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April 26, 2011
Peterson, Gabbert the keys to the Top 10

It's only two days before Draftmas, and here are the thoughts dancing in my head:

To me, the keys in the Top 10 are Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. I expect that Cam Newton, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus and A.J. Green will be off the board in the first six picks. The question is whether Gabbert and Peterson are still there when the 49ers pick at No. 7.


The 49ers recently had a private workout with Peterson. Why? I think they really like the guy but wanted to find out exactly how much they like him. If Peterson is there at No. 7, the phones at 4949 Centennial Boulevard will be ringing like crazy with teams, such as the Texans, wanting to swoop in for the pick. If Peterson is there at no. 7, he'd be the last elite prospect available. There would be a drop off after him. What will it take to make the 49ers pull the trigger on a trade? That's what the workout was all about. It was the final step in ascertaining Peterson's value.

If Peterson is gone before No. 7, there's a good chance that Gabbert will be there for the 49ers. Maybe the 49ers are lukewarm about him and they will entertain phone calls from the Redskins at No. 10 or the Vikings at No. 12 or the Dolphins at No. 15 to get him. Trading with the Redskins, for example, would allow the 49ers to get someone like cornerback Prince Amukamara or defensive end Robert Quinn or even Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan at their true value while also giving them more ammo to move up from the second round to get a quarterback.

Or maybe Harbaugh likes Gabbert, who has excellent size and smarts and who hits on his all-important athleticism criterion. Every NFL evaluator would have liked to have seen Gabbert play one more year at Missouri. Perhaps Harbaugh and the 49ers take Gabbert with the intention of sitting him for a full year while he learns the system and apprentices behind a veteran. (Initials: AS).

Other thoughts ...

* Jake Locker seems to have many of the traits Harbaugh is seeking in a quarterback. He's a winner, he's a hard worker, he commanded the Washington locker room and he is as tough and athletic as any quarterback out there. But he had real problems throwing from the pocket. Is that something he can overcome with Harbaugh's tutelage? Troy Smith had the same issues last year, and Harbaugh and the 49ers sent him on his way ...

* There are so many varying opinions of the quarterbacks that it's almost impossible to predict where they'll be taken. NFL Films' Greg Cosell, for instance, told me that TCU's Andy Dalton, one of the hottest names right now, was nothing more than a fourth-round pick. "He won't go there. He'll go higher," Cosell said. "But he doesn't throw it very well. He doesn't spin it very well. He's a guy you'll have to camouflage. He needs a strong running game to be successful."

* Georgia defensive end/outside linebacker Justin Houston was one of two players who tested positive for marijuana at the combine, according to Fox Sports. Houston was regarded as a late-round pick (I have him going to the Jets). He also visited the 49ers. Does this revelation mean he could fall to pick No. 45? My guess - unless it's coupled with other character concerns, no, testing positive for pot will not cause a half-round slide.

-- 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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