It’s a tradition unlike any other. For a third consecutive year, 49ers.com has chosen 22 NFL Draft hopefuls for our “All-Combine Personality Team.”
With 333 players at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, 49ers.com heard from a good amount of this year’s prospects and trimmed down the players into a 22-man team.
In our first-ever AP team, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was selected as the team’s starting quarterback. Here’s what we saw in the starting quarterback back then:
“The quarterback who can throw a baseball in the mid 90s, can toss a football 59 miles per hour (fastest of any combine QB) and makes it seem effortless. His press conference also stood out for his positive disposition. Clearly, Kaepernick enjoyed the experience. He tweets often and is a guy to root for.”
Last year’s AP team didn’t feature any future 49ers, but that could all change in 2013.
With the 49ers expecting 14 draft selections in the 2013 NFL Draft which begins on April 25, there’s a good chance that one of the standout personalities from this year’s combine finds their way on to San Francisco’s roster. (Note: we chose a 4-3 defensive alignment to fit more of the nation’s top defensive line prospects on the roster).
Quarterback – Geno Smith – West Virginia
Mostly great things were said about the Mountaineers standout passer, but some draft analysts were also downplaying his ability to be a No. 1 overall pick. That includes NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, who despite having Smith as his top-rated passer, wouldn’t “stand on the table” for Smith as the clear-cut first overall pick. The slights didn’t bother Smith (6-foot-2, 214 pounds), instead he used the combine to showcase his mature approach. “I’m dedicated to the game, I have a zeal and a passion for the game,” he told reporters. “And I’m going to work extremely hard to hone in on my skills and be the best I can be from day one.”
Running back – Marcus Lattimore – South Carolina
It’s hard not to like the 5-foot-11, 221-pound Gamecock running back. After suffering two devastating knee injuries in his collegiate career, Lattimore has become an inspirational story among this year’s draft class. When healthy, the South Carolina runner is one of the best young running backs in football. But as he rehabs from a reconstructive knee surgery, one that cost him an opportunity of working out at the combine, Lattimore continued to show the personality that makes him so likable. He’s not down on the injuries; he’s using them as fuel. “I just think about guys who are less fortunate than me, guys who would kill to be in my shoes, even with the injury. That’s what keeps me going, that’s what keeps me motivated,” he said.
Running back – Kenjon Barner – Oregon
It was hard to find a bigger smile in the combine media area than the one on the 5-foot-9, 196-pound Ducks runner. Barner seemed to be soaking in the media attention just fine and even had fun with people questioning his lack of height. When asked about his measurements from the combine height/weight check-in, the Oregon runner said, “5-9… I don’t know where they got that from. I thought the hair would help some.” Barner’s high-top fade might not have added to his measurements, but it showed he was a unique personality among the bunch, a talented one, too.
Wide receiver – Tavon Austin – West Virginia
There’s something to be said about being confident, without being cocky. And that includes saying you’re the best player in the draft. That’s what the Mountaineer play-maker did at his combine media session. Austin (5-foot-8, 174 pounds) downplayed his size limiting his production in the NFL. “I gotta use what I got,” he said. The WVA product did just that posting 14 reps in the 225-pound bench press and a 4.34, 40-yard dash. Talk is only as good if you can back it up. Austin did that and improved his draft stock.
Wide receiver – Marquise Goodwin – Texas
The Longhorn receiver was a member of the U.S. Olympic team in London last summer and aims to be a part of a professional football team this summer. At 5-foot-9, 183 pounds, the speedy receiver turned in the best 40-time of the combine with a 4.27 on his first attempt. Speed is a big part of Goodwin’s game, but it’s not the only thing. “I have good hands. I run routes. I get out of my breaks,” the UT star said at the combine. “I can run other routes than just running a nine. I’m tough. I have taken on hits. I have blocked. I have even got MVP for blocking in one game and I didn’t even touch a ball that game. I don’t think a track guy could go out there and get MVP for blocking.” Point taken.
Tight end – Tyler Eifert – Notre Dame
Considering that most of the questions he fielded centered on his publicized teammate Manti Te’o, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound pass-catching tight end was impressive in his media session. Eifert was outspoken in supporting his collegiate teammate and also made it known he wants to continue the Irish’s recent string of productive NFL tight ends. “I strive to be the best, that’s my goal to be the best,” Eifert said. “Personally be the best that I can be. I’m a competitor.” He’s also proven to be a solid teammate already.
