Pre-draft notes: 49ers eyeing TE, DB Marshall

As we move closer to draft day, teams are starting to fly players into organizational facilities for one-on-one interviews. This offers us a critical indicator of exactly which players franchises are targeting. Here's news on several teams around the NFL, including the 49ers.

A pair of defensive backs have become hot names and teams are lining-up for final interviews.

Fresno State cornerback Richard Marshall is making a big jump up boards. Too many thought it was an afterthought the New England Patriots would select Marshall in round two, as the team individually worked him out this week for the second time in recent weeks. Now it seems the cover man may not last that long. Sources have told us Marshall is now rated as a top five cornerback by a number of teams. The Miami Dolphins have a pair of upcoming visits with Marshall while the Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs all have dates with the fast-rising Marshall, who also is has drawn the interest of the 49ers as a top prospect.

The other secondary prospect gaining steam is Nebraska safety Daniel Bullocks. Some feel Bullocks could move into the very late part of round one. And though we think that's a bit early for his services, the fact is the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts, teams with selections late in the first frame, are both bringing Bullocks to their facilities next week. Same for the Detroit Lions, who have a second round grade on the hard-hitting defensive back. The Niners also have interest in Bullocks, but not as a Round 1 prospect, and probably not with their high Round 2 pick, either.

Always looking for offensive line help, the Cleveland Browns will bring Tennessee Volunteer tackle Albert Toeaina to town in the next 10 days or so.

The Ravens, another team that needs blockers, have set up a date to bring USC guard Fred Matua back east.

Offensive tackle Joe Toledo, another Pac Ten lineman, has recently gotten a lot of play. Besides the Ravens and the Browns, the Steelers, Carolina Panthers and New York Jets have shown significant interest in the former tight end.

Finally, it seems the Oakland Raiders are set to take at least one linebacker in April's draft. Jon Alston is a player at the position the team has targeted. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has told many he feels Alston perfectly fits his 3-4 defense. Alston also is on the radar of the 49ers, who are anxious to see how far Alston might slip in a linebacker-rich draft. The Niners would give Alston consideration in the middle rounds.

Here's some other pre-draft notes from around the NFL

49ERS – As reported by last month, the team showed interest in signing veteran TE Jeb Putzier before he signed with Houston. The fact that the Niners were interesting in signing him could be a sign that they plan to address the tight end position on the first day of the draft and also could be a sign that oft-injured TE Eric Johnson may be gone after this coming season which is also the final year of his contract. The 49ers last week re-signed veteran Terry Jones as insurance at the position, but they appear ready to spend one of their four picks on April 29 on one of the top college TE prospects available.

Arizona Cardinals – With the team signed UFA RB Edgerrin James, the Cardinals, according to a league source, have their eyes on finding their future quarterback in the first round of this month's NFL draft. The signal caller that the team is looking hard at is University of Texas' Vince Young. The other player that they covet is Ohio St. LB A.J. Hawk but it's almost certain that he'll be gone before the Cardinals select at No.9.

Buffalo Bills – After the team trades veteran WR Eric Moulds to Houston, many fans believe that WR Josh Reed will take over in the starting lineup for him. A team source indicated that fourth-year WR Sam Aiken has been Moulds' backup for the past three seasons and could take over as a starter with Reed handling the No.3 role.

Cincinnati Bengals – A team source told earlier this week that the Bengals are eyeing UTEP's Thomas Howard with their first-round pick (#24). However, if they do select him, it wouldn't be to play him at linebacker, rather at strong safety. They believe the athletic Howard would add a very physical presence to their secondary.

Cleveland Browns – As first reported by, the team is eyeing FSU DE/OLB Kamerion Wimbley with their first-round select (#12). Wimbley, if selected by the Browns, would play at outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. An interesting side note is Wimbley is represented by the same agent as head coach Romeo Crennel.

Dallas Cowboys – According to a league source, the team has their eyes on University of Pittsburgh OL Charles Spencer who visited the Cowboys recently. Spencer projects to play inside at the next level though he's capable of play at tackle if needed. Spencer is seen as a developmental player that could Dallas depth initially but challenge for a starting job later on. He also could be the eventually replacement for soon to be 34-year old G Marco Rivera.

Houston Texans – A league source told this weekend that speedy but oft-injured WR Jake Schifino has signed a one-year contract with the team. He was last with New England in August of 2005. Schifino could also compete for the kickoff return job in training camp. The team also had visits with UFAs WR Jerome Pathon, OT Mike Pearson, and G Tutan Reyes this week. Pathon is unlikely to be signed after the team reeled in Schifino and is expected to acquire veteran WR Eric Moulds this coming week. Pearson could provide depth at left tackle and Reyes could compete for the starting jobs at right or left guard if signed.

Kansas City Chiefs - As first reported by, the team had a visit with UFA DE/OLB Kamerion Wimbley. The Chiefs are looking for pass rush help and would likely play Wimbley at end in their 4-3 scheme if they select him (#20). As also first reported by, the team also worked out University of Pittsburgh G Charles Spencer who, if selected (likely in the second round), could be the eventually replacement for All-Pro G Will Shields.

Minnesota Vikings – According to a league source, with the team set at the running back position, look for RB Onterrio Smith to be released after his one-year suspension is over in May.

New York Giants – A league source told that the team has a visit set up with Hofstra G Willie Colon who would be selected for depth early on the second day of the draft.

New York Jets – According to a league source, the Jets were trying to sign veteran TE Jeb Putzier before he signed with the Texans recently despite re-signing TE Chris Baker. Word is that TE Doug Jolley is on shaky ground with the team and the possibility exists that the team selects a tight end on the first day of the draft.

Philadelphia Eagles – has confirmed the team will have a visit from University of New Mexico WR Hank Baskett soon. As also first reported by recently, the Eagles worked out University of Pittsburgh G Charles Spencer who offensive line coach Juan Castillo is very high on.

Pittsburgh Steelers – The team, according to a league source, will have a visit with Hofstra G Willie Colon who is expected to meet with head coach Bill Cowher and members of the front office on Monday. The source noted that there's one NFC team that has Colon rated as the eighth best offensive lineman overall in the draft. Another league source indicates that the team is eyeing University of Virginia QB/WR Marques Hagans as a developmental receiver that could eventually replace departed WR Antwaan Randle El down the line.

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