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2011 NFL Draft Projections: Owen Marecic

Owen Marecic is one of the top-rated fullbacks in this year's NFL Draft.
Owen Marecic is one of the top-rated fullbacks in this year's NFL Draft.

All week I'll be previewing Stanford prospects in the 2011 NFL Draft, which begins Thursday.

Most scouts agree that Owen Marecic--former Stanford linebacker, fullback, Heisman vote-getter, and Paul Hornung Award winner--has a future playing on Sundays. The biggest question concerning the two-way throwback entering this week's NFL Draft is just how long the man who dubbed him the "perfect football player" will wait to grab him.

Marecic to the San Francisco 49ers, where he would be reunited with Jim Harbaugh and study under the tutelage of running backs coach and former Niners fullback great Tom Rathman, makes too much sense. Harbaugh's love for Marecic is well documented and the Niners have 12 picks in the draft, including five in rounds 4-6, which is where most pundits are predicting Marecic will be taken.

NFLDraftScout.com ranks Marecic as the third-best fullback in the draft behind Tulsa's Charles Clay and USC's Stanley Havili, and projects he'll be drafted in the fifth round. ESPN.com ranks Marecic as the fourth-best fullback available behind Clay, Georgia's Shaun Chapas and UConn's Anthony Sherman. ESPN's scouting report gives Marecic high marks for his toughness--surprise, surprise--but rates his inside run skills and blocking skills as merely average, and his receiving skills as below average. Sideline Scouting and Draft Countdown rank Marecic as the top fullback in the draft, while SB Nation's Mocking the Draft ranks Marecic as the 141st-most talented player.

It will be a surprise if Marecic's name is called during the first three rounds. The fourth round is where fans at Niners Nation, most of whom seem keen on the idea of San Francisco drafting Marecic, think the fullback will go. It won't be a complete shock if Marecic slips to a later round. Teams rarely head into the draft with the intention of using a pick on a fullback. In fact, there were more punters taken in the 2010 NFL Draft than true fullbacks. John Conner, who stood out for his vicious hits during HBO's Hard Knocks series as a rookie, was the first true fullback off the board last year. Conner, who is aptly nicknamed theTerminator, went in the fifth round (139th overall) to the New York Jets. Four-time Pro Bowler Tony Richardson, who was competing with Conner for the starting job, went undrafted out of Auburn in 1994.

In addition to the 49ers, another team that could be targeting a fullback in the later rounds is the New Orleans Saints.

My projection: Fourth round, to the 49ers.