Earlier this week I wrote about the 49ers' ability to unearth some real gems in the boom-or-bust third round in recent years. To me the third round is the most interesting round. It still has players with first-round ability. But they have asterisks next to their names, whether because of injury (Frank Gore, Ray McDonald), character (NaVorro Bowman) or perhaps because they have made a recent position switch (Chris Culliver).
It seems like a round in which a great talent evaluator can really distinguish himself from the pack. Here are a few prospects this year who could fall, perhaps to the third, because of issues listed above. Thanks to CBS Sports' Rob Rang for helping me compile this list.
CB Omar Bolden, Arizona State. Bolden was considered one of the top cover men in the country before suffering a torn left ACL last year. He also can return kicks. He could be available as late as the fourth round.
WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma. He tore his ACL in November and is not yet back to full speed. But he was a prolific receiver for the Sooners, going over 1,000 yards the last three seasons, including 1,622 yards in 2010. He's scored a whopping 45 touchdowns at Oklahoma.
NT Josh Chapman, Alabama. Chapman played the season despite an ACL tear and a torn meniscus in his left knee. He is still recovering from those injuries and his immediate availability is in doubt. The 49ers could be looking for an interior defensive lineman considering Isaac Sopoaga is in his contract year. (Alameda Ta'amu might be another name to watch today).
DE Jared Crick, Nebraska. Crick suffered a torn pectoral muscle in October that ended his season. At about 6-4, 285, he's just the size the 49ers like at their defensive end position. He's got a good motor and had 19 combined sacks in 2009 and 2010.
CB Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska. At 203 pounds, he's the type of big-bodied cornerback the 49ers typically covet. Dennard was charged with punching a police officer five days before the draft. Police say Dennard struck an officer during a disturbance outside a Lincoln bar about 2:15 a.m.
CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama. He's had a number of off-field and character issues that caused him to fall out of the first round. Jenkins is unlikely to last until the third round but could fall in the second round.
CB Trumaine Johnson, Montana. Johnson certainly has the height and length the 49ers love. But he, too, has off-field issues that could cause him to sink lower than his talent suggests, Rang said.
S Brandon Hardin, Oregon State. Hardin has the double whammy of having played cornerback at Oregon State and having missed his senior season with a broken shoulder. He has excellent size at 6-2 5/8, 222 pounds and has coverage skills to play free safety.
-- Matt Barrows