SANTA CLARA -- Of the seven first-round picks 49ers general manager Trent Baalke has selected since he started running the draft, only one -- safety Eric Reid in 2013 -- did not pay a visit to the 49ers beforehand. Which is to say, when a prospect shows up in Santa Clara in late March or April, it's significant.
Teams are permitted to host 30 players at their headquarters. The 49ers tend to use those visits on smaller-school prospects who don't get as much attention during the college season, on prospects with character concerns and on players they might want to take with a high pick. We'll be tracking the list here:
CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
He is one of several Clemson defenders who could go in the first or second round of the draft. At 5-10, Alexander doesn't have ideal size (especially for the 49ers) at the position, but he's competitive and very good in man coverage. He didn't have an interception over the last two seasons, but that may be due to the fact that quarterbacks were hesitant to throw in his direction. The 49ers also met with Alexander at the scouting combine. Reported first by The Bee
CB Eli Apple, Ohio State
At 6-1, 199 pounds, he has the size Baalke likes at the position and he played on one of the top defenses in one of the top conferences in the country. He ran his 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, suggesting he has the speed to keep pace with fast receivers and the size to play man-to-man with bigger receivers. Plus, a guy with the last name "Apple" would seem to fit in well in Silicon Valley. The Bee
WR Corey Coleman, Baylor
The speedy wide receiver from Baylor finished the 2015 season with 20 touchdowns, 1,363 receiving yards and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver. He is competing with Laquon Treadwell and TCU’s Josh Doctson to be the first receiver taken in the draft. The Bee
OT/G Fahn Cooper, Ole Miss
Offensive line coach Pat Flaherty worked out Cooper and his more famous linemate, Laremy Tunsil, at Mississippi’s pro day in March. Cooper has excellent size (6’4, 303) and the long arms (34 3/4-inches) that Baalke covets. He’s played guard and both tackle spots, starting the first seven games at left tackle last year while Tunsil served a suspension. Something to consider: Sometimes teams want to talk to the teammates of players they are most interested in. The 49ers also are spending time with Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell and defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, who would have faced Cooper often in practice.
RB Kenyan Drake, Alabama
Drake is expected to be a mid-round pick after injuries, including a broken leg and broken arm, made for a disjointed career at Alabama. However, Drake has excellent speed (4.45 40) and good size (6-1, 210) and catches the ball out of the backfield well. He also can serve as a kick returner. ESPN.
OLB/DE Kevin Dodd, Clemson
Baalke worked out both Dodd and teammate Shaq Lawson in South Carolina on March 24, and both also are due to visit 49ers headquarters. Dodd is longer (6-5 with 34-inch arms) and heavier (277 pounds) than Lawson, and he also doesn’t have as much experience as his teammate. That could be interpreted two ways by Baalke and Co. They may conclude Dodd’s too green or that he has an intriguing upside. Both are very good against the run. The Bee.
OLB/DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson.
NFL.com reported that the 49ers and Panthers are among the teams Lawson will visit in coming weeks. Lawson reportedly did not look as fluid as Dodd when put through linebacker drills at the Clemson pro day. The 49ers will have to figure out whether Lawson, who measured 6-3, 269 pounds, can play the position. He had 12 1/2 sacks and 25 1/2 tackles for loss last season. His arms, though, don't fit the long-limbed mold preferred by Baalke and Chip Kelly mold. They measured 32 3/4 inches. UPDATE: Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller reported that Baalke worked out Lawson on Thursday, March 24.
DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
Nkemdiche is explosive and athletic and similar to 2015 first-round pick Leonard Williams, who was picked sixth by the Jets. Evaluators will have to do a little extra digging after he fell 15 feet from an hotel-room window in December, was charged with marijuana possession and suspended from the team’s bowl game. Nkemdiche is 6-3, 294 with 33 7/8-inch arms and 10 3/4-inch hands and projects to a DE in the 49ers 3-4 scheme. The Bee
ILB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame.
Per Bleacher Report, the 49ers will host Smith, who would have been competing with UCLA’s Myles Jack to be the first linebacker selected if not for an ACL/LCL tear in Notre Dame’s Jan. 1 bowl game. Mult-ligament tears take longer to heal than ACL injuries, and it’s more difficult to return to full strength after them. It’s unlikely that Smith will play in 2016. The 49ers -- no strangers to drafting injured players -- must weigh the risks and determine when they might take a chance on someone like Smith. Bleacher Report
WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss*
At 6-2, 221 pounds, he has the big body and long arms (33 3/8 inches) both Baalke and Kelly like. He's generally considered the top receiver in the draft after finishing 2015 with 82 catches, 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns. *The 49ers may be visiting Treadwell for a workout instead of him heading to Santa Clara; that is still being sorted out. The Bee.
In addition, Baalke and Kelly have observed and met with scores of players at college all-star games, the combine and at their pro days. The team, for example, has a private workout with Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, already saw two throwing sessions by Cal quarterback Jared Goff and are scheduled to visit North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz as well.