49ers

From Eli to Jimmy G, 49ers' new center ready to protect Garoppolo

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USATSI

From Eli to Jimmy G, 49ers' new center ready to protect Garoppolo

New 49ers center Weston Richburg will be joining what he has heard is a good group of offensive linemen, led by six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, the longest-tenured 49ers player.

Richburg, 26, said he is also looking forward to working closely with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, 26. The 49ers expect the players to be on the field a lot together over the coming seasons. Garoppolo and Richburg both signed five-year contracts through the 2022 season this offseason.

When asked on The 49ers Insider Podcast if the organization’s long-term commitment to Garoppolo had any influence on his decision to come to the Bay Area after four seasons with the New York Giants, Richburg answered, “Doesn’t hurt.”

“You look at of the teams that have a lot of success -- the team he just came from, what I just came from -- there are two quarterbacks on those teams that have been there who have had success who work extremely hard at their craft,” Richburg said. “So I think see that in Jimmy. I’m excited to be a little part of what he does.”

Richburg played out of position at left guard in his rookie season. Over the next two years, he started 31 of 32 games at center, in front of two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning. Garoppolo came to the 49ers in an October trade from New England after spending most of his 3 1/2 NFL seasons behind Tom Brady.

Richburg said he expects to develop a good rapport with his quarterback – a must for an offense to function at a high level.

“If it’s bad, I think it can hurt you,” Richburg said of the center-quarterback dynamic. “But if it’s good, it can help.

“I think we’re going to have a good relationship. We’re around the same age. I think we’ll be able to pick each other’s brains, feed off each other, work together. That’s part of the position of center that I like the most is kind of the cerebral part of it and working with a quarterback, getting everything situated, getting everything running.”

Richburg started just four games last season and finished the season on injured reserve with a concussion. He said it was the first concussion he has experienced and is feeling good.

“It was new territory,” Richburg said, “but I’m feeling very good right now. I’m excited. I think I got a little more itch to go play football right now since it’s been a little longer for me.”

Stanford's Meeks dreams of learning from 49ers' Sherman

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AP

Stanford's Meeks dreams of learning from 49ers' Sherman

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers are likely to select a cornerback within the first three rounds of next week’s NFL Draft.

Stanford’s Quenton Meeks would like nothing more than to be chosen, so he can continue to learn from one of his mentors.

“Richard Sherman is a Hall of Famer, and we have similar body types.” Meeks said. “All of our combine numbers – it’s kind of scary – it’s almost identical in all of them.”

Meeks (6-foot-2, 205) has the size the 49ers want from a cornerback in this scheme. At the combine in 2011, Sherman, who also attended Stanford, measured 6-3, 195. Meeks ran the three-cone drill at 6.72, compared to Sherman’s 6.82. Meeks’ 20-yard shuttle was 4.23, while Sherman’s was 4.33.

“He even told me I remind him of himself, so that was the biggest compliment I’ve gotten,” Meeks said Wednesday at the 49ers' local pro day at Levi's Stadium. "I look up to him so much, and I try to model my game after him. He’s so smart. He’s always a step ahead.”

Meeks said he expects to selected in the second or third round, and the 49ers are among the teams that have shown the most interest during the pre-draft process.

“That would be a dream come true, honestly – just to learn from the best,” Meeks said of Sherman. “I think he’s still the best corner in the game right now. It takes someone who really knows how to study corners to see what he does really well. He always disrupts the receivers. The amount of times he gets thrown at during a game is very little, because if you throw at him, there’s a big chance it’s going to get intercepted.”

Meeks said he spoke with Sherman during the season to get some tips before a game against Arizona State. He wanted some advice on going up against 6-4 wide receiver N’Keal Harry.

Harry, who caught 82 passes for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns on the season, was held to just three receptions for 40 yards against Stanford. None of the receptions came when Meeks was in coverage against him, he said.

"He really helped me," Meeks said. "I asked him, in particular, one game I was playing this bigger receiver, so I asked him for some tips. He gave some tips, and I locked down that game and didn't allow a single catch."

Five NFL Draft options for 49ers at No. 9

Five NFL Draft options for 49ers at No. 9

The 49ers always knew there was a chance they would be without Reuben Foster for at least a portion of the 2018 season.

But, now, after the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office last week filed two felony domestic violence charges and one felony charge of possession of an assault weapon, the 49ers must prepare as if they will never see him on the football field again.

The 49ers signed veteran inside linebackers Brock Coyle and Korey Toomer during free agency. And there figure to be plenty of options as the 49ers look to fortify the middle of their defense in next week’s draft, too.

There could be two enticing possibilities at linebacker in front of the 49ers when their turn comes up in the first round with the No. 9 overall pick. Here are five legitimate options for the 49ers if they remain in their original draft slot:

1. LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
There might not be a player in the draft with more upside than Edmunds, who is big (6-5, 253), exceptionally athletic and will not turn 20 until the week after the draft.

Any team that Edmunds him will have the opportunity to mold him into their system at whichever of the many positions he has the skills to play. He can line up at any of the linebacker spots, and he also has untapped potential as a pass-rusher.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh could have a lot of fun with the options of how to deploy Edmunds in the 49ers’ scheme.

2. LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
The advantage Edmunds has over Smith is his size. Smith is a bit on the small side (6-1, 236). But that’s about the only knock on him.

In addition to his unique athleticism (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds at the NFL scouting combine), Smith also is a leader with great instincts and football smarts. While he probably could step in and play middle linebacker, he is likely a better fit for the weakside position.

3. DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
The 49ers like Jimmie Ward because of his ability to play all five positions in the secondary. Fitzpatrick is much the same way -- but only bigger, better and, seemingly, more durable.

Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are entering the final seasons of their contracts, so the addition of Fitzpatrick would make sense. He can step and in immediately compete with K’Waun Williams at nickel back or linebacker in the 49ers' sub packages. He play either of the 49ers’ safety positions. In a pinch, he might also be able to play cornerback. Fitzpatrick would be an outstanding asset within the 49ers’ three-deep zone due to his ability to make game-changing plays.

4. DE Harold Landry, Boston College
The more time the 49ers spent on Landry, the more they were sure to like him. He had his breakout season as a junior, recording 16.5 sacks. But his return for his senior season did not turn out as planned.

Teams were left scratching their heads about how his production fell off so dramatically. But a lot of his decline can be traced to an ankle injury that limited his effectiveness. Landry recorded five sacks in eight games.

His stock rose with an exceptional workout at the combine. His size (6-3, 252) is not a huge concern for the 49ers, who would play him at their pass-rush end position. He has all the other attributes of an elite edge rusher with his eye-popping 20- and 60-yard shuttles and three-cone drill.

5. DE Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio
Do the 49ers really need another tall defensive lineman? They selected Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner in back-to-back years, then drafted another defensive lineman, Solomon Thomas, with the No. 3 overall pick last year.

Davenport, however, is different. He is a legitimate pass-rush threat. And that’s an element the 49ers need to add to their defense. Davenport (6-6, 264) was a stand-up rusher in college. He got away with simply being the biggest and best at his level in college.

The star potential is there. He could be a home run. But there is probably a lower downside than with many of the other players the 49ers will consider with the No. 9 overall pick.