Note: For the next seven days, up to March 9th, we'll be looking at potential 49ers top five prospects per round and evaluate their overall play throughout the season, as well as their combine performances. The rounds that these players are guesstimated to go in are exactly that... an estimation.
The 2011 NFL Combine is officially in the books. Not too much stock should be put in to all of the events but they are a good tool to get particular measurements of each player in the specific events that they participated in.
Year in and year out, the Combine tells us two things... that the first two days of coverage are about as exciting as staring at a wall, and just how much Rich Eisen has trained to shave off fractions of a second on his 40-time... that's basically it.
I hope that they consider chopping it down a bit in the up and coming years. Three days for all players and events would be sufficient enough in my estimation.
With jokes aside, not really that they were "jokes", it's safe to say that certain players made themselves a lot of money and some of them climbed up the draft boards by a round or two in some cases (this according to Mr. Bizzarro himself, Al Davis). Measurables, as mentioned briefly above, can only take a player so far. It's how he performs on gameday that matters the most.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the 49ers top five prospects of the first round and how they faired throughout the year and at the combine.
1. BLAINE GABBERT | MISSOURI | 6'4", 234 LBS
Gabbert definitely has the size and frame of a true franchise quarterback. He played extremely well for a majority of the year. The biggest game to date of his career had to be the upset of the then number one ranked team in the nation, Oklahoma Sooners.
I'm not usually persuaded by the media and try to keep things in perspective with my own point-of-view, but the more and more I watch Gabbert, the more and more I am impressed. He has sound footwork, he's mobile enough to get out to extend plays, he's basically every quarterback guru's dream. I am almost certain that Jim Harbaugh and company will give some serious consideration to selecting Gabbert if he is there still with pick number seven.
Combine Performance: Gabbert was one of the few quarterbacks that opted not to throw at this year's combine. Surprisingly enough, nearly every single quarterback threw this year which sways a bunch from years previous. The Missouri quarterback did not run the fastest 40-time (even though it wasn't bad 4.62), but nobody expected him to... he's a quarterback, not a wide receiver. However, he was a top performer in the broad jump (10'0), and the 3-cone-drill (6.84) which showcased that he is relatively agile, agile enough.
Gabbert plans to throw at his respective pro day so that scouts can assess him a bit further before the draft begins.
2. PATRICK PETERSON | LOUISIANA STATE | 6'0", 219 LBS
There aren't too many people that have knocked much of any part of Peterson's game during his career at LSU. Most folks assume that he is bar-none the best defensive back entering the 2011 Draft unchallenged by anybody. Because of his solid career at LSU, there's little debate that Peterson falls out of the top five; although there's always that chance. There's always the chance that someone makes a boneheaded selection, or that someone trades up in to the top five to shake the whole thing up.
Patrick Peterson and Julio Jones perhaps had the best two combine performances out of any other players that participated in this years events. Peterson had the second fastest 40-time out of any player running a 4.34 40-yard dash. Only Demarcus Van Dyke had better running a 4.28.
Combine Performance: Nobody questioned that Peterson was one of the top athletes entering the combine. He confirmed what most expected. Mike Mayock (NFL Network analyst) speculated that Peterson was too stiff out of his turns and would be exposed at the next level. However, Peterson turned around and disproved the theory and evaluation. His hip-turn was one of the best at the combine and looked to be very natural. As mentioned above, the cornerback from LSU had the second best 40-time (4.34). He also was a top performer in the broad jump (10'6"), the 3-cone drill (6.58), and the 60-yard shuttle (11.01).
3. PRINCE AMUKAMARA | NEBRASKA | 6'0", 206 LBS
Prince, The Prince, The Fresh Prince of cold air... Akukamara was perhaps one of the most difficult players to gauge heading in to the combine, and perhaps still is coming out of it. It's really tough to say how well his game will translate at the next level.
He didn't do anything too eye-popping, but he definitely didn't drop the ball (figuratively speaking). He is an option for the Niners to keep their eye on, and who knows? He may just wind up wearing red and gold. I won't know how to feel about the pick if Baalke goes there.
Combine Performance: Prince finished his day with three top performances in the 40-yard dash (4.43) which is adequate speed to be a starting corner in the NFL. Next was the vertical jump (38.0"), and then the broad jump (10'8"). All this tells is that the Nebraska corner is very athletic. I believe, like most anyone else, that his draft stock will heavily weigh on all of his game film of the last few years.
4. VON MILLER | TEXAS A&M | 6'3", 246 LBS
Miller wants to model his game after Clay Matthews Jr. Not a bad player to want to emulate. However, Miller was purely a speed rusher in college. The speed of the game will not be the same in the NFL as it was in college.
He has had one move that he does where he stacks the offensive tackle and tries to get behind him while at A&M, but it worked very effectively and that's all he needed. But the good news is that we found out, not that we needed to, that he is an athletic freak which means that other techniques and maneuvers will be taught to him at the next level. Most folks are now chalking him up to be a top five pick, but the same thing that was said above about Peterson, there's always that slim chance he falls in to our lap at number seven.
Combine Performance: At his position, Miller finished in the top half of nearly every single event. NFL Network Mike Mayock was pulling out the Clay Matthews and DeMarcus Ware comparison's already. Miller went on to have a better combine than either of the two guys he was compared to... not that it means as much as people may think. More stock should be put in to his field play over his combine performances. Here are the results; 40-yard dash (4.53), vertical jump (37"), broad jump (10'6"), 3-cone drill (6.70), 20-yard shuttle (4.06), 60-yard shuttle (11.15).
5. MARCELL DAREUS | ALABAMA | 6'3", 319 LBS
Dareus happened to be one of the most explosive players in college football last year... when he wanted to be. When Dareus was going all out, there was not one better defensive tackle in NCAA football (including Nick Fairley). It's very possible that both Dareus and Fairley will be selected in the top five, but it's also possible (depending on what the first six teams do) that Dareus could fall to the Niners at seven.
After watching him sit on set with Warren Sapp and Mike Mayock, he seems like a decent enough kid and very intelligent football wise. If a coach that can motivate him to play at full speed a hundred percent of the time gets his hands on him, then Dareus could be a great one for some time to come.
Combine Performance: Although Dareus did not have a top performance in anything, he showcased in all the drills that he is a true competitor. After watching and listening to him, I have serious doubts, opposed to before, that he will fall out of the top ten selections. However, I still hold the same feelings about picking a defensive lineman up high in the draft.
Summary: While there may be other players that are sitting there as the 49ers select, these all fill crucial areas of need. These players also may be the best available when push comes to shove. There will be luxury type picks available when the 49ers are on the clock, but as Baalke demonstrated last year, he's a guy who leans more toward the "need" side of the fence.