San Francisco 49ers
Columnists: Michael Struening
The Draft in Review
Welcome to the new site all. I’ve finally got a chance to write about my beloved 49ers. Lets jump right into it with an NFL draft review.
San Francisco entered the NFL Draft with a long list of needs. In fact, before the draft General Manager Terry Donahue stated that we had a need at nearly every position on the team.
Our most pressing needs:
Offensive Guard: The 49ers cut Ron Stone in an effort to clear up cap space. Ditto to star tackle Derek Deese. The 49ers currently have returning sub-par starter Eric Heitmann penciled in, with former 7th round pick Kyle Koiser set to battle out floater Greg Robinson-Randall for the other spot.
Defensive Tackle: Specifically a wide bodied, nose tackle type, who would fit perfectly next to last years’ draft pick Anthony Adams, a smaller, high motored player.
Free Safety: Not only is Zach Bronson aging and under-producing, but he is rumored to be released after June 1st.
Cornerback: It would have been a more pressing need had the team not overpaid to resign Ahmed Plummer. The team needs to pick up a player who can step in right away as a nickel corner. They would be advised to get a player with starting potential, with the possibility of Mike Rumph making an eventual move to safety.
Going into the draft we knew several things. The 49ers liked defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, but if they were going to go the receiver route Donahue loved receiver Rashaun Woods. Talk of the team trading down was rampant throughout the days prior to the draft - the hottest rumor being a swap with Philadelphia for guard John Welbourne. Nearly everyone had Washington stand out Reggie Williams penciled in to the 49ers at pick 16. Many of them seemed to be forgetting that he was represented by the Postons, agents that the 49ers haven’t enjoyed dealing with (see Julian Peterson).
Tags came to the podium and announced the pick had been traded, good move San Francisco. With Philadelphia grabbing our selection, many thought that in fact the Welbourne trade had gone through - not quite. His contract may have proved too big for us to take on, but we received Philadelphia’s #58 pick in order to move down 12 spots.
Wilfork slid right into the hands of the defending champion Patriots at pick #21. No receivers came off the board after Tampa’s Clayton selection, so the team looked like they were in very good shape to grab Rashaun Woods with the 28th pick.
An offer came on the board from the Panthers, looking to move ahead of Indianapolis to grab falling cornerback Chris Gamble. The first big decision of the day came here. Only offering their 4th rounder (pick #127), we would move one spot below Kansas City. The Chiefs had big needs at defensive tackle, but the receiver position was a lacking area as well. Donahue stuck to his plan that we needed more picks to fill our needs, and took the risk in accepting the offer from Carolina.
Losing out on Gamble, Indianapolis elected to trade out of the first round all together. A scare came for San Francisco as Atlanta trade back up into the first round - likely to grab a receiver. They passed on Woods in favor of Ohio State’s Michael Jenkins. When Kansas City elected to trade their selection to Detroit, Terry Donahue was looking like a very smart man for the first time this offseason.
Personally, I was never a huge fan of Rashaun Woods for our offense. To go along with possession receiver Brandon Lloyd, Erickson’s proposed ‘air it out’ offense needed a big, speedy receiver to stretch the field. We could have traded down again and selected someone like Louisiana State’s Devery Henderson. Woods is simply an even better version of Brandon Lloyd, but at the 31st selection, a pick I cannot argue with. The team will, however, need to address receiver again in a later round.
Chris Snee, the #2 guard on most boards went to the Giants with the second selection in the round. That leaves Smiley as the only guard left worthy of a pick in round two. With Donahue already showing his philosophy was getting more picks, San Francisco will stand pat and hope he falls into their laps. The trading continued rapidly in the first half of the second round, but when Oakland grabbed Jake Grove with the 45th selection, San Francisco pounced on Smiley. They’ve now filled their top two needs with their top two picks. Not bad for a team that was ravaged in the offseason.
Still having the pick from Philadelphia, San Francisco looks to be in pretty good shape at this point. Sitting tight at 58, the 49ers had three pressing needs to address, defensive tackle, free safety, and cornerback, in that order. A good number of quality defensive tackles were falling, including Hawaii’s Isaac Sopoaga, a player rumored to be coveted in the team’s eyes.
Still on the board at this selection was Georgia’s Sean Jones, a heavy hitter, and a player with the ability to step in and start right away for the team. He was the #2 safety after Sean Taylor on a number of boards. In their first mistake of the day, the 49ers elected to pass on Jones for cornerback Shawntae Spencer out of Pittsburgh. Now Mel Kiper had this player going in the first round, but in one mans opinion, he’s not a first round talent. It should be noted that Spencer was the first player selected that was not invited to the combine at Indianapolis. Maybe the team saw something in Jones that I didn’t (or failed to see something I did), but he went to Cleveland with the very next pick.
