49ers study draft-eligible players returning from injuries

49ers study draft-eligible players returning from injuries
April 17, 2014, 9:15 am
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Defensive tackle Dominique Easley (6 foot 2, 288 pounds) sustained a torn right ACL during practice in September. In November 2011, he tore his left ACL. (USATI)

Editor’s note: In the lead-up to the NFL draft (May 8-10) bookmark this page to keep tabs on which players the 49ers have had reported contact

With 11 picks and not a whole lot of room for first-year contributors, the 49ers last year drafted three players who were coming off significant injuries.

After selecting defensive linemen Tank Carradine (knee), Quinton Dial (toe), and running back Marcus Lattimore (knee), the 49ers could again be in the market for players whose values are diminished due to injury concerns.

On Thursday, the 49ers were represented at Florida for defensive tackle Dominique Easley’s workout.

Easley (6 foot 2, 288 pounds) sustained a torn right ACL during practice in September. In November 2011, he tore his left ACL. Despite his injury history, Easley could be a second- or third-round selection.

Easley is one possibility for the 49ers, who own three third-round draft picks and six of the first 100 selections in the May 8-10 draft.

Here are some of the other top options for the 49ers if they're looking to find value among players who are returning from injuries:

Guard Brandon Thomas, Clemson: He sustained a torn ACL during a workout with the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago. Thomas (6-2 ¼, 317) was viewed as a mid-round pick prior to the injury. With Mike Iupati entering the final year of his contract, the 49ers could select Thomas a little later and keep him on the non-football injury list for the entire season, which would keep him under contract to the 49ers for four more seasons.

Cornerback Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma: He was having an outstanding beginning to Senior Bowl week in January when he sustained a torn right ACL during a practice. Colvin has good height (5-11) and was a three-year starter. The 49ers figure to take a cornerback early in the draft. Colvin, who has a visit scheduled with the 49ers for a physical, could be a target in the later rounds.

Cornerback Antone Exum, Virginia Tech: His teammate, Kyle Fuller, is a legitimate option for the 49ers as a first-round draft pick. Exum is likely to be available on the third day of the draft. Exum (5-11 ½, 213) sustained a torn ACL in January 2013 in a pickup basketball game. Exum's official Virginia Tech athletic bio includes this nugget: “Was cleared on Sept. 30 by Dr. James Andrews to make a full return to play, but opted not to dress for the North Carolina and Pittsburgh games.” He also missed games with an ankle sprain, as he appeared in just three games in his final season.

Safety Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama: He sustained a torn ACL on Oct. 19 and, surprisingly, declared early for the draft. He figures to be a late-round pick. While he would not be viewed as a factor on defense, he could be a less-expensive option as a core special-teams player.

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