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Jim Harbaugh is always the center of attention, and he is certainly the biggest name attending Northwestern University’s pro day on Tuesday in Evanston, Ill.
After all, Northwestern does not exactly have NFL prospects in huge quantities as the draft approaches. Their top prospect, according to NFLDraftScout.com, is kicker Jeff Budzien.
Even with veteran Phil Dawson unsigned, it seems out of the ordinary that a head coach would scout a kicker who is expected to be either a late-round pick or signed as an undrafted free agent.
More than likely, Harbaugh is there to watch Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, whom Northwestern allowed to throw at their gathering at the team’s indoor practice facility. Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien, whose club needs a quarterback, is also in attendance to watch Garoppolo. The 49ers and Texans both paced Garoppolo through private workouts prior to his pro day, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reported.
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Garoppolo (6 foot 2 ¼, 226 pounds) is a hot commodity after a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine. Former Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian, now working as an ESPN analyst, recently projected Garoppolo as a first-round draft pick.
The 49ers certainly have a need at the backup quarterback position. McLeod Bethel-Thompson is the only quarterback currently behind Colin Kaepernick on the 49ers’ roster.
The 49ers’ top three draft picks are currently at Nos. 30, 56 and 61, and Harbaugh’s attendance at Garoppolo’s pro day suggests the team has not ruled out selecting a quarterback within the first couple days of the May 8-10 draft.
Garoppolo completed 66 percent of his passes for 5,050 yards with 53 touchdowns and nine interceptions for Eastern Illinois, which finished the season with a 12-2 record. EIU was upset by Towson State in the FCS quarterfinals.