So maybe Alex Smith will be our quarterback in 2011 after all. Does it reduce the chance we'll draft a quarterback with our first or second-round pick?
Not in the slightest. Despite Jim Harbaugh's shocking confession that, "I like (Alex) very much. I believe that Alex Smith can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League," there is no way the Niners aren't thinking about 2012—the year when even Harbaugh will have soured on Smith.
Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert will have had a year to learn from Alex Smith's mistakes (last poke, I promise), and will be in prime position to take over once and for all.
That is, if we draft a quarterback. There were more than a handful of non-quarterbacks at the combine who may have convinced Harbaugh to do otherwise.
Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara turned heads on the track, while Von Miller and Marcell Dareus wowed in the weight room.
Some performed so well that the Niners can forget landing them with the seventh overall pick (*cough cough* Patrick Peterson).
For better or worse, here is how San Francisco's prospects fared in this year's combine...
Until the combine, Nick Fairley had been considered the consensus interior lineman of the draft. Many had Fairley going to Carolina with the first overall pick.
All that has changed. Dareus ran a comparable 40 to Fairley, despite carrying an extra 30 lbs. in the gut. If you thought it would slow him down, you thought wrong.
Dareus smoked Fairley in his 10-yard split, and absolutely punished the bags during tackling drills. If Carolina passes on him, the Niners will have to hope six others do too.
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 319 lbs
40 yard dash: 4.92
10 yard split: 1.69 second
Arm Length: 33 3/8 in.
Hand Size: 10 1/8 in.
While Fairley was outshined in certain ways by Marcell Dareus, his combine was by no means a failure.
4.87 is a marvelous 40 time for a defensive tackle. Gone are the days when run-stoppers jiggle down the track to the tune of 5+ seconds.
What will cost Fairley is a slower 10 second split than the larger Dareus and his recorded height (1 inch shorter than predicted).
His combine was just mediocre enough that Fairley could possibly fall to San Francisco.
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 291 lbs
40 yard dash: 4.8 seconds
10 yard split: 1.76 second
Arm Length: 34 3/4 in.
Hand Size: 9 3/4 in.
When a prospect impresses at the combine, it's usually good news.
Miller had previously been projected to last just long enough for the Niners to nab him. These projections need be thrown out the window.
Miller weighed in at a surprising 246 lbs. and still managed to run a 4.53 forty, 4.06 short shuttle, and a 6.7 3 cone drill. His broad jump was 10' 6".
Three things to describe Miller: a freak, the top performer of the entire combine, and a WR in a LB's body who will most certainly be picked in the top five.
Weight: 246 lbs.
40 yard dash: 4.53 seconds
Short shuttle: 4.06 seconds
3 cone drill: 6.7 seconds
Arm Length: 33 1/2 in.
Hand Size: 9 1/4 in.
Quinn didn't play a snap in 2010 as a result of an NCAA suspension. He regrettably accepted $5,000 of jewelry in between his sophomore and junior seasons.
Scouts' biggest concern has consequently been character issues.
Gil Brandt doesn't see it: "“If people talk to him, they will see what kind of a quality person this guy is. I had a long opportunity to talk to him and felt so good about him that I invited him to come to New York for the draft.”
While his numbers weren't as jaw-dropping as expected, Quinn will still be a top 10 pick.
Weight: 264 pounds
40 yard dash: 4.68
Vertical: 34 inches
3-cone drill: 7.13 seconds
Broad jump: 9'8"
Arm length: 32.25-inch
Hand length: 10-inch
Sources say Bowers completely aced the Angry Birds segment of this year's combine.
Unfortunately, Bowers thumbs were the only thing muscle worked out.
Bowers underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee in January and was not able to participate in this year's combine.
Had he been able to back up his 15.5 sacks in 2010 with a formidable workout, he might very well be the top prospect in this year's draft.
If Bowers is unable to prove he is 100 percent before draft day, the Niners could luck into the next Julius Peppers at No. 7. Here's to hoping he plays it safe.
Weight: 280 lbs.
Arm Length: 33 1/8 in.
Hand Size:10 1/4 in.
