Coby Fleener watched from the sidelines as National Football League prospects with Bay Area ties worked out in front of 49ers coaches and scouts at Wednesday’s local pro day.
The Stanford tight end, considered by many to be a potential fit for San Francisco’s No. 30 overall selection in the first-round of the 2012 NFL Draft, was the highest-profile player in attendance.
However, Fleener, who’s met with less than 10 teams during the pre-draft process, elected to not participate in drills.
So why did Fleener attend the workout?
“To meet with coaches, kind of say hello, and get to know everyone,” said the 6-foot-4, 244-pound tight end who was recruited to Stanford by 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Fleener was also there to support his Cardinal teammates looking to make an impression on the 49ers staff.
“From what I saw, a lot of guys from Stanford were doing very well,” Fleener said.
One of those prospects was safety Delano Howell. The hard-hitting 5-foot-11, 210-pound prospect said he’s open to being reunited with 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, his former Stanford coordinator for Delano’s junior year.
“It’s definitely an honor to perform in front of Lord Fangio,” Howell said. “He’s a genius on the defensive side and I had a great opportunity to play under him two years ago. It was definitely great seeing him again.”
There wasn’t much time to exchange pleasantries during the workout.
After players were measured and warmed up, 40-yard dashes and 3-cone drills were timed on the team’s turf practice fields. Later, the players moved on to the newly installed overseeded-Bermuda practice fields for competitive circuit drills.
For Howell, the stations brought him back to his college days playing under the likes of Harbaugh and Fangio.
“We set a foundation of competing at Stanford,” Howell explained. “It was nothing new. I always enjoy the opportunity to compete.”
In turn, Harbaugh appreciated the efforts of Howell, his former Stanford players in attendance, as well as the 50-plus players working out.
“I thought it was better than last year’s group,” Harbaugh declared. “And last year’s group had, I think, I’m just estimating, six to 10 guys that made it on NFL teams last year.
“I think there was a better talent pool this year. Guys were very competitive. They worked very hard out here and there’s going to be some serious conversation based on what we saw here today on several guys.”
Generally speaking, Harbaugh’s drafting criteria involves finding good players willing to compete.
Harbaugh wants, “Guys who can come in and compete, earn a spot on the football team, contribute.”
As for where they’re drafted specifically and how much they’re able to offer, that all goes to the wayside according the NFL’s reigning Coach of the Year.
“What pick they’re going to be, really the only time that’s important is on the draft,” Harbaugh said. “After that, it becomes completely irrelevant. It’s just a matter of who can play or not. Were they a good player? Were they able to make the football team? Were they able to contribute?
“That’s what we hope to get out of the draft, players who can compete for those positions on the team.”
Harbaugh said he’s grown from having experienced last year’s draft. He also has a better of idea of what it’s like working with general manager Trent Baalke and the 49ers personnel department.
“I feel like we all know how each other works and we all have confidence in each other, just a tremendous amount of confidence in Trent and our entire scouting department.”
Players like Fleener want to be a part of what the 49ers are doing.
“I think it’s an up and coming program,” said the tight end who will attend the draft in New York City. “To see what they did last year, it was fun to watch, from both the fan perspective and having the connection with the coaching staff. A lot of guys from Stanford became fans of the 49ers.”
Now it remains to be seen how much the 49ers are fans of Fleener.
No matter what happens in the first round, it’ll always be a challenge to find the best player with the No. 30 overall pick.
“There are a lot of good guys we’d love to have at that pick,” Harbaugh said. “Having been through this once, most of the guys that you recognize as great football players are going to be playing against you.
“That’s just a fact of business.”