Tackle – Eric Fisher – Central Michigan
There’s a lot to like about the converted tight end who became a standout tackle for the Chippewas. We’re not talking about 49ers Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, though. It’s actually his protégé, Fisher. The 6-foot-7, 306 tackle figures to be one of the top linemen selected in the draft. Fisher demonstrated he’s got the on-field ability and also stood out as a composed player in his dealings with the press. He gave Staley some love, too. “It’s great having a role model like him. I remember being recruited and seeing his picture up on the wall as a first-round tackle, and he was a tight end when he started out so I kind of came in as a tight end body and he showed me that it was possible. He’s gotten in touch with me recently and it’s great having somebody like that to look up to and be able to talk to about what to expect from the Senior Bowl to the combine to pro day and then to the draft. It’s great keeping in touch with him.”
Tackle – David Quessenberry – San Jose State
First off, you have to respect a player who walked on to his college football team and made his way to the combine. That’s the case for the 6-foot-5, 302-pound Spartan standout lineman. Quessenberry’s ascension on a bowl-winning SJSU team is quite remarkable. Like Fisher, Quessenberry came to college as a tight end and was able to put on 60 pounds while making the transition to tackle. He also spoke highly of Staley at the combine. “I really like his style, his athleticism.”
Center – Barrett Jones – Alabama
There wasn’t a funnier and more entertaining player at the combine than the Crimson Tide center who had a memorable moment in the BCS title game win over Notre Dame. Jones disagreed with his quarterback A.J. McCarron and famously shoved his quarterback in a heated exchange. It didn’t take long for the subject to be brought up to the 6-foot-4, 306-pound center. “Push gate as they call it; the push heard ‘round the world,” he joked with reporters when it was first brought up at the combine. Jones, the No. 2 rated center on Mayock’s rankings, is not the best player on his offensive line which could have first-round selections in guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker. When Jones was asked what was it like playing on a line with two first-round players,” the sharp-witted center replied, “You’re writing me off as a first-rounder? Thanks.”
Guard – Chance Warmack – Alabama
Mayock loves the Crimson Tide guard and it’s not hard to see why. Though he ran a 5.55, 40-yard dash, the mauling lineman has the attitude necessary to help pave the way for NFL running backs. It also doesn’t hurt that the 6-foot-2, 317-pound interior lineman has blocked for future NFL’ers like Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson. Warmack’s most recent draft-ready runner, Eddie Lacy, called him “Freight Train.” Warmack didn’t mind the moniker one bit. “That’s my running back,” he said of Lacy. “I’ll do anything for my running back, so whoever’s in the way, he needs yards, they’ve got to get out of the way. Push ‘em out of the way.”
Guard – Jonathan Cooper – North Carolina
Regarded by many as the No. 2 guard prospect behind Warmack, Cooper is right behind him in personality. The 6-foot-2, 311-pound Tar Heel lineman was too big to play Pop Warner football, but once he was allowed to play, he became a force immediately. His frustration reached a boiling point, too. “It definitely was pent up,” Cooper said at the combine. “I was just a fat little kid always getting picked on. I was like ‘I’m gonna play football.’” After being a water boy on his older brother’s team, Cooper was allowed to play in the seventh grade and he never looked back. “I was kind of big and soft but I finally learned the game, got some toughness about me, and I was able to excel.”
Defensive end – Barkevious Mingo – LSU
With 13 players representing the Bayou Bengals at the combine, Mingo was easily the most excited to meet the press. He also had a few interview questions from LSU teammate Sam Montgomery. Even with an intruder at his press conference, Mingo, a 6-foot-4, 241 pounder, handled it all in stride. Mingo might project to 3-4 defensive fronts, but his athleticism is hard to ignore on any defense. The same can be said for his personality which is highlighted by one of the best names in this year’s draft. As for the history behind it? “My mom just kind of threw it together and wrote it on the birth certificate.”
Defensive end – Bjoern Werner – Florida State
Football was foreign to the German-born Seminole. But things all changed with the 6-foot-3, 266-pound defensive end’s introduction to video games. Werner played flag football first and then played his first tackle football at the age of 15. That’s when Madden came into his life. “I just fell in the love with the game,” the future first-round pick said. “I played a lot of Madden, that’s how I got to know the NFL. It was just crazy. And then my head coach, Joerg Hoffman, said you have a lot of potential. You should try to go to high school and go through the whole American recruiting process with the goal to be here and I get drafted. I never looked back, it was just pursue that dream.” Who said video games were a bad thing?