Washington went to Green Bay at pick #72 after they traded up to get him. Cornerback/Safety Strait went the selection before us to the New York Jets. If you take a look back at my first round summary, I mentioned the 49ers would still need to draft a speedy receiver to stretch the field. Here’s where one fell right into our laps. Clemson’s Derrick Hamilton would likely be a first round selection in 2005 had he elected to stay for his senior year. With the 77th selection, not only is he a player of tremendous value, but he makes the selection of Rashaun Woods look even better. Starting the very young trio of Hamilton, Woods, and Brandon Lloyd at receiver next year is risky, but a group with huge potential.
Coming into Day Two of the NFL draft, lets take a look at what our adjusted needs now are.
Defensive Tackle: Obviously the losers on draft day, many have fallen. This has allowed the 49ers to ignore the need this long, but they can’t ignore it much further.
Free Safety: The longer the need is ignored, the less chance the team has of selecting a player that will provide anything other than depth. If they team waits much longer they may not benefit from drafting a player at this position at all.
Offensive Tackle: Now drafting for depth, the team has only three tackles on the roster, with no one currently backing up the ever aging Scott Gragg. A project pick who can be worked into the rotation and has a chance of developing into the starter would be preferred.
Middle Linebacker: Derek Smith has quietly produced over his tenure with the team, but some depth could be used at this position. The team will rotate the 3-4 scheme into their defense at some points during the season, another quality ILB would benefit them.
Runningback: Not as big a need for the team as people might think. Dennis Erickson plans to use all-pro fullback Fred Beasley in running back situations this season. Still, the team should draft a player to backup Kevan Barlow - likely a player with good hands that can compliment his style.
With an extra fourth rounder from Carolina, and an extra 6th round compensatory selection, the team looks like they can still pick up some impact guys.
With one more fourth round pick, Dennis Erickson selected his first former player. Taking Oregon State’s Richard Seigler, many 49ers fans called foul. Siegler was a much higher rated player before the season started but showed some problems shedding blockers. Erickson hopefully will be able to tutor his former and now current player. At least he’ll provide the depth we needed. Still, where is the free safety? With no 5th round selection, we may as well not draft one.
With the Packers selection, the 49ers than went ahead and drafted Andy Lee. Now special teams has been a big of an issue in San Francisco as anywhere, but Pittsburgh’s Lee, a sixth round selection, really doesn’t come into camp with any leg up over former undrafted free agent Andy Groom.
With the 198th selection from the National Football League, Donahue and Erickson finally, finally draft a free safety. In one man’s opinion, it’s too little, too late. Keith Lewis, an Oregon defender, really lacks great speed. NFL.com even describes him as a “…bit of a disturbance in the locker room (needs to mature)…” Good move for a team that shoved loud mouthed Terrell Owens out the door.
With the 217th selection, some offensive linemen have really fallen. Michigan tackle/guard Tony Pape is still around (some draftniks rated him as a 2nd rounder), East Carolina’s Brian Rimpf, Miami Florida’s Carlos Joseph, and others. Still around too is Arkansas’ Tight End Jason Peters, who would be a good project at the offensive tackle position. With that being said, the 49ers elect to select….Cody Pickett. That’s right, Cody Pickett. The Washington quarterback was once upon a time rated on the first day of the draft, but a bad senior season coupled with bad workouts dropped him this far. Pickett will be given the chance to compete with Brandon Doman (recently signed to a two year deal) for the 3rd quarterback spot on the team. On a club that has Tim Rattay starting, project/future Ken Dorsey backing him up, and Doman #3, what they needed was a veteran, not another project quarterback.
One more selection acquired from Green Bay, than we’re
done for the day. Personally, I like Northwestern runningback Jason Wright,
or how about an offensive lineman. For the love of God, how about an offensive
lineman. Rimpf and Joseph are still available, as are Tyson Clabo, Antonio
Hall, Jason Peters, and Shannon Snell. Defensive lineman DeMarco McNeil,
Chad Pugh, Brandon Kennedy, Tommy Kelly, and Darrell Campbell are still
available at defensive tackle. There’s even a pretty good chance
that these are all names you have heard of. So with their final selection,
pick #226, the 49ers weed through the lists of names we know, and select...Christian
Ferrara. One of our staff members, Brian Maafi profiled him last year
and noted he had no chance to make the squad. Our good friend NFL.com
likes to note ‘…Just seems to lack a true feel for the game’.
Sounds kind of like me after most of the 49ers day two picks.