Since the end of the regular season, we've written frequently about the San Francisco 49ers' needs in the upcoming draft. It's no secret they're probably going to target quarterback, outside linebacker and cornerback in April, although not necessarily in that order.
But what other positions will they be looking at when the NFL Scouting Combine unfolds Thursday in Indianapolis? We have no inside knowledge – and frankly, teams are obviously reluctant to discuss their interests when it comes to the draft – but here are three areas we think 49ers brass will be focusing on over the next four days:
Offensive tackle: There's a real lack of depth on the offensive line. Joe Staley and Anthony Davis are the starters, but the back-ups are 36-year-old Barry Sims and second-year player Alex Boone, who appeared in just one game this season. Adam Snyder is versatile enough to play anywhere on the line, but this is a position that needs help.
Center/offensive guard: The 49ers found a gem when David Baas stepped in at center for veteran Eric Heitmann, who went down with a neck injury in November and missed the entire season. Baas became a solid contributor and will likely sign a long-term deal when owners and players reach a collective bargaining agreement. Heitmann's career appears over. Rookie guard Mike Iupati was solid at left guard, but Chilo Rachal failed to develop as the team had hoped. Although Tony Wragge was a capable back-up at center, the 49ers will probably look to add some depth at both positions and give Rachal some competition in training camp.
Inside linebacker: Will the 49ers bring back 34-year-old Takeo Spikes for his 14th season in the league? If they do, it will allow them to continue to work NaVorro Bowman into the rotation. Bowman played well on special teams in his rookie season but wasn't as impressive when given a chance to get on the field in place of Spikes, who had a productive year. Even if the Niners let Spikes go, they'll need to find someone to take over the starting job or push Bowman, who the team believes will eventually develop into a solid player next to Patrick Willis.
NOTES: The 49ers made a staff addition Friday, naming Michael Christianson as their coordinator of football information technology/offensive quality control coach. Long title must mean lots of responsibility. Christianson was coach Jim Harbaugh's tight ends coach at the University of San Diego in 2006. … Here's when players will work out at the Combine: Thursday, offensive linemen, kickers, punters, long snappers, tight ends; Friday, quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers; Saturday, defensive linemen, linebackers; Sunday, defensive backs.