Top prospects pushing preparation for Combine

Scheduled to begin a week from Wednesday in Indianapolis, the NFL Combine looms large as we move closer to the college draft in April. As expected, several of the nation's top prospects are in full preparation - including some that are seriously being considered by the 49ers with their top draft pick - and there has been some surprising pre-Combine news as prospects on San Francisco's radar are producing eye-popping numbers.

Prospects have gathered at major training facilities across the nation. The results pouring out give us an expected preview of what will happen at the RCA Dome.

Looking very fit, Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is expected to take part in the complete combine routine. Ngata hovers at the top of the list of interior defensive linemen the 49ers are considering in the draft.

Weighing 340 pounds, Ngata has checked in with under 11 percent body fat, an incredibly low number for a man his size. Putting his power to use, Ngata has consistently pushed up 38-to-39 repetitions on the bench and hopes to break 40 at the end of this month. Two years ago, Isaac Sopoaga put up the most bench repetitions at the Combine, and the 49ers were able to snag him in the fourth round of the 2004 draft. Ngata will go much higher in the college lottery this year.

Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk has been even more impressive in training. Tipping the scales at 248 pounds, 15 more then his playing weight, Hawk measured just 7.8 percent body fat. Running the 40-yard dash at consistently under 4.6 seconds, one source called Hawk a "defensive back in a linebacker's body".

Hawk is another player the 49ers have honed in on with their first pick, which will be either the sixth or seventh overall in the first round, pending a coin flip next week with the Oakland Raiders. If Hawk still is available when the 49ers pick, he certainly would be one of the final players the team would consider with the selection.

Florida Gator receiver Chad Jackson has also been very fast, running under 4.4 (4.39 to be exact) in the 40. Jackson weight has hovered around 207 pounds while his body fat has been an incredible 1.5 percent. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos have shown significant interest in the talented wideout, who is moving up draft charts. The 49ers also are looking for a speedy receiver who has the kind of size possessed by Jackson.

Tight end David Thomas has been running well at 249 pounds, heavier than his playing weight. Georgia Tech linebacker Gerris Wilkerson has clocked in the low 4.5s at 238 pounds.

Teams are narrowing down target lists and we're getting a better idea who'll they are considering in April's seven rounds.

The Detroit Lions have shown plenty of interest in Jay Cutler and could use their first pick on the Vanderbilt quarterback. Some feel Matt Millen needs to take a player that will help him win immediately but others think the quarterback situation in the Motor City is desperate.

Kamerion Wimbley had a four-hour visit with the Houston Texans recently, an unusually long interview for a team unlikely to select another Florida State defensive lineman.

With the team likely to lose Darren Howard in free agency, the New Orleans Saints have an interest in Quince Holman. Like Howard, the quick defender from Northern Illinois is undersized yet very athletic.


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