INDIANAPOLIS – Friday should be one of the busiest days of the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.
Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers will make the rounds in the media workroom inside of Lucas Oil Stadium.
With many draft experts predicting the 49ers will select a wide receiver in the 2012 NFL Draft, we’ll be sure to track down several of the top prospects at the position just to be safe. Then again, Trent Baalke proved in last year’s draft that common perception doesn’t always equate to 49ers draft picks.
The 49ers general manager went out on a limb to take Aldon Smith with the No. 7 overall pick when many figured the 49ers would take a cornerback in the first round. Baalke waited till the third round to draft Chris Culliver out of South Carolina, a speedy player who spent a lot of time playing at safety in college.
Culliver played a signifigant role as San Francisco’s nickel cornerback and as a contributor on special teams. Smith totaled 16.0 sacks in the regular season and playoffs combined.
With that said, you never know who’s going to get the nod as this year’s 30th overall pick. We’ll be sure to get the highlights from the entire room, not just wideouts.
10:30 AM Update
“Tim Tebow, your thoughts?”
That was question No. 1 posed to Denver Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway.
The two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback of the Broncos chuckled at the opening question and gave a thoughtful response. Several follow ups about Tebow came Elway’s way, to which the Broncos decision-maker answered thoughtfully. Asked about Tebow working out at UCLA instead of at Denver’s facility due to rules in the new collective bargaining agreement, Elway said he was confident that Tebow was doing all the right things to improve.
“Tim Tebow is going to do everything he can to get better,” Elway went on to say.
Questions about Andrew Luck were soon posed to Elway, the former Stanford great. Elway complimented Luck and his college coaches, including 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.
“Harbaugh did a tremendous job turning that program around,” Elway said.
Asked again about Harbaugh, Elway said he didn’t know the 49ers coach very well, other than competing against him in the past. Elway said, “he’s known to compete,” and added “it’s transcended to his new team.”
11:00 AM Update
New St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher just took his turn at “Podium A.”
“I’m very excited to be back,” said Fisher, the longtime Tennessee Titans coach, who signed on to lead the Rams earlier this offseason. “When you’re given a fresh start, it’s a great opportunity.”
With St. Louis holding the No. 2 overall pick, Fisher made it clear that quarterback Sam Bradford would not be traded. Fisher said he didn’t evaluate USC left tackle Ryan Kalil just yet, but heard that he’s a talented player. Fisher also attended USC.
More importantly, Fisher said the team would evaluate all options with their first-round pick. Many in the media have speculated that the No. 2 slot is primed to be traded to whichever team covets Robert Griffin III the most.
“We have a lot of options,” Fisher said. “We’ll be prepared to do whatever.”
11:30 AM Update
Georgia Tech wideout Stephen Hill was one of the first, top receiver prospects to enter the media room.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound wideout said he can compete at the next level, despite coming from a run-heavy collegiate attack.
In his mind, it didn’t stop Calvin Johnson or Demaryius Thomas from excelling in the NFL.
“He’s the big ‘Megatron,'” Hill said of Johnson. “I feel I can compare myself to him.”
Hill said he’s spoken with more than 25 teams already at the combine. Many want to know how he reads defenses and combination routes. “Things like that,” Hill said.
With many of the big-body receivers looking to standout this week by running low 40 times, Hill is among that group and aims to run in the 4.3s.
“I’m a winner,” Hill went on to say confidently. “I like to win.”
1:30 PM Update
Just. Like. That.
It’s been nothing but an onslaught of players in the last hour or so.
We’ve heard from Robert Griffin III, Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd among many future NFL players. Will have updates on each shortly.
RGIII was very impressive in his media session. Asked if a team will trade up to take him with the No. 2 pick, Griffin wasn’t over-concerned. “I hope somebody falls in love with me, other than my fiancée.”
Griffin wants to be the No. 1 overall pick. He also wants to show NFL teams how diverse of an offense he ran at Baylor.
“It’s not as simple as everybody makes it out to be,” said Griffin, the player known to wear multi-colored socks.
Griffin had Ninja Turtle socks on, and was even ribbed by teammate Kendall Wright for his “Hello Kitty” socks which were sported at times by the Heisman winner.
Griffin listed his favorite quarterbacks, many of whom were mobile signal callers. Among the group, 49ers Hall of Famer Steve Young.
Blackmon (pictured above) made big news by announcing he won’t run his 40-yard dash after previously saying he’d do everything at the combine. Blackmon’s reasoning is that his pro day is next week.
Floyd talked about the all-around play-making ability that sets him apart from other prospects. More on that later in the day, when I write about the top receivers on 49ers.com.
2:00 PM Update
Lastly, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was very complimentary of his former coach Jim Harbaugh. “I’ve heard of Captain Comeback,” said the Heisman runner up of the last two seasons. Luck said it would be an honor to potentially play behind someone like Peyton Manning.
In fact, Luck said, “Peyton was my hero growing up. You can never replace a guy like that.”
Luck participated in the Manning Passing Academy over the past two offseasons and even consulted with Manning before retuning to Palo Alto for another season when everyone assumed he’d be the No. 1 pick in 2011.
Luck was complimentary of another high-profile signal caller being discussed this week, Baylor’s RGIII. “Robert’s a great quarterback, a great competitor and a great guy,” Luck said. “He’s very fun to watch.”
Besides watching his Heisman competition in awe, Luck was pleased with the performances of Harbaugh’s 49ers team in 2011.
“I’m not surprised by the successes he had at San Francisco,” Luck said. “I was very fortunate to be coached by him.”
For now, Luck will continue to work on his degree, which he plans to finish before his rookie season in the NFL. He’ll also work on quickening his release. “Those extra milliseconds count in the NFL.”
We’re about to run across the street to interview Joel Patten, the 49ers Director of College Scouting.
Look out for that video and much more from Indy.
4:00 PM Update
We’re back from our talk with Joel Patten, which you can view in the coming days on 49ers.com Very insightful stuff on how the 49ers look to add to the “family.”
Right as we settled back in our seats, a barrage of running backs came into the work room. Most notably, Alabama running back Trent Richardson. The Crimson Tide runner is not lacking confidence to say the least.
“Turn on the film,” he said, “I’ve never been caught from behind.”
Richardson has met with just about every team already, and confirmed he’s met with the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers already. Both teams hold the No. 4 and No. 5 pick, respectively.
USC running back Marc Tyler, son of former 49ers running back Wendell Tyler, said he grew up following the 49ers.
“The Niners have always been my team,” Tyler said.
Asked if he would like to potentially be a complement to Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore, Tyler seemed to be open to the idea.
“I like Frank Gore,” Tyler said. “He runs downhill. He runs physical.”
Through a teamamte, Amir Carlisle, Tyler was able to speak with Gore on the phone following a USC game.
“He was a cool guy,” Tyler said. “He’s a physical guy and he’s got pretty good speed, too.”
Stanford guard David DeCastro, like many of his collegiate teammates, had nothing but positive things to say about his former head coach Jim Harbaugh.
“He was an enthusiastic guy who demanded a lot,” said DeCastro, one of the top interior line prospects in this year’s draft. “We worked extremely hard, just dedication every single day on and off the field. It was huge.”
Stay tuned for more from the NFL Scouting Combine throughout the week on 49ers.com.
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