49ers have several Combine objectives

Mike Nolan took along his entire staff of 49ers coaches and scouts to today's opening of the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, and he made it clear what the team will be looking for amid the top college prospects in the land. "Some of the real focus, or most of the focus, will be on the offensive side of the ball," said Nolan, who also indicated that getting to know top quarterback prospects Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith face-to-face will be "our main focus."

Nolan indicated the team is preparing to use its bonanza of draft picks this April to go heavy on offensive prospects who can help rebuild the team on that side of the ball. So, naturally, that means the 49ers will be keeping a keen eye on offense throughout the upcoming week of Combine sessions.

"As the whole army goes to the Combine from every team including our own – whether it be the coaches, scouts and everybody – everybody has got specific areas that they try to hone in on, so when you pull the whole thing together at the end, we get the best answers as far as who is the best player coming out," Nolan said. "Like I said, there is probably a little more focus for us on the offensive side of the ball."

Specifically, the Niners will be taking a long look at Rodgers and Smith, considered by most evaluators and analysts as the top two quarterbacks available in the draft.

Nolan and his comrades plan on getting the most out of this get-to-know-you session with these two prospects, both of whom are under consideration to be the team's selection with its No. 1 pick.

To be sure, Nolan and 49ers VP of player personnel Scot McCloughan already have plenty of knowledge about the two underclassmen who both declared for the draft after outstanding junior seasons.

"Yes, I am familiar with them and I would probably go as far as to say they are just familiar to me," Nolan said. "I know Scot McCloughan has seen both of them play during the fall and did all the evaluations and everything in house. So, he's got a pretty good feel for them, as does Jim Hostler, our quarterbacks coach, as well as (offensive coordinator) Mike McCarthy. Both have done a lot of homework on the quarterbacks. They feel good about it."

But this week in Indianapolis will be the first opportunity for an up-close-and-personal visit with those two prospects, in particular, along with several others. Nolan said that, why you can't place too much importance on short interviews with prospects in this kind of setting, meeting them personally will help set the course the 49ers plan to follow as far as potentially acquiring their services.

"The quarterbacks will be our main focus for us," Nolan said. "I'm looking forward to meeting them face-to-face. It's a lot different than when you just see them on film all those times.

"As they go to the Combine, the interview process is important. The problem with it is that you can't put too much stock in it because it's only 15 minutes long. (Prospects) go from room to room doing all of these interviews. It's really hard to get a real bead on what they are all about. I think the follow-up with the campus visits we do in the weeks to come will have an awful lot to do with what our selection is. But I think the Combine is going to be very valuable from the standpoint of just getting an introduction to each guy and getting familiar with them."

Nolan noted that, during his four years in Baltimore, the Ravens hit it big on most of their first-day draft selections, which allowed the team to quickly rebuild after experiencing an exodus of veteran talent following its Super Bowl championship season of 2000.

Much of Baltimore's success in that regard, Nolan said, came during the initial inspection of – and introduction to – college talent at the Combine.

"It's the type of player they picked regardless of what position that player plays," Nolan said.

Nolan is looking to instill a similar kind of approach in San Francisco's selection process, which Nolan says will involve coaches, scouts and personnel types alike. And, while the 49ers will be focusing on offensive talent this week, that certainly doesn't mean they will be neglecting defensive prospects – or talent at any position, for that matter.

"Obviously, when you are 2-14, you've got a lot of holes to fill," Nolan said. "We will certainly evaluate all of them, because you don't want to pass up on a good player. Whatever position that guy is when it comes our time to pick, if the board just kind of puts it out there that the defensive player is the best. … Now, if the guys are very close, obviously you can make a choice. Sometimes it gets down to need, but we'll be looking through all personnel groups and going through the interview process."

Nolan also will be looking to complete his 17-member coaching staff at the Combine by hiring an assistant to strength and conditioning coach Johnny Parker, whose expertise Nolan plans to lean on heavily during the upcoming week.

"Johnny does a great job of looking at guys and figuring out where they can put weight on, who can, who can't, who's overweight, who's fat, who's not and all of those kind of things," Nolan said.


Niners Digest Top Stories