The annual scouting combine is around the corner. Over the next week I'll be looking at the players that could tempt the 49ers with their two first-round picks in April. Each of those players has questions that scouts and front-office officials will hope to answer at the combine. Some of them will be answered with a medical test, some in the interview portion. Other answers will come on the field and weight room as players are asked to perform strength and agility drills. As always, NFL Draft Scout's Rob Rang spent a lot of time on the telephone helping me compile the list. Remember, the 49ers pick 13th and either 16th or 17th depending on coin flip with the Titans, which will be conducted at the combine. The list is alphabetical. The first three prospects happen to be junior offensive tackles ...
Brian Bulaga, OT, Iowa, 6-6, 312, junior.
Because Bulaga is an underclassmen, he did not take part in the Senior Bowl and was not weighed and measured there. Scouts obviously will be interested to find out exactly how he and the other underclassmen stack up. Bulaga's biggest question mark is medical. He was diagnosed with a thyroid condition three days after the season opener and missed three games. Bulaga suffered from shortness of breath in practice and was briefly hospitalization. The good news is that he seems to have overcome the issue. His play steadily improved as the year went on, and he had a very good showing in the Orange Bowl against a Georgia Tech team that had one of the best defenses in the country last year. New 49ers offensive line coach Mike Solari said he plans on running both gap and zone-blocking schemes this season. Of all the offensive linemen projected as first-round picks, Bulaga and Maryland's Bruce Campbell seem to have the best feet for zone blocking.
Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland, 6-7, 310, junior.
When I visited the Maryland campus last year for a story on Vernon Davis, I, of course, had to check in with Terps strength coach Dwight Galt. As predicted, Galt gushed about Davis' weight-room prowess. But he also mentioned he had another pupil in Davis' mold. That's Campbell, who like Davis is a muscular, freakish athlete who will put up eye-popping numbers in the weight room. Rang said that Campbell is expected to perform so well in the 40-yard dash and agility tests that if he doesn't it could take him down the boards. In that way, he is a victim of high expectations. The most important part of the combine for Campbell, however, may be the interview process. Campbell only has 17 career starts at Maryland. He missed three starts as a junior last season --his first season as a full-time starter - due to an MCL sprain and turf toe, and he probably could have benefited from another full season. Because of that, there was some surprise that he chose to enter the draft as an underclassmen. Teams will be very interested in how he responds when they ask, "So, why are you here?"
Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers, 6-6, 325, junior.
The interview portion will be perhaps more critical with Davis than any prospect I'll be writing about. There's no question the big offensive lineman has talent, but he didn't have the best work ethic at Rutgers and struggled to maintain his weight. In that way, he's similar to former Alabama offensive lineman Andre Smith. The Bengals, who ended up selecting Smith sixth overall last year, reportedly have a "weight clause" in his contract. Davis, meanwhile, was suspended a game for violating team rules in 2008 and missed a team meeting in 2009. You can bet he'll get grilled about those incidents in Indianapolis. "Those are the types of questions they're going to hit him with," Rang said. "It's all going to come down to the interview with him."
Next up: Brandon Graham, Mike Iupati and Sergio Kindle.
-- Matt Barrows