Defensive tackle – Sharrif Floyd – Florida
The top-rated defensive tackle by many draft experts wasn’t a big fan of the NFL until 2007. It took an entertaining Super Bowl won by the Indianapolis Colts to sell Floyd on professional football. “It wasn’t that there was no interest, I just didn’t know nothing about it, so there was no reason to watch it,” said the 6-foot-3, 297-pound penetrating defensive tackle. “Even when I started playing there was no interest in watching it because I liked to play it instead of sitting down and being still and watching a game while all my friends were jumping around and getting excited for no reason. It just wasn’t a preference of mine, but now it is so I watch it and play it now.” What was Floyd watching before NFL football? “Disney Channel.”
Defensive tackle – John Jenkins – Georgia
Personality isn’t an issue with the 6-foot-4, 346-pound defensive tackle. Weight, however, might be. Jenkins ballooned up to 370 pounds in the SEC title game loss against Alabama, but has slimmed down to his current weight which was on display in Indianapolis. In the same vein, Jenkins’ positive demeanor could be seen by anyone who watched his media session. What’s he telling teams who question his weight gain in college? “I tell them you have nothing to worry about. It was the only time my football career ever that I was that high. It was the highest I had ever been at in my life. I didn’t have the right knowledge of how I should have my weight and wasn’t educated enough to keep my weight down. That’s where I want to play so I can get the job down efficiently. They don’t have anything to worry about; I’m going to do it.”
Middle linebacker – Kevin Minter – LSU
It was hard not to sympathize for a certain Notre Dame linebacker, but Minter earns the spot for his steady approach to the game and to the media. The 6-foot, 246-pound inside linebacker left school as a junior and had a great reason for it – he wanted to support his family. “I’m tired of momma working. She’s almost 70. It’s time for her to stop. To be honest with you, it was time. I had a great season. I’ll be honest with you. It’s hard to leave that purple and gold. I love Baton Rouge and I love the fans. It was a hard decision but it was a decision I had to make for me and my family.” That’s a leader right there.
Outside linebacker – Chase Thomas – Stanford
The former Cardinal standout presents intelligence and workman-like approach to whichever team drafts him in April. His Twitter account also proves to be entertaining. The 6-foot-3, 244-pound linebacker played for 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio during his college stint and even ribbed his former coach for being a Phillies fan. You can see that interview soon on 49ers.com.
Outside linebacker – Brandon Magee – Arizona State
Another Pac-12 performer gets the nod as outside ‘backer. This time it’s a 5-foot-11, 223-pound Sun Devil linebacker. Magee’s 2012 season, where he finished second on ASU’s defense in tackles, was quite remarkable considering his bounce-back from a ruptured Achilles. Magee had a smile on his face throughout his media session at the combine and praised 49ers wide receiver Kyle Williams’ work ethic. The former ASU product has trained with many of the college players in Tempe, Magee included. “He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around,” Magee said of Williams.
Safety – Kenny Vaccaro – Texas
The Longhorn defensive back entered the combine as one of the top safeties in this year’s draft. The 6-foot, 214-pound play-maker showed just why he’s considered to be a first-round pick with a strong press conference appearance. Vaccaro also explained why his position is important in today’s NFL. “I think people are starting to appreciate safeties more, now that tight ends are turning into freaks and controlling the middle of the field,” he said. “You’ve got to have a safety who can cover and come up and hit.”
Safety – Eric Reid – LSU
The third Bayou Bengal on the combine personality team didn’t speak with the press in Indianapolis, but his posts on social media were strong to quite strong. At 6 foot-1, 213 pounds, Reid is also the third underclassman from his school to make the 22-man AP team. Reid’s openness on social media makes him a good follow for those looking for a prospect’s experience heading towards the draft.
Cornerback – Dee Milliner – Alabama
Besides standout game tape, strong work ethic and toughness make this Crimson Tide defensive back an easy choice for the squad. Projected by many to be the top cornerback in the draft and a potential top-10 selection, the 6-foot, 201 pounder isn’t letting off the gas pedal one bit. Milliner is scheduled to have shoulder surgery after the combine, but wanted to participate first to quiet any concerns about his athleticism. Indianapolis is where the Alabama cornerback wants to alleviate those questions. “Watch the NFL combine,” he said. “That’s another reason why I wanted to come to the combine and participate in the drills. That’s why I didn’t want to sit out.”
Cornerback – D.J. Hayden – Houston
It’s hard not to root for the Cougar defensive back who overcame a serious scare. The 5-foot-11, 191-pound senior suffered a major injury at practice when he took a knee to the sternum. After Hayden complained about shortness of breath, doctors discovered he’d torn the main vein to his heart – a 95-percent fatal injury. Hayden’s 2012 season was over at that point, but he was still invited to the combine. “I just want another opportunity to play another game and do what I can do.”
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