Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas will visit the 49ers next Monday, according to his agent. Thomas, who rushed for 2,850 yards and scored 30 rushing touchdowns the last two seasons, is one of two high-profile running backs known to be visiting with the 49ers. Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter (5-7, 199) also will meet with coaches this month. Both could be drafted as high as the second round.
The 49ers need to replace their second-leading rusher from last season, Brian Westbrook, who is an unrestricted free agent. They also may be looking for a potential replacement for Frank Gore, who has been injured in each of the last four seasons and who is entering the final year of his contract. Gore and second-year player Anthony Dixon are the only tailbacks on the roster who took carries in 2010.
At 228 pounds, Thomas is the type of physical, between-the-tackles runner the 49ers have liked in the past and that running backs coach Tom Rathman seems to prefer. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2009 and 5.3 yards last season. He has 12 career 100-yard games and ran for 269 yards against North Texas in the 2010 regular season finale. Asked at the combine to compare himself to another runner, Thomas said, "I'd say Larry Johnson in his prime."
Thomas also has added value in Wildcat formations (indeed, Miami has shown interest in him) having played quarterback in the past. He has a touchdown pass to his credit in each of the last two seasons.
Thomas also has visited or will visit the Bengals, Cardinals, Rams, Dolphins, Broncos and Ravens. Two red flags for Thomas: He has an upright running style (like Dixon last year) and has had academic issues, which may be the reason for his 49ers visit. As far as lowering his running profile, Thomas said that's something he's concentrating on this spring.
-- Matt Barrows