Baalke: Late-round DBs caught 49ers' attention

May 17, 2011, 5:25 pm
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May 17, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comSANTA CLARA -- Through the typically mundane process of cataloging 40-yard dash times at pro days, the 49ers became aware of two defensive backs they targeted with late-round picks.Safety Colin Jones of Texas Christian and cornerback Curtis Holcomb of Florida A&M were solid college players, all right.Jones was a second-team Mountain West selection as a senior, while Holcomb was a first-team All-Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference honoree as a sophomore and a second-teamer his junior and senior seasons.But neither was viewed as a potential draft pick until both demonstrated NFL-quality speed at their pro days to go along with size and smarts. Then, when the 49ers checked out the video of their game action, scouts and coaches determined both had unique qualities to offer.Jones' future in the NFL is directly tied to his ability to run down on kickoffs and punts to make tackles for 49ers new special-teams coordinator Brad Seely.RELATED: The Colin Jones File
"When we went out and got coach Seely, one of the questions he had in the process was, 'Are we going to be able to carry one or two or three core (special) teams guys?'" 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said.Jones could be one of the answers to that question. In fact, Baalke said he believes Jones can be one of the NFL's elite special teams player."When you look at the measurable, he's 6-foot, 210 pounds, runs low 4.4s and you can see it on film," Baalke said during his annual film review of the team's draft picks. "He loves special teams. You look at the TCU film, covering kicks, covering punts, he's the first one down and he's not afraid of contact."Jones will learn strong safety upon his arrival with the club, but the 49ers are not expecting a whole lot from him on defense. Eventually, Baalke said, Jones might be able to develop into the 49ers' dime linebacker -- a job veteran safety Michael Lewis held until he quit the team early last season. After Holcomb's impressive showing at his pro day, the 49ers began doing some catchup work to learn more about the player who opened their eyes late in the draft process."He's similar to Phillip Adams (the 49ers' seventh-round pick in 2010 from South Carolina State)," Baalke said. "He's from a smaller school and a little unknown. But at his pro day, he has a real good workout."RELATED: The Curtis Holcomb file
The 49ers saw what they deemed as a "plus workout" from Holcomb. (Baalke declined to outline the exact measurables that caused them to take notice.) But when a player with certain size, speed and agility opens their eyes, they go back to game film to learn more about the player.Director of pro personnel Tom Gamble and his staff, including pro personnel scout Ryan Myers, compiled cutups of Holcomb that demonstrated NFL-quality attributes."What we're looking for is the quickness," Baalke said, while showing film of Holcomb. "(It's the) same thing we saw last year in Phillip when we were (scouting) Phillip -- the quickness, the close."And, then, when the 49ers dug a little deeper, they were blown away with Holcomb's intangibles. Holcomb, the eldest of eight children, was voted as a team captain at Florida A&M for each of his four college seasons."I don't know that anybody in our building has ever heard of it, a guy who's been a four-time captain at the college level," Baalke said. "He's all about football. He's a very smart young man and competitive."RELATED: 49ers' post draft depth chart
The 49ers were not disappointed in Adams' rookie season. He made the team and worked his way onto the field on defense and special teams before sustaining a broken ankle late in the season. Adams' rehab from that injury is on schedule, according to his agent and the 49ers.Holcomb, as most of the 49ers' 10 draft picks, will be required to follow the same path -- beginning with strong work on special teams. "All these guys we feel very comfortable that the value of the pick was the right value," Baalke said. "Now they have to come here and they got to do it. That's the bottom line. The picks have been made and it's up to them now to come in and prove they're worthy of where they were picked." GM Trent Baalke is scheduled to appear Tuesday at 5 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's "Chronicle Live." The program is scheduled to re-air Tuesday at 11 p.m.