Team Spotlight: San Francisco 49ers
Draft Choices (10 total):
Round 1 (#6)
Round 1 (#22)
Round 3 (#84)
Round 4 (#100)
Round 5 (#140)
Round 6 (#175 and #192)
Round 7 (#213, #236 and #254)
San Francisco is in a place where they have obvious needs for starters at certain spots, and the rest of the spots have no depth. The first thing that sticks out is the lack of an impact playmaker on offense. Alex Smith needs a security blanket--a player who he can count on in 3rd down situations. That player could be a WR or TE. WR is now more of an option with the recent trade of Rashaun Woods. The offensive line looks to be in place with the addition of three starters last year. LT Jonas Jennings was brought in from Buffalo while David Baas and Adam Snyder were day one draft picks. Mostly depth issues along the line, so aside from that playmaker, I'd consider the rest of the offensive needs day two or free agent options.
OT, OG, OC, TE, KR/PR
The defense was way ahead of the offense in 2005, but there are still holes. With Derek Smith re-signed, the run defense is intact and should be stout as it was in '05. NT, MLB and SS need fillers at most. Like the offense, the achilles heel of the 2005 defense was 3rd downs. The 49ers lack a #1 CB and an elite pass-rushing LB. Finding a starter at FS is also a must. With the addition of Sammy Davis at corner, there is less of a need there, but who the #1 guy will be is still a question. Even though Bryant Young is still playing at a high level, a quality DE should be taken if/when value is present.
OLB, FS, CB
Nolan vs. McCloughan
Head Coach Mike Nolan and Player Personnel Director Scot McCloughan are eachothers yin and yang during the draft process. Nolan wants football players more than athletes. His guys have to buy into the system, first and foremost. There is a common term Coach Nolan uses to describe his type of player--accountability.
"We need to draft smart, tough, passionate, committed players who want to make plays. We need more of those," he says. "If they are a step slow or an inch short, I am OK with that. But when I look at them, I want to be able to trust them."McCloughan, a son of a scout, has more of a traditional and sometimes "meat market" view of prospects. To him you have to match up physically with your opponent. If you look at his track record in Seattle and so far in San Francisco, you'll see that McCloughan will take a chance on a prototype athlete. Remember Anton Palepoi? The less charasmatic McCloughan puts it this way;
"I believe it's a big man's game," he says. "You have to be able to hold up over a 16-game schedule in this league."Expect Nolan to be making the calls at the start, but give way to McCloughan on day two. A few projects are sure to be selected with those extra picks in the late rounds.
Senior Bowl Impact
The 49ers coaching staff was in charge of the South squad at the 2006 Senior Bowl. I really like the potential of the 49ers taking a few of these guys in the 2-5 round range. The Senior Bowl wasn't top heavy with talent, but there were some solid NFL starters there. The South was especially deep with tweener rush 'backers and safeties. History has shown us that teams take a high percentage of players they coached at the Senior Bowl. With Mike Nolan's philosophy of the way guys practice, I'm sure this face time was a huge factor in evaluations.
Day One Projection
Round 1, pick #6
Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland
If you take all factors into consideration, Davis makes the most sense. He passes Nolan's test of work ethic. He passes McCloughan's test of prototype size/speed/strength. The x-factor is surrounding Alex Smith with the talent he needs to succeed. "Duke" Davis makes the 49ers better than any other player that will be available at #6. Mario Williams will be long gone, making AJ Hawk and Michael Huff the only other options. Hawk becomes increasingly more valuable with Julian Peterson signing in Seattle and might be the pick if he falls to #6. Huff's value is considerably lower if he's a FS. If he's a CB, there are still questions about his coverage ability due to playing safety at Texas. The final factor is depth at these positions. This is the only opportunity for San Francisco to add that impact offensive playmaker. There is an abundance of 3-4 OLBs in this draft, and DB is one of the most talented positions as well. A starter can be found in round 2 at either spot.
Davis could be the final piece of the future offense in San francisco. It takes offensive players longer to get to full speed. So adding this piece now would give them a chance to jell, while adding impact players on defense going forward.
Trading down from this pick has lost its luster. It would be a disaster to trade down behind division rivals Arizona and St. Louis. No 49ers fan welcomes the thought of Vernon Davis knifing through their defense for the next 10 years as a member of the Rams. That leaves only three teams as potential partners. Is it worth the distinct drop in talent just to add another body?
Round 1, pick #22
Manny Lawson, OLB, NC State
The 49ers recently aquired this pick from Denver for their 2nd and 3rd round picks. Outside linebacker is the biggest position of need coming in, defensive back also make sense here, but a starter at safety could be available in the 3rd round at that deep position. With the depth and the way talent is shaking out at OLB in this draft, this is a place where need can meet up with value to perfection. Lawson is a player that fits like a glove into the weakside linebacker of a 3-4 scheme as a rusher. He has potential in coverage with more time at linebacker and could play on the strongside as well. Most importantly, he can get after the quarterback. Lawson is a freak athletically and still has a ton of potential with his 4.4 speed at 6'5". Bobby Carpenter, Kamerion Wimbley, Chad Greenway and Antonio Cromartie are other names you could hear called in this slot.
Round 3, pick #84
Roman Harper, S, Alabama
A lot of people compare Michael Huff to legendary 49ers safety Ronnie Lott. To me, Harper fits the comparison even more. Harper has everything you need in a pro safety. He's the quaterback of the defense, has good range, great instincts and hits like a safety should hit. Harper is a "Nolan guy" and was on the South squad at the Senior Bowl. This pick could be Nolan's chance to steal a long-time starter on defense. In a dream scenario, San Francisco would be able to take a guy who slips like Chris Gocong or Mark Anderson here to play outside linebacker and still get a guy like Harper at the top of round 4.
Other 3rd round options I like for SF; Chris Gocong, Maurice Drew, Joe Klopfenstein, Stanley McClover, Danieal Manning, Barry Cofield, Ryan O'Callaghan and Daryn Colledge.