San Francisco 49ers

49ers combine notes: Which front-line defenders stand out in Indy?

Eastern Kentucky defensive lineman Noah Spence runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016. (AP
Eastern Kentucky defensive lineman Noah Spence runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016. (AP AP

It's believed that Ohio State's Joey Bosa will be the first pass rusher taken in the draft and may be the first player selected overall. But his numbers today at the scouting combine were just ho-hum for a 269-pound pass rusher. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.87 seconds and had a 32-inch vertical leap. Neither is impressive, though his 4.21-second 20-yard shuttle and 6.89-second three-cone run were among the best in his group.

A number of agents at the combine said privately that they thought Bosa was overhyped. Agents always try to pump up their own guys and tear down everyone else's. But Bosa's numbers, coupled with his pedestrian five sacks in 2015 (he had 13.5 the year prior), conceivably could cause him to slip a bit. In scout parlance, Bosa appears to be a case of 'high floor, low ceiling.' Would someone who is so scheme-diverse, who faced excellent competition and who seems like an ultra-safe pick fall all the way to the 49ers at pick No. 7? Probably not. But no one thought Michael Crabtree would fall to No. 10 in 2009, either.


The consensus second-best pass rusher, Bosa's one-time teammate Noah Spence, started off well in Indianapolis. His arms (33 inches) were two inches longer than what was recorded last month at the Senior Bowl. And he came off in his interviews, including the one in front of the media, as sincere and contrite over the failed drug tests that got him kicked out of Ohio State.

But his workout numbers also were ordinary. Spence has been likened to Von Miller. The latter, however, ran his 40 in 2011 in 4.53 seconds. Spence, who weighed 251 pounds, ran his in 4.80 seconds. The 49ers certainly could use a talented pass rusher. But at pick no. 7? It's hard to see them grabbing a player who is shorter and lighter than their physical profile for the position, who played most recently at a small school (Eastern Kentucky) and who had trouble staying out of trouble in college.


Robert Nkemdiche had the opposite experience at the combine. The big, interior defensive lineman from Mississippi didn't seem all that contrite about the December episode in which he fell out of a hotel window in Atlanta, was charged with marijuana possession and was suspended for his team's bowl game. He said he took "the fall" -- yikes, choose your words carefully -- because the room was registered in his name. He was merely drunk, he said.

That's a shame because Nkemdiche has the talent to be the second interior defensive lineman taken (behind former Chip Kelly recruit DeForest Buckner). His combine bolstered the impression that he is perhaps the most explosive defensive player in the draft. At 294 pounds, he ran his 40 in 4.87 seconds (the same as Bosa) with an equally impressive 1.68-second 10-yard split. He also had a 35-inch vertical jump (again, at 294 pounds), which is what scouts use to help measure a player's explosion. Spence leaped 35 inches at 251 pounds.


Who had the best combine among those on the defensive front? It might have been Emmanuel Ogbah from Oklahoma State. At 6-4, 273 pounds, he ran his 40 in 4.62 seconds and his 10-yard split of 1.59 seconds tied for top honors among the defensive linemen. He might not have the balance and flexibility of Aldon Smith, whom the 49ers took at pick No. 7 in 2011. Then again, he's also unlikely to be on hand when the 49ers pick in the second round. He had 13 sacks last season.


Ohio State inside linebacker Darron Lee ran his 40-yard dash in 4.47-seconds, which is Patrick Willis-like in terms of speed. He also is unlikely to be around when the 49ers pick in the second round.


So who might the 49ers find in Round 2? One possibility is TCU receiver Josh Doctson, who at 6-2, 202 lbs. seems to have the size Chip Kelly likes and who looked fluid and sure-handed on Saturday. That Doctson ran his 40-yard dash in an OK-but-not-dazzling 4.50 seconds might get him to the second round. Of course, he also had a position-best 41-inch vertical leap.


Following a report by the league-owned NFL Network that Cleveland and Houston had shown interest in trading for Colin Kaepernick, newspapers in those cities today said there was no interest, at least not at this time. As was written yesterday, it doesn't seem that the trade market for Kaepernickwill be red hot, especially after he signaled he doesn't want to be with the 49ers. But it's also important to remember that a trade can't happen until March 9. Teams may: A.) be wary of expressing trade interest until that date, B.) be wary of pumping up the market for Kaepernick to their own detriment, C.) Both A and B.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at