SANTA CLARA Four NFL scouts were watching Fresno State wide receiver Devon Wylie during an East-West Shrine Game practice last month when they were struck by the same thought: They were looking at the second coming of Wes Welker.
"The way he came off the line (of scrimmage), his low pad level when he ran, the great hands," said Russ Lande, a former scout who now evaluates draft talent for the Sporting News and who was among the observers that day.
"He looked like a guy who could step in and play slot receiver as a rookie," Lande said.
Wylie, who starred at Granite Bay High School, will get another chance to impress NFL teams this week at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, the mother of all job interviews for aspiring players.
What makes this local-kid-makes-it-big story even better is that Wylie is going through the process alongside his childhood best friend, Miles Burris, a teammate at Granite Bay.
The two have shared an Irvine apartment for the past two months while preparing for the combine. In fact, you might say they've been preparing side by side all their lives.
Wylie and Burris were first-graders when they met at Oakhills Elementary School in Granite Bay.
They hung out together, played sports together, grew up together. And like all boys who love football, they mused about entering the NFL together.
"We talked about it all the time," said Burris, who played his college ball at San Diego State. "It was always a dream we had and shared. It's amazing how it's worked out. We're right on the fringe of making it come true."
Burris always was one of the biggest, strongest kids in school. Wylie always was the fastest and most athletic. Burris said Wylie could dunk a basketball in the eighth grade not bad for a kid who hadn't yet reached his ultimate height of 5-foot-9.
"He was like a spider monkey always moving, always climbing things," Burris recalled. "He was just a natural athlete. He always had a feel for things, even when he was trying something new."
Not much has changed in the last decade.
Burris was a standout at right outside linebacker with the Aztecs and became king of the weight room.
The bench press is one area in which prospective players will be tested at the combine. Burris has bench-pressed as much as 445 pounds, and he's done as many as 25 reps at 275 pounds. He'll be asked to bench 225 pounds as many times as he can in Indianapolis and figures to have one of the highest marks at his position in that category.
Lande said Burris probably will be a fourth- or fifth-round pick but that he has a chance to go higher if he proves to scouts he can line up on the outside as he did with the Aztecs.
Evaluators are curious about his height. San Diego State lists Burris at 6-3, but colleges often inflate measurements. And they'll want to test his agility and his ability to retreat and change directions.
"He's well-built, and he's a very aggressive pass rusher," Lande said. "He uses his hands well, and he really attacks the quarterback. But he may be better suited going forward than he is off the ball in coverage."
Wylie, meanwhile, wants to show off his speed and prove to evaluators he's as tough as Welker, the New England Patriots' star receiver.
He ran the 40-yard dash as fast as 4.25 seconds at Fresno State. He said he's hoping for a time in the low 4.3-second range in Indianapolis, a mark that would make him one of the fastest prospects, if not the fastest, in the draft.
"He's going to get a lot of comparisons to Wes Welker because he's an undersized, white receiver," CBS Sports' evaluator Rob Rang said. "But he's got speed that Wes Welker never had. And that's what's exciting about him. He has a big-play element."
Like Welker, Wylie also returns punts, which will make him attractive to teams such as the 49ers. Their fastest player and primary return man, Ted Ginn, is an unrestricted free agent who might not be back. Wylie finished fifth in the nation with a 15.4-yard punt-return average, and he returned two for touchdowns.
Another hurdle for Wylie this week will be the battery of medical examinations he and the other prospects must endure. In his first four seasons at Fresno State, he was slowed by injuries, including a strained hamstring, a sprained foot and a stress fracture to his leg. But he played every game in his fifth and final season.
Wylie's draft projections range from the third to the seventh rounds, and he's not helped by the fact that his draft class is thick with wide receivers. But an eye-popping 40-yard dash receivers will run Sunday should put him in the more desirable end of that range.
"That's obviously one of the standout measurables," Wylie said. "If I can kill in the 40, it will be a blessing."
Sacramento-area athletes participating in the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis:
High school: Granite Bay
College: San Diego State
Height/weight: 6-foot-3/235 pounds
Comment: Granite Bay's all-time leading tackler led the Aztecs in stops his final two seasons; can play inside or outside and on special teams.
Position: Offensive line
High school: Nevada Union
College: Notre Dame
Comment: Long hair spilled out of golden helmet, yes, but fifth-year senior anchored Irish line with skills, toughness, tenacity; paid dues as three-year reserve before excelling.
Position: Defensive line
High school: Del Campo
Comment: Has gone from Sacramento City College to LSU to Canada; stock soared at East-West Shrine practices and game at DT; has 84-inch wing span and is nimble.
Position: Defensive back
High school: Christian Brothers
College: Cal Poly
Comment: Natural leader with superb coverage skills and big-play ability; returned interception 100 yards; academic honoree also plays on return teams.
High school: Vacaville
Comment: Two-year starter for Ducks with size, speed; could emerge as region's highest pick; powerful hitter makes special-teams plays.
Position: Defensive tackle
High school: Grant
Comment: Missed 2010 season and was still voted team captain a USC first for his leadership and inspiration; powerfully built run stopper, the ultimate "plugger."
Position: Wide receiver
High school: Granite Bay
College: Fresno State
Comment: Fastest Granite Bay and Fresno State player in history with best of 4.25 seconds in 40-yard dash; sometimes seems too fast for his own good with rash of hamstring injuries; also can return punts and kicks on special teams.
Six draft prospects who make sense for the 49ers at pick No. 30
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers: Sanu is a big, physical receiver who seems ideally suited for a West Coast offense that emphasizes yards after the catch. The question is whether he's fast enough for the first round. All eyes will be on his 40-yard dash.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina: Jeffery's most anticipated test will come Friday, when he steps on the scale. Jeffery's weight has been a concern, and scouts want to see him in the 220-pound range. As is the case for Sanu and every other big-body receiver, Jeffery's 40 time will be critical.
Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech: Hill went to the same school as NFL receivers Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. Like those players, he's big and physical and might be just what the 49ers are seeking.
Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: Jenkins is one of several talented cornerbacks who might be available at the end of the first round. The transfer from Florida, however, has red flags next to his name after arrests last year, and teams will be eager to sit down with him during the interview process.
Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina: Ingram mostly played on the defensive line for the Gamecocks but seems to show enough wiggle and pass-rushing ability to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 formation. He likely won't last until pick No. 30, but if he did, he'd be a steal for the 49ers.
Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford: Jim Harbaugh's former pupil will be on hand for the combine but won't run because of the high ankle sprain he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl. The 49ers are set at tight end for now. But Delanie Walker is a free agent after next season, and Harbaugh loves tight ends.