This knowledge of incoming rookies, however, has picked up rapidly. The familiarity process with the 2014 crop of prospects truly began in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The 49ers make it a point to have members of the coaching staff interact with as many players as possible. The coaches spent time with prospects during informal combine interviews and on-field drills inside of Lucas Oil Stadium.
If you happened to watch NFL Network’s combine coverage, you may have noticed 49ers offensive line coach Mike Solari leading o-line drills. You also might have caught linebackers coach Jim Leavitt leading his position group through movement drills.
It’s all by design.
“It’s great for them because it’s the first time the coaches have exposure to the kids unless they’ve coached them,” Matt Malaspina, San Francisco’s director of college scouting told 49ers.com.
Indianapolis is the first place the coaches will get to know about a “prospective employee.”
The informal interviews at the combine are a valuable portion of the introduction process. The field drills, on the other hand, serve as an even greater benefit for the 49ers.
“You try to involve (coaches) in every way,” Malaspina shared. “It’s one thing to watch, it’s another thing to be in the action. You get a better feel for it. You get a better feel for how a kid competes. You get a better feel for his strength level because you are right next to them.”
Jim Harbaugh also has solid familiarity of this year’s draft class from his time coaching at Stanford.
“It helps,” San Francisco’s head coach said at the combine. “I feel like it still does. There are players that are now in this class – I didn't coach them, I recruited them and some I did coach. So I continue to know guys that went to other schools.”
Harbaugh has developed a combine routine during his time with the 49ers. He typically watches combine drills by sitting next to his brother, John Harbaugh, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens.
The field tests stand as one of the most important parts of the combine for coaches to observe. Harbaugh, in particular, values the 60 formal interviews that take place at the player’s hotel in downtown Indianapolis.
“It's one of my most enjoyable experiences of the year, getting knee-to knee with these youngsters and talking to them,” he said.
Harbaugh is not the only coach who benefited from the week at the combine. The entire staff, which now includes Eric Mangini as tight ends coach and Reggie Davis as an assistant offensive line coach, started to begin a solid foundation of understanding the pros and cons of future NFL newcomers.