Continuing our look at prospective 49ers' first rounders and the hurdles they'll encounter at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. The combine gets going Feb. 25 when the offensive linemen begin making the rounds. As always, thanks to NFL Draft Scout's Rob Rang for helping compile this list. To read about the previous three prospective 49ers, click here.
Brandon Graham, DE-OLB, Michigan, 6-1, 263
Graham had perhaps the best Senior Bowl of any player in Mobile, Ala. last month. And he has plenty of solid game film that proves his Senior Bowl performance was no fluke. What Graham needs to do in Indianapolis is show that he can drop back into coverage as a linebacker, something he rarely did in Ann Arbor and in Mobile. Drills that show Graham's agility - backpedaling, moving laterally - will be critical for him, especially with more teams moving to a 3-4 defense every year. Graham needs to show flexibility in his hips, something the 3-cone drill will help determine. He also would benefit from a strong 40-yard dash. ... In his latest mock draft, Rang doesn't even have Graham in the first round. But that's not because he's not impressed with the Michigan product, whom he says easily has performed like a first-round pick. Instead Rang notes that vertically challenged defensive ends typically are downgraded by NFL teams. "There's a ridiculous willingness to ignore talent and rely too much on the fact that he's too short," Rang said. "He's the exact same guy LaMarr Woodley was two years ago, and he dropped to the second round." I should add that Elvis Dumervil - a Barrows' draft crush in 2006 - fell to the fourth round. Dumervil, who stands 5-11, led the league in 2009 with 17 sacks. Woodley finished with 13 ½ sacks.
Mike Iupati, G, Idaho, 6-5, 325.
Iupati is another guy who showed what he can do at the Senior Bowl. He's strong, and it will be intriguing to see what he can do on the bench press. But he also has long arms, so he's not expected to produce mind-boggling numbers. The only thing that would raise eyebrows is if he finishes the bench press with a number in the teens. To Rang, Iupati's most crucial segment will be the interview section. He comes off as a very nice guy, and that's not always a desirable attribute in NFL circles. Teams that are willing to use a first-round pick on Iupati want to make sure he has an edge and that he has a true passion for football. Iupati could go in the middle of the first round - where the 49ers are picking - if a team is convinced he has what it takes to move to tackle, a la the Chiefs' Branden Albert a couple of years ago. However, it might be hard to see a team taking Iuapti that high if they see him purely as a guard. The basis of comparison is Steve Hutchinson, who was taken 17th overall by the Seahawks in 2001. Hutchinson was ferocious and consistently dominant at a big-time college program, Michigan. There were few doubts about him being dominant at the NFL level. Iupati has flashed Hutchinson-like ability, but has not had the consistency nor has he faced the same caliber of competition. It's worth noting that 49ers GM Scot McCloughan was the Seahawks director of college scouting in 2001.
Sergio Kindle, DE-OLB, Texas, 6-4, 255
Kindle promises to be one of the stars of the combine because his game is based on athleticism. He gets off the line of scrimmage as fast as anyone and his vertical jump - which measures explosiveness - should be impressive. For Kindle, however, the question is instincts. According to Rang, Kindle just didn't seem to find the ball very well, and scouts and general managers will try to get a read on his football intelligence, perhaps having him draw up some Xs and Os on a white board in the meeting rooms. Kindle will have to prove that he's not more of an athlete than he is a football player. He'll also be asked why he decided not to take part in the Senior Bowl.
-- Matt Barrows