San Francisco 49ers: Five Players to Watch at the NFL Combine
The NFL Scouting Combine allows players to boost their stock with on-field drills and show teams their football knowledge in private meetings. Every team is allowed to interview 45 prospects in a closed-door setting during the week in Indianapolis.
By in large, all the top draft prospects will be in attendance with 300 in total, but finding the diamond in the rough is where most teams will get their best value. Last year, the 49ers hit big on their 2019 draft class and the evaluation process has a vital role in doing so once again.
Players will arrive to the combine on Feb. 23, but workouts don't begin until Feb. 27.
Here are five players to watch at the NFL Combine that make sense for the 49ers' draft purposes.
Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
Most players from division two programs aren't household names entering the combine, and Dugger isn't exactly that just yet. Although, after he answered numerous questions at the Senior Bowl, showing he can play to the level of other prospects coming from power-five programs, he's put himself into consideration as a top safety in this year's draft class.
Dugger is held to high regard, with expectations of being one of the better athletes to test out at Lucus Oil Stadium. The small school product caught the attention of evaluators when he put his versatility on display, playing safety, linebacker, running back, and returning kicks at Lenoir-Rhyne University. Dugger has already helped himself through the early stages of the scouting process, and the combine is another step that gives him the potential to sneak into the end of round one with a quality week of testing.
Dugger would provide the 49ers defense with a player who can roam the secondary, while also contributing to the team's efforts in run support playing box safety.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Brandon Aiyuk has received plenty of first-round buzz after filling the shoes of N'Keal Harry as ASU's primary offensive weapon. He picked up right where Harry left off, posting adequate numbers towards the top of the Pac-12 conference in many statistical categories. His 2019 season ended with 1,192 receiving yards, ranking second in the Pac-12. His efforts also went on to accumulate 226 punt yards and a 31.9 average of kick return yards, which both tallied inside the top three in the conference.
Aiyuk's combine has instrumental weight towards his draft stock after he was forced to pull out of the Senior Bowl due to a failed physical with a hip issue. Everything suggests that the hangup with his hip has been put behind him, but he'll be heavily looked over after not being able to participate in Mobile, Alabama.
Aiyuk would likely demand a late first to early second-round selection, but in doing so the San Francisco offense would possess two young intriguing pass-catchers on the outside, pairing him with last year's second-round pick Deebo Samuel.
Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame
Troy Pride Jr. was a two-year starter for Brian Kelly while also running track for the Golden Domers. His 2019 season didn't start with much of an acknowledgment as a top draft prospect, but after an impressive Senior Bowl week in which he held every bit of his own, Pride begun receiving more of a widespread recognition due to his blazing speed and sticky coverage ability.
Pride isn't the biggest cornerback, which is why it'll be crucial for him to continue demonstrating his top-end speed during the testing process. Listed at 5-11 and 195 pounds, Pride will be largely judged on his 40-time and capability to change direction with fluidity.
With Richard Sherman already penciled in on one side, Pride would offer quality speed opposite of the 49ers' three-time all-pro cornerback.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
Entering the college ranks out of high school, Donovan Peoples-Jones was the No.1 ranked wide receiver in the country, deeming him a potential early draft pick. However, things haven’t gone accordingly to Peoples-Jones' exact trajectory. Erratic quarterback play and numerous up and down games from Peoples-Jones himself have slotted him towards the mid-rounds as a draft prospect.
The combine could be a large benefit for Peoples-Jones as it will allow him to reiterate what he does best. The former Michigan receiver is allusive after the catch in open space, while also providing a knack to find the open hole on special teams as one of the better returners in all of college football.
Peoples-Jones still has considerable room to grow, but slotting him in as an understudy to Deebo Samuel could help mold his game into being a complementary pass catcher at the next level.
Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois
Southern Illinois University isn't exactly a powerhouse institution that assembles high-end draft talent every season. However, fourth-year safety Jeremy Chinn is a playmaker who's projected to hear his name called within the first two days of this year's draft. Chinn participated in the Senior Bowl last month where he measured in at 6-3, 219 pounds, with a 77-inch wingspan and 32-inch arms. He's quite the physical specimen for safety to say the least.
In his final season at Southern Illinois, Chinn racked up 71 tackles, four interceptions, seven passes defended, and one sack. Chinn continued his ultra-productive college career in 2019 where he set career-highs in almost every statistical category. He'll now be given the opportunity to display his freakish athleticism at the combine in which he projects as a prospect who should fair quite well.
Chinn's large physical stature would fit right in as a defender who could operate against opposing team's tight ends for Robert Saleh's defense.