The Trent Baalke era as general manager is still a relatively new one, but there are things we can learn while heading into the 2013 NFL Draft. Through the first two offseasons (discounting 2010 for the time being), there has been a trend of drafting players with whom the team had met with, either for a pre-draft visit or a private workout. In 2011, the 49ers met with Colin Kaepernick, Aldon Smith, Kendall Hunter and Joe Hastings. In 2012, A.J. Jenkins visited the 49ers. We have a sufficient sample size to work with, and the data would indicate there's a good possibility of the 49ers drafting a player they have visited with this offseason.
Pre-Draft Visit Fun Fact: The 49ers pre-draft visits aren't like those of every other team. The visits are a little quirky, in the coolest way possible. During Smith's visit in 2011, he had to go through a football trivia quiz. At one point he got an answer wrong and he heard a voice at the back of the room say "Knute Rockne, who was Knute Rockne." The voice correcting Aldon was that of Coach Harbaugh. The 49ers clearly want players who have a love for the game, and knowing the history of football goes hand in hand with the love of football.
All credit goes to Matt Maiocco, who put together the extensive list of visits. Here are some notable prospects the 49ers have had pre-draft visits with this year:
- Tavon Austin, WR West Virginia
- Tank Carradine, DE/OLB Florida State
- John Jenkins, DL Georgia
- Travis Kelce, TE Cincinnati
- Gavin Escobar, TE San Diego State
- Tyrann Mathieu, CB LSU
- D.J. Hayden, CB Houston
- Jonathan Cyprien, S Florida International
- Le'Veon Bell, RB Michigan State
All of the players listed above will be drafted in the first three rounds. Most of the "notables" would be good fits for the 49ers, and some are personal favorites of mine (Tavon Austin, Tank Carradine, Travis Kelce, D.J. Hayden).
The most interesting visit would be Tank Carradine. The Florida State defensive end/outside linebacker had a private workout in Cincinnati, and multiple teams were in attendance. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula was on hand for the workout, and had dinner with Carradine that night; That dinner was very important. Tomsula is a guy who eats, sleeps and breathes football. I'm sure Tomsula was trying to pick Carradine's brain and see if he had that love for the game and drive to be a successful NFL player. I have Carradine landing with the 49ers in our latest mock, but Carradine may be off the board by pick No. 31.
Fooch interviewed Georgia Defensive lineman John Jenkins last week, and Jenkins felt his interview with the 49ers went well.
The 49ers meeting with Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell is compelling as well. Although the 49ers are deep at the position this season, you can read into the visit of Bell as the 49ers preparing for the inevitable departure of Frank Gore. Bell is a "bell-cow" of a back, who can handle a full workload and then some. Bell would likely cost the 49ers pick No. 74.
Not a lot is known about these pre-draft visits and how they went. I am sure Baalke has crossed some of these players off his wish list after certain visits. We don't know what he's thinking exactly, but we do know that the 49ers were interested enough in these players to schedule visits with them. So don't be surprised if the 49ers draft one or more of the players they've visited with; It seems to be a trend that will keep on trending.