The 49ers' pre-draft tracker - click here -- has
18 19 20 names and is growing all the time. What does the list tell us? While it's still fuzzy and will remain so until the draft rolls around, you can start to see a pattern taking shape.
First, it's clear the 49ers are targeting three position groups. Among the known players visiting, three are quarterbacks, three are cornerbacks and three are smallish defensive ends/outside linebackers. That's no surprise. The 49ers have acknowledged that they'd like to improve those positions this offseason. Three players also are tight ends, a position Jim Harbaugh utilized quite a bit at Stanford.
The team also is clearly looking at fullbacks. Among the players who worked out yesterday at UNC's pro day in Chapel Hill was fullback/H-back Ryan Taylor, who I previously reported will pay a visit to the 49ers in Santa Clara. Taylor (6-3 Â½, 254 pounds) had a solid pro day on Thursday, leaping 33 inches in the vertical jump and running his 40 in 4.72 seconds. He had 21 reps of 225 lbs., which is merely ok for someone at his position.
While he's not on the pre-draft visit list, the 49ers also spent a long time with Stanford's Owen Marecic at that school's pro day. Many of the 49ers coaches, including Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and even defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, already are quite familiar with Marecic. The one prominent 49ers assistant who wasn't familiar, running backs coach Tom Rathman, put Marecic through his pro-day workout and then spent another half hour chatting with him. That is, the session was tantamount to an official "visit."
Looking at the list of visitors, it can be roughly divided into two groups - players who will be taken at the top of the draft and players who will be taken at the bottom or not drafted at all.
The reason for visiting with a potential first- or second-round round pick is obvious. You want to dot i's and cross t's and do every iota of homework on a player before committing so much money and resources to him. That's what the 49ers did last year when they brought Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati out to Santa Clara.
The reason for bringing in someone like Harding receiver Jordan Watson might not be so apparent. But it's likely to give the 49ers a leg up on signing a player like him - small school, raw but with potential - as a priority free agent. In a typical year, teams would begin signing those free agents as soon as the draft is over. This year, however, that can't occur unless the current lockout has been resolved or lifted.
And, of course, the 49ers will end up drafting some players not on the list. Last year, for example, tight end Nate Byham had no visit and little interaction with San Francisco but ended up being taken in the sixth round. Said Byham minutes after he was drafted: "I think I just talked to the actual scouts at the combine. I actually haven't had a whole lot of contact with the 49ers as of today. It's been a great surprise and I couldn't be more happy about it."
-- Matt Barrows