General manager Trent Baalke said last month the 49er are looking at all avenues when it comes to replacing inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, whose back-to-back retirements last month quickly turned a team strength into a roster question mark.
One of those avenues could be Day 2 of the upcoming draft. The 49ers on Tuesday will host one of the most instinctual defenders in the country when they meet with TCU linebacker Paul Dawson.
Dawson is a bit like Borland, a third-round pick last season, in that his excellent production and game film far surpass how he measured in the run-up to the draft. He had 127 tackles last year for the Horned Frogs and is one of the better linebackers in the draft when it comes to covering tight ends and running backs. He finished the season with five pass break-ups and four interceptions.
Dawson was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year for 2014 and was a member of the first-team All-Big 12 squad.
His performance at the scouting combine, however, did not match how he played on the field. At 6-0, 235 pounds, he ran his 40-yard dash in 4.93 seconds and only managed 28 inches on the vertical jump, a drill that scouts say denotes a player's explosion.
Questions about his character also have been raised with NFL.com's draft preview noting that Dawson was not well-liked in the program. The 49ers likely are using this week's visit to learn more about Dawson's personality.
As of now, the 49ers' starters at inside linebacker appear to be NaVorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite. Bowman is more than 14 months removed from his ACL injury and is on track to fully take part in the team's offseason program. Wilhoite, meanwhile, is on hand for the team workouts but has yet to sign his exclusive rights contract tender. A 16-game starter a year ago, Wilhoite likely wants a long-term deal.
The 49ers have added numbers to the position since Willis' and Borland's departures. They signed Desmond Bishop and Nick Bellore to free-agent contracts, and they have Nick Moody and Shayne Skov on the roster in reserve. However, they've continued to explore more additions, including the draft and free agency.
The 49ers met with Clemson's Stephone Anthony at that school's pro day last month and also have shown interest in Mississippi State's Benardrick McKinney. The team also has met with former Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, who could be added after May 12 when he wouldn't count against the 49ers in the formula for 2016 compensatory picks.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.