The 49ers have officially jumped right in and started taking care of player interviews at the 2011 NFL Combine. Although there will be plenty of interviews over the coming months, the 49ers spent yesterday interviewing Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton. An interview is a sign of at least some interest, or at least curiosity. If a team had no interest about a player and was not remotely curious about anything regarding that player, logic dictates they would not waste their time with an interview. It doesn't mean the 49ers are suddenly going to draft either guy, but they're at least on the radar.
Newton has impressed folks thus far with the way he's handled his various off-field issues. Even though he's likely being prepped by some kind of PR team, I'd argue that shows he's taking things relatively seriously in his draft preparation. It doesn't answer whether he's learned from his mistakes and will avoid them in the future, but it's a step forward. This would be in apparent contrast to Ryan Mallett's press conference yesterday. I can't find a complete video of the press conference so all I know is what I've found online. I found a couple minutes of his press conference but it doesn't show him reportedly walking away from the podium after a repeated question about the drug rumor.
While I can't blame him for walking off after the questions about drugs continued, boosting NFL Draft stock can be as much about image as actual ability. Mallett indicated he would address this issue with the teams and not with the media. As long as teams are satisfied by his responses, I don't think there's a problem. At the same time, handling the media can be a significant part of the job, particularly if a team is grooming you to be a franchise quarterback. I don't buy that he completely killed his draft stock with his Combine press conference. However, I can see how it would give some teams pause when it comes time to draft him.
Just a reminder that we've got Combine discussion going in our official Combine FanPost.