San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan wouldn't normally get to work on studying the incoming draft class until about a couple of weeks before the NFL Scouting Combine. He is getting a head start this year because the 49ers staff is coaching the South squad during the Senior Bowl on Saturday.

The opportunity is a significant advantage for the 49ers, who head into April's draft with just five picks. They do, however, own the No. 2 overall selection.

"I was walking through the halls and somebody from another team, a personnel executive, said, 'You're cheating. This is like having answers to the test,'" general manager John Lynch said this week via

Cheating may be an exaggeration but, unlike other teams, the 49ers staff will be able to observe the prospects in the meeting rooms in addition to the three open practices, which begin on Tuesday.

Shanahan isn't expecting perfection in those practices. It isn't much time to get over 50 players who have never played together ready to play in a game. There will be mistakes. What Shanahan and the 49ers are looking for is the learning process from each player and how much they improve throughout the week.

"Getting guys in and out of the huddle will always be a challenge," Shanahan told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network before Tuesday's practice. "A lot of them haven't huddled before. Quarterbacks taking snaps under center; I promise you we'll have some fumbled snaps, but the goal is to get it acceptable for the game on Saturday."

As for the advantage the 49ers have over other teams represented in Mobile, Alabama, Shanahan discussed why this week is so important for his staff.

"The biggest thing is spending a week around people," Shanahan said. "Everyone can study tape and watch that, which is what you base most of your stuff off of. But you don't really know if they're going to play like that in the league until you know what type of person they are. That's very hard to figure out at the combine in Indy in a 15-minute interview. It's very hard to figure out over the phone.

"It's not (hard to figure out) when you spend six days with people. It's not really about what happens on the field. We'll be the same as that as anyone just picking it up and studying the tape when they get it. We're the ones who get to spend a lot of time in the meeting rooms with these guys, and that's a huge advantage."

One position where the 49ers are seemingly set is at quarterback. The team should get Jimmy Garoppolo back for the upcoming season while second-year quarterback Nick Mullens proved he can be a viable backup. Then there is former third-round draft pick C.J. Beathard, who will compete with Mullens for that backup job.

Still, that doesn't mean Shanahan and company will ignore evaluating the quarterbacks this week and leading to the draft.

"Even when you have guys, you never skip a year because they come up in free agency," Shanahan said. "You need to compare them to other people anyway. So it's part of the process, but when you find real good ones, it is hard not to fall in love with them."