraph was interesting. From everything I've read and seen, I thought that Clayborn (who had an early lead on Barrows Draft Crush status before a so so senior season) was more of a 4-3 defensive end while Quinn has been talked about as a 3-4 outside linebacker.)
-- Matt Barrows