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Names, storylines to watch at the 2019 NFL Combine for the 49ers

The 49ers will have their eye on quite a few players, both for the No. 2 pick, and dark horses later.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

We’re only days away from the biggest moment of the pre-draft process — the 2019 NFL scouting combine. General managers, personnel executives, scouts, and coaches will descend on Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to see college athletes from around the country compete in what is known as “the underwear Olympics.” While some scoff at the idea of athletes running around in skin tight clothes this is no joke for the 300+ prospects in attendance. Dreams of a football future can live and die after by how they perform at the combine.

The nature of this draft class alone will provide interest across the board with attention on almost every position group. The draft class is very top-heavy with talent, but some players on the cusp of the upper-echelon can enter their names into that top-tier with a good week at the combine.

And, most importantly, what can happen in Indy that will impact the San Francisco 49ers picks?

Nick Bosa

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Texas Christian Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve paid attention this far you probably know that Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa is the cream of this draft crop — but for even how talented of a prospect Bosa is, there are still some boxes to be checked at the combine.

Bosa withdrew from Ohio State in 2018 due to a core muscle injury with an original timetable for recovery reported to be about 12 weeks. Bosa should be fully recovered and ready to go for the combine, but it’ll still be good to see him on the field even if it’s just the “the underwear olympics.” “How will Bosa weigh-in?” and “how healthy is he?” will be just two of the non-stop questions flying around Indianapolis regarding Bosa.

How Bosa handles questions about his injury-history and leaving Ohio State will be something to monitor in Indianapolis. How Bosa deals with the off-the field side of the combine mixed with his performance on the field could have an impact on his draft position.

49er fans are probably praying to the football gods Bosa’s edge rushing repertoire falls to the second overall pick, but an easy transition from injury to electric combine could put a halt to any hope Bosa falls from number one spot on many big boards.

Ed Oliver

NCAA Football: Arizona at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If we were able to rewind back to the start of college football season I’m positive many would be shocked where Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver’s name would be landing across mock drafts. Oliver’s name was consistently linked with the likes of Bosa — he even got Aaron Donald comparisons by many. Now, when you talk about the defensive line class all you hear about is Quinnen Williams and then everyone else.

Oliver’s hype train has slowed substantially, but if there’s a way to get it rolling again it’s a good week at the combine.

There’s a lot of question marks around Oliver. He will deal with the triple threat: weighing in, interviewing and on-field work. We know Oliver is an athletic magician for his size, but how big is he? Can he play edge? Is he best inside? Can he stand up and play linebacker? (yes, that’s a real question that will be asked). On top of the questions of who he is as a player, they’ll be questions about his time at Houston.

Oliver can make all this disappear with a great performance on the field like many believe he can. Oliver could wow in almost every athletic drill at the combine and insert his name back at the top of draft boards like it belongs.

Josh Allen

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Kentucky vs Penn State Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

While Oliver’s stock is in question, Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen couldn’t be higher. It’s worth mentioning that in certain draft circles Allen is challenging Bosa for the No. 1 overall player — he’s loved that much. A great combine week could cement that idea for some.

Allen’s on field production is unmatched by few prospects in the 2019 class. That, backed with a solid week at the combine would be hard to ignore. Allen is a guy slated by many to blow up the combine with his athleticism. Match that with his SEC production and you have a premier prospect. If you’ve taken a liking to Allen being mocked to the 49ers consistently then you could be very happy post-combine.

Allen’s potentially impressive combine doesn’t just affect the 49ers — teams are looking for that other guy in this class not named Bosa or Williams, and Allen is the early favorite to be that guy. If Allen shows he can hang it’ll make teams think twice about immediately slotting Bosa over Allen. A good performance at the combine could put pressure on a team that falls in love with Allen to at least trade up.

Good combine’s by players like Bosa, Allen and Kyler Murray (who we will get to later) could jumble up the top of the draft and make a player like Bosa available at two overall.

Wide Receivers

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Florida State Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

It wouldn’t be a story that I’m writing without mentioning the 2019 receiver class, but the combine sparks more than just casual interest. If you’ve read my work before you know that there really isn’t a clear cut number one receiver in this class. DK Metcalf and Marquise Brown are incredibly talented, but each have medical concerns — which makes the combine a great opportunity for others.

Metcalf missed the end of the Rebels 2018 season with an injury, but shocked the world with a photo that surfaced of him looking like the Hulk in workouts. How will Metcalf look in Indy? Will it go viral like his herculean photo? All questions to get excited about.

On top of the interest Metcalf brings, there’s always the “who is the fastest wide receiver?” question. “Hollywood” Brown was an early favorite, but he won’t run due to injury, so who is up next? Andy Isabella will make strong case for fastest, but there’s always a wildcard.

Speed from the receiver position changes draft stock like no other workout at the combine, and with the top of the receiver class being somewhat murky we could see the risers and fallers all over the board post-combine.

Kyler Murray

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Orange Bowl-Alabama vs Oklahoma Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, it wouldn’t be a draft story without mentioning Kyler Murray. There isn’t much doubt Murray will have the most eyes on him in Indianapolis. Every move he makes will be judged by analysts from across the country. Is that fair? Probably not, but it’s the type of responsibility you pick up as the number one quarterback in a draft class. Regardless of what you think about him as a player this is the Murray combine.

There’s already rumors circulating on what events Murray will and won’t do in Indianapolis. Will he run? Will he throw? And what he’ll he measure at are just appetizers. The main course will be Murray interviews. Murray hasn’t handled his time with the media necessarily “great” so far, but all that doesn’t matter now.

At the combine it’s pretty simple; In a room with NFL decision makers, can Murray convince them he’s their franchise quarterback? If he can there’s little doubt we won’t hear Murray’s name called in the top-5 in April.

Like I’ve previously mentioned no other player has a bigger impact on the 49ers second overall pick like Murray does. A team will pen him as their quarterback of the future, but how early will they take him? Will they trade up? Will he go first overall? All questions that could be decided at the combine.