John Lynch: There's a lot to like in 2017 QB draft class

John Lynch: There's a lot to like in 2017 QB draft class

INDIANAPOLIS – The 49ers will meet with at least the top four quarterback draft prospects this week at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Although the draft is two months away, 49ers general manager John Lynch has already been impressed with what he has seen. The 49ers' top two picks are set for No. 2 and No. 34 overall.

“I think these guys are somewhat getting a bad rap,” Lynch said Thursday. “You turn on the film, and there’s a lot to like.”

The 49ers met Wednesday night with Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer. By the time the combine concludes, the 49ers will also have held 15-minute interviews with North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, Clemon’s Deshaun Watson and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes.

“This whole thing is not about an interview, but if you were grading him on that alone, he blew the doors off,” Lynch said of Kizer. “He’s an impressive young man. His film is very impressive.

“I think the same can be said for Deshaun Watson. You look what he’s done, just putting a team on his shoulders and taking down a great champion. Trubisky, Mahomes, I think it’s a very talented draft class at that position. We’re very excited about those guys. I don’t think you need to be too transparent to realize that’s a position we’re looking at. We don’t have any. That’s a position that’s a big focal point of our preparation and this week is a big part of that.”

Kizer (6 foot 4¼) was the tallest of the quarterbacks invited to the combine. Watson checked in 6-2½. Trubisky checked in over the 6-2 1/8.

“He measured over 6-2, so he made himself some money today, I promise you,” Lynch said of Trubisky.

“He grows on you. The more you watch him, the more you like him.”

Mahomes was the shortest of the quarterbacks at 6-2.

“He’s a guy the film is pretty special,” Lynch said. “We’re excited to watch more and learn more about him.”

Watson has the most decorated college career, leading Clemson to the victory over Alabama in the national championship game. Lynch said he spent time around Watson during Super Bowl week in Houston.

“There are certain guys who just carry themselves differently and have a presence about him,” Lynch said. “I’d put him in that category in the brief time you could just see there’s a confidence and an aura that he carries himself with is pretty special.”

Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season


Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season

Frank Gore is returning home to, in all likelihood, finish his professional football career.

Gore, 34, signed a one-year contract to enter his 14th NFL season with his hometown Miami Dolphins, the team announced Friday.

Gore grew up in Coconut Grove, Florida, and attended Coral Gables High School before playing collegiately at the University of Miami.

He played the first 10 NFL seasons with the 49ers and is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. Gore ranks fifth in NFL history with 14,026 rushing yards – just 75 yards behind No. 4 Curtis Martin.

After rushing for 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns with the 49ers, the club declined to offer him a multi-year contract following the 2014 season. Gore played the past three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

Gore remains one of the most popular players in 49ers history. When asked recently if he would be willing to “retire” as a member of the 49ers after his final game, Gore reacted enthusiastically about the possibility.

1, Emmitt Smith 18,355
2, Walter Payton 16,726
3, Barry Sanders 15,269
4, Curtis Martin 14,101
5, Frank Gore 14,026

49ers increase competition for starting guard positions


49ers increase competition for starting guard positions

The 49ers are the fifth team to give Jonathan Cooper a chance after he arrived in the NFL as the No. 7 overall pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2013 draft.

Cooper, 28, caught the attention of the 49ers with his career-high 13 starts last season with the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers signed him to a one-year, $4.95 million contract this week.

“We signed him to compete for one of the guard spots as a starter,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Thursday at Stanford's pro day. “He played very well in our minds for Dallas last year and kind of resurrected his career. He’s battled injuries, but we really like the way he played, and we think he’s a very good fit for what we do. So we were pleased to add him.”

The 49ers plan to take it slowly this offseason with Cooper, who underwent surgery after tearing the medial-collateral ligament in his left knee during the final game of the season. The 49ers report for the offseason program in mid-April.

The 49ers are certain to have at least two new starters on the offensive line. Former New York Giants center Weston Richburg was signed to replace Daniel Kilgore, who was subsequently traded to the Miami Dolphins. Brandon Fusco, who started 16 games at right guard, signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an unrestricted free agent.

Laken Tomlinson has a chance to hold onto a starting job. Acquired shortly before the start of the regular season in a trade from the Detroit Lions, Tomlinson quickly moved into the starting lineup at left guard and started the final 15 games. Tomlinson was a first-round draft pick of the Lions in 2015.

“Laken played very well the longer he was there,” Lynch said. “I think people forget with Laken, he came here in Week 1. He was kind of force-fed. We didn’t have many options. But we saw a guy get better throughout the season. He’ll get his opportunity.”

Joshua Garnett, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2016, spent last season on injured reserve due to an a knee injury sustained in training camp. The 49ers challenged Garnett to get in better physical condition. He has been cleared for football activity.

“Joshua Garnett has been working extremely hard, so he’ll be in that mix,” Lynch said. “He did a great job embracing the time he has last year to improve as a player. He remade his body and we're looking forward to see him get after it in the offseason.

“I think he’s excited about it. He’s feeling sexy, as he says.”

Erik Magnuson, 24, won a spot on the 49ers’ roster after signing as an undrafted rookie from Michigan. Magnuson could enter into the competition at guard. He displayed unique versatility in his first season, starting two games at right tackle before sustaining a season-ending foot injury. He can also serve as a backup center.

And, perhaps, the 49ers are not finished adding to the competition. The team owns the No. 9 overall selection, and Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson could be on the radar in the unlikely event he is not selected within the top eight picks.

When asked if the 49ers could also add another player to the mix with a draft pick, Lynch answered, “We’ll see. We’re always looking to get better there.”