Cal and Stanford have combined to produce first-round picks in the past four NFL drafts. The process of extending the streak to five begins Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Early draft projections indicate Cal receiver Keenan Allen and Stanford tight end Zach Ertz could go late in the first round or early in the second. For both, the ultimate landing spot depends largely on their 40-yard dash times at the combine and during on-campus workouts.
In all, 11 players from Bay Area schools are expected to participate in the combine. But only Ertz and Allen are considered potential first-rounders.
"It's one word: speed," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said of Allen. "That's the only question scouts have."
They won't get an answer this week.
Allen missed the final three games of the season with a strained knee, then aggravated the injury two weeks ago during a workout in Florida, according to ESPN.
As a result, Allen will undergo medical exams at the combine but won't participate in drills. Instead, he'll reportedly work out for scouts in April at Cal.
His agent, J.T. Johnson, told this newspaper that Allen was examined by renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who provided written confirmation that Allen's knee is stable. Johnson hopes Andrews' evaluation will "put everybody's concerns about his knee to rest."
Allen has been working out in Florida with his half-brother, former Cal quarterback Zach Maynard, who wasn't invited to the combine, and cornerback Marc Anthony, who will participate.
"I'm not really limited as far as intensity," Allen said. "I feel pretty good about the knee. Talking with doctors, they don't feel too concerned."
At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Allen is big enough to extricate himself from press coverage and is an adept runner after the catch. But scouts are curious about his speed.
Mayock suggested Allen as a potential target for Minnesota (No. 23) and perhaps the 49ers (No. 31).
"If you like him, he's Anquan Boldin," Mayock said of the Baltimore Ravens' star. "If you don't like him, he's speed deficient."
Ertz won't race against anyone directly at the combine, but he will have competition. The Monte Vista High School product must separate himself from two other top tight ends: Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert and San Diego State's Gavin Escobar.
"They're what today's tight ends are all about," Mayock said. "It will be interesting to see how the three run. They're all clumped together."
Ertz's versatility as a pass receiver is unquestioned. At Stanford, he lined up in tight and out wide; he caught passes against linebackers and safeties; he ran short, middle and downfield routes; and he made a slew of clutch catches against top teams.
"There aren't a lot of questions to be answered about Zach," said Stanford coach David Shaw, a former NFL assistant.
"How fast is he, exactly? That wouldn't stop me from drafting him. I just want to know. He's one of the guys they're looking at in the first round."
Staff writer Jeff Faraudo contributed to this report. For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at email@example.com or 408-920-5716.
For a list of the Bay Area players who will participate in the NFL scouting combine, go to page 4