2013 NFL Combine: Things we may learn this week

Trent Baalke will be a busy man this week, and the combine will have a lot to do with how the 49ers offseason unfolds. - Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

We take a look at things we could learn at the combine

With the combine in full swing, we thought it would be a good idea to talk about some of the broader things related to the combine. Even when reaching for broader subjects related to the combine and performances at it, the NFL is a complex game in which almost everything is connected to everything else. A constant domino effect of events always take place for the other to happen (ex: good performance by CB at combine=CB cut on roster, and CB drafted to replace the cut one). It's like the movie Inception, where every level of the dream relates to one another, something has to happen in one dream for the other event to happen in another dream. Are you with me so far?

Here are some things we could learn at the combine:

Bad QB performances= Alex Smith market boosted

I have only one quarterback being drafted in the first round of our first mock draft of the year, with Geno Smith going to the Arizona Cardinals at pick No. 7. This draft class doesn't feature anyone remotely close to RGIII, Andrew Luck, or Russell Wilson. If I were a gambling man, I'd put my money on the quarterback prospects to not exactly light up the field. This class will end up providing a future starter in the league at the very least, but nobody knows who that guy is.

If the quarterbacks have bad performances at the combine, teams will be more inclined to pick up the phone and give Trent Baalke a call about Alex Smith. I think that is exactly what's going to happen. Smith is better than any free agent quarterback on the market, and right now he's better than any quarterback in this years class. What does that mean? It means Smith is going to have a market. I suspect the Chiefs, Cardinals, and Browns to be the most interested in Alex. Bad quarterback performances aside, teams would still be calling about Smith. But with bad performances from QBs at the combine, the 49ers have more leverage, and a better pick will be received. It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks regarding this topic, stay tuned.

The 49ers can find players to replace the ones they cut/lose to free agency:

The 49ers may potentially lose Dashon Goldson, Delanie Walker, and Issac Sopoaga to free agency.

Our own salary cap guy Jason Hurley has put together some great posts on cap casualties. This is the amount of money for each player that can be saved:

- Parys Haralson: $2.87 million

- Jonathan Goodwin: $4.35 million

- David Akers: $3.05 million

- Carlos Rogers: $4.15 million in 2013, $5.105 million in 2014

- Donte Whitner: $4.1 million

- Mario Manningham: $2.35 million

This team could be looking a lot different by the time free agency comes in a little less than three weeks. This league isn't like Major League Baseball, it has a cap. The 49ers can't be the New York Yankees and attempt to buy championships. They must always be smart with the salary cap to be a winner year in and year out. Every move Baalke makes is a move that will not hurt the 49ers in the long term, and I expect that trend to continue this offseason.

If Goldson demands too much money, a safety is going to be chosen in the draft instead. If Sopoaga doesn't take a hometown discount, a defensive lineman will be drafted to take his place. The same thing can be said for Delanie Walker. Safety, defensive line, and tight end are all deep in talent this season, and that doesn't help any of these 49ers gain leverage. Rookies will be cheaper and are younger. I'm not saying to tell all of the Niners free agents goodbye and good luck, but it is a scenario that could happen.

Other players may become cap casualties. Once again, rookies are younger and much cheaper. David Akers will be cut for sure, but any other players on the list above could be cut to save money also. That all depends on if the 49ers find a viable replacement, if they find prospects they see filling the void if they decide to cut Goodwin, Manningham, Rogers, Haralson, or Whitner.

It's a lot to think about in a short amount of time for the 49ers. And that process has already begun and will go into full swing this week at the combine. The performances of the prospects will have a lot to do with the moves the 49ers make re-signing players and cutting players.

Teams might not learn as much as they should (scout incorrectly):

In 1998, Peyton Manning was selected No. 1 overall (replacing Jim Harbaugh as the Colts starting quarterback), Ryan Leaf was selected No. 2 overall by the Chargers. Nearly fifteen years later Peyton Manning is gearing up for another NFL season in his Hall of Fame career, while Ryan Leaf is currently in prison. Point being, draft busts are bound to happen as well as prospects being scouted incorrectly. Many Hall of Fame players have gone undrafted or in the 7th round (Shannon Sharpe, Warren Moon, Kurt Warner, John Randle). You may be asking yourself, how is that even possible? Well, I don't know how it is possible either, but it does happen. That can be attributed to human error, no scout is a machine that has Terminator detection capabilities that locks on to a "sure thing" prospect. It doesn't work like that, evaluating players isn't an exact science and never will be. That's what makes it all the more interesting.

At the combine some teams will be blown away with a players speed. Nobody has ever been more guilty or synonymous with that than Al Davis. Others overvalue a quarterbacks rocket arm that wows in drills at the combine. You're always going to have scouts that look at one trait and get locked into that trait, as opposed to looking at the full picture to find a player who has steady ability in all facets of their position. Mistakes are bound to happen. The draft is all about limiting how many times you strike out, and hit at least a few home runs to win the ballgame. I have a lot of faith in Baalke hitting some homers and never getting locked in on one attribute. The 49ers certainly have enough at bats to do some damage (14 as it stands right now). He knows what the full picture is. Consistency. It doesn't matter if you're really fast if you can't catch or run routes. It doesn't matter how great of an arm a quarterback has if he can't read defenses. Baalke isn't going to get enamored by one thing a prospect does good, he needs to see something good in multiple facets of their game, or they probably aren't going to be too successful in the NFL.

Here are some current players who should have went higher than the round they were drafted in:

Round 5: Richard Sherman, Robert Mathis, Michael Turner

Round 6: Tom Brady, Matt Birk, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, Andy Lee

Round 7: Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson, Cortland Finnegan, Ahmad Bradshaw

Undrafted Fee Agents: Tony Romo, London Fletcher, Arian Foster, Wes Welker, Antonio Gates, James Harrison

Every player on the list has had good success in the NFL at the very least, and all of them had multiple players at their respective positions selected before them. The case can be made the teams that drafted these players struck gold and made great picks of course. But my question is why weren't these players drafted sooner? Hopefully the 49ers find some sleepers like these players. If they get anybody of this caliber earlier than the 5th, I'm okay with that too.

Below is a video talking about Tom Brady at the combine and his evaluation (skip to 1:30 for that) It shows you evaluations do not mean everything. They don't factor in a mans will, heart, competitiveness. I believe Coach Harbaugh and Trent Baalke try to factor that in as much as they are able to.


A lot to digest, so there should be a lot to talk about. Comments encouraged.

Follow Me On Twitter: @Woods49ers

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