The San Francisco 49ers have likely sent out a sizable contingent of coaches, scouts and front office staff to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. This crew of evaluators will watch players get measured, run through on-field drills, and go through head-to-toe medical examinations. The talent evaluators already have some idea of their draft board, but this is a chance to pour through it and get some more close up evaluations. Game tape remains key, but this can help differentiate players that are particularly close on the board.
In addition to all this physical stuff, the teams get a chance to meet with players all week long. Teams will conduct a variety of player interviews to get a better sense of a player's personality, and what he is all about. It's not a simple process because, just like players prep for the workouts, they prep for these interviews. 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman talked about this recently:
"The combine gives you an opportunity to make it real life and meet people," Roman said. "It really helps connects the dots because you can watch film on a player and say, ‘Well why is he doing this?' At the combine, you can ask him."
Roman acknowledged the challenge of getting to know the prospects as they truly are, not as their strength and conditioning coaches, agents and advisors have instructed them to be.
"You got to be prepared to get these guys out of their stock comfort zone and really dig down," he said, "find out, ask them some tough questions, throw some curveballs at them because this process that they go through is one that gets them so well prepared.
"They almost become as good at (combine drills) as they are at playing football."
The Combine provides the best chance to conduct meetings, but NFL teams have already begun the process of getting to know these players. The East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl both provided more informal opportunities to talk with players. The folks at Walter Football have worked to accumulate a running list of player-team interactions. According to them, the 49ers met with the following players:
Xavius Boyd, LB, Western Kentucky (Shrine Game)
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, OT, McGill (Shrine Game)
C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa (Senior Bowl)
Ra'Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota (Senior Bowl)
Gator Hoskins, TE, Marshall (Senior Bowl)
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, DB, Nebraska (Senior Bowl)
Cassius Marsh, DL, UCLA (Shrine Game)
Jeff Mathews, QB, Cornell (Shrine Game)
Demonte McAllister, DL, Florida State (Shrine Game)
Jack Mewhort, OL, Ohio State (Senior Bowl)
Matt Patchan, OL, Boston College (Senior Bowl)
Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona (Shrine Game)
Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia (Senior Bowl)
Marcus Smith, LB, Louisville (Senior Bowl)
They also said there is very strong interest in Standford defensive lineman Trent Murphy. If you do a Twitter search for Trent Murphy 49ers, you'll find little random mentions.
The 49ers will meet with a lot of players between now and the end of the Combine. Then, they'll meet with players at Pro Day workouts, and have additional players in for private workouts. We'll keep an eye out for whatever news we can find, but the 49ers will talk to and observe a lot more players than they will actually draft.
Additionally, the odds are pretty high that the 49ers will draft some players they never spoke to during the draft process. Teams have certainly players they particularly like, and they do not want to do anything to tip their hand. It is interesting to consider the players they meet with, but it's as much a mental exercise as anything else.