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Winners and losers from Indy: Nobody truly standing out at No. 2 for 49ers

Before the real March Madness begins — I’m talking about NFL free agency — it’s time to dump some notes out from the NFL combine.

We’re seven weeks away from the No. 2 overall pick and there’s still no real consensus for who Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch will be selecting as their first building block. New names are entering the discussion. A pair of safeties — LSU’s Jamal Adams, Ohio State’s Malik Hooker — and Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas showed up in Indianapolis, and will garner further discussions in Santa Clara. Two other Alabama stars — defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and linebacker Reuben Foster — could be eliminated all together. We’ll get to the quarterbacks below, but they to are flying back home about where they were slotted coming into the event, aka all over the place.

Because of how outstanding Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett is, the 49ers are in a rare position where there is a legitimate drop-off between pick No. 1 and pick No. 2. It should make using the phones lines to inquire about trading down much more of a real possibility coming out of the combine. This is not to say the prospects are bad at No. 2 overall. The 49ers can still eventually fall in love with a player.

But as draft boards continue to connect an array of prospects to San Francisco, Lynch and Shanahan are realizing they could get a comparable player in the middle of the first round while also stockpiling more draft picks. That’s a solid strategy for a team in the midst of gutting the roster. It’s an even better strategy for a team looking for a quarterback. The extra picks could entice the Redskins or Patriots.

Shanahan told reporters his goal during this week-long event was to get to know players personally, as opposed to quzzing them on schemes and terminology. San Francisco will have time to catch their breath, but the work is still going on for Lynch’s scouting department. Without further ado, here are some combine winners and losers.

Winners

Myles Garrett — Half-man, half-mutant. Garrett confirmed what most of us believed going into the combine: He’s by far the best player in the draft. His measurables match the tape. Per NFL Research: Taller than Julio Jones; Heavier than Rob Gronkowski; Quicker than Devonta Freeman; Faster than Jarvis Landry. Couple that with his college production, his ceiling is nearing Von Miller territory. Pass rushers like this don’t come out in every draft. The Cleveland Browns would be foolish to pass up on Garrett, but we are talking about the Browns. If Garrett were to somehow slip to No. 2 overall to the 49ers, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan would have to decide whether they want a franchise cornerstone, or multiple first round draft picks. The phone lines would be ringing off the hook — and they already might be for the Browns.

The quarterbacks — Nobody did anything to dramatically tip their stock one way or the other. I heard the best things overall about Deshaun Watson, who confidently stands by his tape as a quarterback that can make all the throws. Mike Mayock lauded him for accuracy and great footwork during his throwing session. He’s been the No. 1 quarterback on my board the entire offseason. I reported the 49ers were swooning over DeShone Kizer’s deep ball accuracy, but the quarterback didn’t match his interview hype in the throwing workout Saturday. He had a chance to separate himself but didn’t, and seems more like a second-round pick than a first. Depending on who you talk to, Davis Webb’s stock is all over the place — from late in the first round to early fourth. The Browns are cognizant of the pressure their fan base is putting on them to draft hometown hero Mitch Trubisky and he could be the first quarterback off the board in a trade up scenario. Patrick Mahomes’ arm strength and it-factor confidence make him the ultimate wild card. The guessing game at QB did not get much clearer at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

John Ross — It took seven years to tear down Chris Johnson’s 40-yard dash record, but Ross claimed the fastest time (4.22) in NFL history. The University of Washington receiver is now a virtual lock for the first round, and he’ll likely be the first one off the board now.

The Browns No. 12 pick — This is now the pressure point in the draft where quarterbacks could start flying off the board. The 49ers, Bears and Jets are all chasing Mike Glennon right now and whoever ends up with him will probably be less inclined to take the plunge of taking a quarterback top 10. The Jets haven’t taken an offensive player in the first round since Mark Sanchez in 2009. San Francisco and Chicago have needs at nearly every other position. NFL Network’s Mike Silver reported Hue Jackson does not think his quarterback will be there at No. 12.

Leonard Fournette — If there’s one player the 49ers will be able to use as a leverage of their own, it’s this year’s version of Ezekiel Elliot. If we re-did the 2016 NFL Draft, Elliot would be the first pick. The franchise running back category is making a comeback. There are people in NFL buildings who genuinely think Fournette is a 1,500-yard a year, MVP type of candidate player. The NFL is a copycat league and there could be a team — Carolina? — willing to rip a page from Jerry Jones’ playbook at running back. If Lynch and Shanahan truly aren’t in love with any player at No. 2, using Fournette as bait makes a ton of sense. A poor vertical jump won’t hurt this stallion’s stock.

Losers

Reuben Foster — He walked into Indy with a shot at convincing Lynch and Shanahan he was worthy of becoming the centerpiece of the defense next to NaVorro Bowman, but left being crossed off of some teams’ draft boards. After getting into a verbal altercation with a hospital worker during his medical check, reportedly pulling the “do you know who I am?” card, Foster was asked to fly back to Alabama. The 49ers have said they only want high character men in their refurbished locker room. Okay, having a risky personalities is permitted, but not with the first draft pick of your new regime.

Jonathan Allen — Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller tweeted medical concerns with Allen’s shoulders will push him down to the middle rounds. A consensus top five talent in nearly every mock draft, Allen has drawn comparisons to Ndamukong Suh. But mediocre testing at the combine is doing him no favors.

Washington Redskins — Scot McCloughan has gone missing in action and it’s a foregone conclusion Kirk Cousins is bolting for greener pastures if he hits the free market in 2018. A contract extension to head coach Jay Gruden — announced at 11:35 eastern on a Saturday — was a desperate move to convey stability to free agents. Quarterbacks cost what they cost, Dan Snyder. The Ravens had to pay Joe Flacco. You either pay your guy or you trade him. Those are the only two options to weigh with Cousins, because letting him walk for nothing would be a fire-able offense. If team president Bruce Allen really does have final say on personnel decisions at the moment, that’s a scary and unsettling thought for a franchise we thought was finally in a stable place.

 

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