Are 49ers blowing smoke about Ahmad Brooks?
Not likely. After Brooks' impressive workout Thursday in sweltering heat at the University of Virginia campus – a workout attended by 31 NFL teams, with the 49ers represented better than any of the others – the price to acquire Brooks figures to be just too high for a San Francisco regime that has had Brooks on its radar since the moment it took control of the team in early 2005. Brooks – a real beast of a player who could slim down to become a monstrous, bone-crunching linebacker or beef up to become a disruptive force on the defensive edge – was plenty impressive during his workout with quality 40-yard times and other fine results for the tests he was put through by NFL types. And soaking it all up, front and center among the NFL throng, was 49ers coach Mike Nolan and vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan. Nolan was the only head coach from the NFL's 32 teams to attend the event. McCloughan, Nolan's right-hand man, is the team's chief talent evaluator. Does anybody now doubt that the 49ers have a legitimate interest in Brooks? But here's the rub: When it became apparent earlier this year that Brooks would be entering July's supplemental draft, the 49ers were figuring they might be able to slide in and get him with a third-round draft pick, considering the heavy baggage Brooks has accumulated over the past 10 months. Brooks – who last year at this time, as he prepared for his junior season, was being called a first-round candidate in the 2006 draft – missed six games last year with a knee injury that required surgery as concerns surfaced about his weight and commitment. He then was unceremoniously dumped from the team by Virginia coach Al Groh three months ago, reportedly for failing a drug test. Those are significant issues, especially for a team that puts as much emphasis on character as Nolan's Niners do. So, let's just say the 49ers don't figure to be willing to relinquish their 2007 first- or second-round pick to take a calculated risk on Brooks' huge upside. But, after Thursday, somebody else probably will. Brooks had lost more than 30 pounds to get ready for the workout, and at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, he showed no lingering effects of his knee injury or the extra weight he was carrying earlier this year. He's a legitimate first-round talent. If he had returned to Virginia next season for his senior year, some were saying he'd be one of the top five prospects for the 2007 draft if he got his act together. Brooks showed NFL types Thursday that he's now moving in that direction. And, in an indirect way, the ominous presence of Nolan and McCloughan at the workout may have raised Brooks' stock even higher, because the whispers have been in the wind for quite some time that the 49ers would love to have him. But with the Niners still not sure what they are or what they will become in 2006, there's no way they can relinquish their first-round pick from next year, considering the possibility it could be a top-10 pick for the third consecutive year. San Francisco's second-rounder next year? That's a tough sell, too, even though you know that Nolan – the defensive connoisseur – and McCloughan – the talent guru – are tempted to pull the trigger after seeing Brooks strut his stuff. But taking all factors into consideration, they'll be inclined to let someone else do it instead. But that's not what their presence in Virginia on Thursday suggests. The appearance is that the 49ers are willing to spend a valuable draft pick on Brooks, which will drive up the price for the team that gets him instead.
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