Why Newton is still climbing up draft boards, I have no idea. He missed a number of throws at the combine and still lacks the accuracy and wherewithal of an NFL quarterback.
Some mocks have him going to Carolina at No. 1. Others have him going at No. 3 to Buffalo.
His resume at Auburn certainly earns him a place in the top ten, but No. 1 overall?!?
Cam did well to run the third fastest 40 of all quarterbacks, and explain his "I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon" goof, but questions still loom.
Do the Niners have answers?
Weight: 248 pounds
40 yard dash: 4.59 seconds
Broad jump: 10 1/2-foot
Arm Length: 33-inch
Hand span: 10-inch
In another confusing move, Blaine Gabbert elected not to throw at the combine.
Gabbert's agent recommended Blaine not throw for the same reason Matt Leinart chose not to in 2006: less than ideal conditions.
Leinart's agent explains, ""When millions of dollars are at stake and there's all this hyper-focus on making the combine the penultimate testing place, it doesn't make sense. In that short time, you're showcasing an athlete who is likely tired, who has been rushed around to interviews, who has done a series of physicals. They're not going to be at their best."
It all makes sense now. Gabbert will throw at Missouri's pro day on March 17. Hopefully he will miss fewer throws than Cam and somehow still fall through the thick web of quarterback hungry teams who pick before San Francisco.
Weight: 234 lbs.
40 yard dash: 4.61 seconds
Arm Length: 33 in.
Hand Size: 10
Prince may not have surpassed Patrick Peterson, but he sure closed the gap.
Going into the combine, scouts questioned his athleticism, despite impressive size and ball skills.
Prince answered by finishing in the top five for all CBs in the forty, broad jump, and vertical jump.
Assuming Peterson and Gabbert are gone by pick seven, the Niners will likely be faced with a choice between Amukamara and the leftovers of Marcell Dareus, Von Miller and Robert Quinn.
If A.J. Green or Julio Jones (who had an amazing combine) are taken in the first six, the Niners might have even more of a selection. Amukamara might not be the best talent on the board, but the Niners need help in the secondary, and Amukamara's 40 time has put the speed concern to rest.
Top Five 40 yard dash times
- DeMarcus Van Dyke (4.28)
- Patrick Peterson (4.34)
- Chimdi Chekwa (4.40)
- Chris Culliver (4.40)
- Prince Amukamara (4.43)
Weight: 206 lbs.
40 yard dash: 4.43 seconds
Arm Length: 30 1/2 in.
Hand Size: 8 1/2 in.
Announcement: Mel Kiper officially promoted Patrick Peterson to #1 on his Big Board.
Peterson weighed in at a stout 219 lbs and still managed to run a sub-4.4 forty. Peterson has unofficially run a 4.2.
Still, his 4.34 will likely vault Peterson into the top five. Since 1990, only 11 defensive backs have had the honor:
1990 Eric Turner (2) S – Cleveland
1990 Bruce Pickens (3) CB – Atlanta
1990 Todd Lyght (5) CB – Los Angeles Rams
1992 Terrell Buckley (5) CB – Green Bay
1997 Shawn Springs (3) CB – Seattle
1997 Bryant Westbrook (5) CB – Detroit
1998 Charles Woodson (4) CB – Oakland
2002 Quentin Jammer (5) CB – San Diego
2003 Terence Newman (5) CB – Dallas
2004 Sean Taylor (5) S – Washington
2010 Eric Berry (5) S – Kansas City
(Source: Jared Sherman)
Peterson won't go #1 (no CB ever has), but barring a miracle, he'll be gone by #7.
Fortunately, that leaves the Niners with three out the nine aforementioned studs to choose from. Four if a WR is drafted in the top six.
Having looked at far too many post-combine mock drafts, I believe the Niners choice will come down to Gabbert, Quinn, and Amukamara. Absolute best case scenario would be Von Miller or Patrick Peterson, but I'm not holding my breath and neither should you.
Instead, let's appreciate that the Niners will inevitably capitalize on this year's cream of the crop, whatever it may yield.
In Harbaugh we trust!