Did Combine change 49ers' thinking?

The 49ers' needs are the same as they've always been: outside linebacker, quarterback and cornerback. But will the players they want most still be on the board when they pick at No. 7? That's the big question.

No one knows what the San Francisco 49ers are thinking about the draft because that's how they're choosing to play it. They'd rather keep their thoughts to themselves rather than share them and let some other team know what's on their minds.

As a result, their thoughts on the NFL Scouting Combine are a mystery. We know they talked with quarterbacks Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick and cornerback Patrick Peterson in Indianapolis, but we don't know which players they liked or which ones didn't particularly impress them.

But it's doubtful anything they saw altered their thinking about a particular prospect. As GM Trent Baalke has said previously, their final judgments are likely to come from watching players on game film. Combine performances are likely to be considered only to verify their beliefs.

Given all that, here are the players we think the 49ers are looking at closely at the three positions they need to fill:

Outside linebacker

Von Miller, Texas A&M; Robert Quinn, North Carolina; Akeem Ayers, UCLA. Miller ran the second-fastest official time in the 40-yard run at the Combine (4.53) despite adding nine pounds to his slender frame. Trouble is, he's getting such good reviews he might be gone by the time the Niners pick at No. 7. Quinn is considered a first-round prospect, so it's possible the 49ers might still get a good player if they go with an outside linebacker.


Patrick Peterson, LSU; Prince Amukamara, Nebraska; Brandon Harris, Miami (Fla.). Peterson is the best cornerback in the draft, so it's possible he could go in the top five, perhaps as high as No. 2 to the Denver Broncos. But if he's still on the board, the 49ers might forego their plans and grab him. He's a rookie starter, and the Niners need help in the secondary. Some believe he could be converted to safety.


Blaine Gabbert, Missouri; Cam Newton, Auburn; Christian Ponder, Florida State. Again, it's possible Gabbert and Newton could be gone by the time the 49ers pick. If that happens, there are still some good players who might be available in the second and third (and even fourth) rounds. And although head coach Jim Harbaugh hasn't said so, we think he might be fine taking a quarterback later and developing him slowly. Of course, that would mean acquiring a veteran either through free agency or trade (Kevin Kolb?) – or perhaps even bringing back Alex Smith for one more season.

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