NFL Combine: 5 Prospects to Watch for the 49ers

After press sessions with head coaches and general managers the past two days, the NFL Scouting Combine moves to the field on Thursday. Here are five players for 49ers fans to watch out for:

Bryan Cook: Security, Cincinnati

Cincinnati safety Bryan Cook (6) plays during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tulsa on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

With Jaquiski Tartt set to be an unrestricted free agent, San Francisco may be in the market for a safety.

The 49ers like their safeties to have the versatility to play in the box or deep. Cook fits into this, playing the slots, just high and even taking snaps on the slots.

A strong tackler, Cook shows the ability to fill lanes against the run while also being able to disrupt receivers in the passing game.

Darian Kinnard: Tackle/Guard, Kentucky

Kentucky offensive tackle Darian Kinnard (70) and guard Austin Dotson (61) prepare to block Mississippi State defenders during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Starkville, Miss., on Saturday, Aug. October 2021. Mississippi State won 31-17. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

San Francisco needs to improve on the offensive line. Kinnard is a natural fit for the 49ers because of his experience playing in an offensive system very similar to Kyle Shanahan’s.

Has shown the ability to thrive in both gap/power and zone run schemes and RPO heavy passing sets

While Kinnard primarily played right tackle for the Wildcats, he projects best at guard in the NFL.

Kinnard started out on the left side as a true freshman, which would allow him to play inside or outside on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

Coby Bryant: Cornerback, Cincinnati

NFL Combine: 5 Prospects to Watch for the 49ers
Cincinnati cornerback Coby Bryant (7) picks up an extra point attempt blocked by Temple kicker Will Mobley and returns it for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, November 23 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Although Emmanuel Moseley and Ambry Thomas played well down the stretch for San Francisco last year, cornerback remains an area of ​​need.

A top athlete, Bryant possesses the size, aggressiveness and natural coverage skills the 49ers look for in their outside corners.

One area of ​​concern with Bryant is his straight-line speed, which is one of the reasons he projects as a late-day two or early-day three prospect.

Bryant earned Thorpe’s bounty as the best cornerback in the country last season.

Alec Lidstrom: Center, Boston University

NFL Combine: 5 Prospects to Watch for the 49ers
Boston College offensive lineman Alec Lindstrom (72) plays against Massachusetts during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Amherst, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The 49ers are set with Alex Mack at center, however for the time being the veteran has mentioned retiring after the 2021 season.

Although John Lynch told Bay Area media Wednesday that the team expects Mack to return for 2022, it makes sense to find a potential replacement in this draft.

The younger brother of Atlanta Falcons guard Christ Lidstrom, his father also played at Boston College and spent three seasons in the NFL.

Lidstrom has the quintessential size and intelligence that Kyle Shanahan looks for in a center. He also shows the ability to exploit the ball and shut down linebackers when he runs down the outside.

Christian Watson: wide receiver, North Dakota State

NFL Combine: 5 Prospects to Watch for the 49ers
North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson (1) applauds to music playing in the stadium during the second half of the FCS Championship NCAA college football game against Montana State, the Saturday, January 8, 2022, in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

San Francisco only has Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk under contract at wide receiver for 2022. Jauan Jennings is an exclusive rights free agent but is expected to return as well. Still, the 49ers have a need at the position.

Watson, 6’5” and 208 pounds, is the kind of big-bodied wide receiver that Kyle Shanahan tends to lean toward, especially in the middle of his depth chart.

During his time with the Bison, Watson lined up in the formation, another facet of his game that makes him attractive to San Francisco. On any play, he can be found wide, in the slot or even in the backfield, and he’s also a dangerous kick returner.

The wide receiver pool in this draft class is very deep, which could push Watson into the middle rounds, a perfect spot for the 49ers to add another receiving threat for Trey Lance.

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NFL Combine: 5 Prospects to Watch for the 49ers