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Let's take this opportunity to welcome one of our favorite writers back: Me. No in all seriousness, I am glad to be back for the first time since six months ago - man time flies by. Looking back at it, my MIA status coincides with a promotion at work and my wedding day getting closer and closer (your boy ties the knot on 09/15/12), but I've been itching to be back here throughout all this time, so like I said I am glad to be back on here.
There is a lot to opine on, but it would be wrong to start with anything but a review of my thoughts following the 2011 49ers draft since I have gotten a lot of feedback on it both on here and on twitter. Here it goes:
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7th overall - Aldon Smith (Missouri), OLB: I ended my thoughts on this pick with this statement - " (...) unless Aldon Smith can surprise the heck out of me in 2011 I am not so thrilled about this pick." Well, I believe it's safe to say he surprised the heck out of me and more last season. One of main concerns with a 20-year old rookie projected as a 3-4 OLB who was making the transition from being a 4-3 DE was how quickly he could make that adjustment and be effective on the field. It turns out he didn't have to worry about the transition much, as he was mostly played as a 4-3 DE in pass rushing situations and made the most of it. 16 sacks (two in the playoffs), 2 fumbles forced, and 1 fumble recovered - those are scary stats for someone who received limited snaps. He was undoubtedly a key piece to the amazing season San Francisco had in 2011, and he will need to build upon last season's performance to help the 49ers get back to the playoffs.
There are two main concerns at the moment in regards to him, but I believe those concerns will be eased out as the season moves on. One obviously are his off-season incidents (DUI arrest, being stabbed at a house party), however he does not have a history of character concerns, therefore I don't expect further incidents to take place. Furthermore, he is surrounded by high character players and coaches who will help get through and grow from these incidents. The other concern, my concern a year ago, is how he will perform as a 3-4 OLB now that he's expected to start at that position on the right side of the defense. He still needs to prove that he can drop back in coverage effectively when called upon to do so, but everything else about his game has already been proven at the NFL level, and the confidence from his performance last season should help him continue to make plays for the 49ers defense.
36th overall - Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), QB: ok so he didn't take number 10 from Kyle Williams. He also was not needed last season as Alex Smith had his best year at the helm. Being able to sit back and learn the ropes of being an NFL quarterback will be extremely beneficial to him, and the bottom line is we still don't know what kind of quarterback he is and/or can be in the NFL. What we do know is that he has been a hard-worker ever since joining the NFL, and I believe hard work and dedication pay off (see Smith, Alex).
80th overall - Chris Culliver (South Carolina), CB: I owe an apology to Mr. Culliver - he turned out to be a heck of a CB for this team. A position that was clearly a need during last year's draft is now looking a lot more stable with the All-Pro performance of Carlos Rogers and the improved play of Tarell Brown, which allowed Culliver to prove his worth as a nickel CB last season. Nonetheless, he also proved himself on the outside when called upon, and unlike a year ago I am now very optimistic about Mr. Culliver as a CB going forward. Once again Chris, my apologies.
115th overall - Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), RB: probably my most accurate opinion, he was pretty much what I expected of him: a solid, NFL-ready backup RB who could perform as a starter when called upon and who indeed beat out Anthony Dixon for the main backup spot. I still have high expectations for Hunter, and believe he can be this team's starter whenever we turn the page on Frank Gore.
163rd overall - Daniel Kilgore (Appalachian State), OG: he obviously proved his worth to the coaching staff, and is now a possible candidate to be a starter if he can beat out Alex Boone. He is definitely an intriguing player who I will be paying special attention to during training camp and preseason games.
182nd overall - Ronald Johnson (USC), WR: Johnson had a prime opportunity to be part of an NFL 53-man roster last season for a 49ers team that was thin at the WR position. However, he was unable to beat out Kyle Williams and was part of the last set of cuts by the team during last year's preseason. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles just two days after being released by the 49ers and was a member of their practice squad for their first 15 games before being signed to the team for their last game. He was inactive for that game. Although reports indicate he's still an eye-catching player during off-season workouts, he is unlikely to make the Eagles' roster in 2012.
190th overall - Colin Jones (TCU), S: he was probably my second most accurate description last season, making the final roster and contributing on special teams. You can't teach speed, and his speed even led the team to experiment with him on offense as the WR corps got thinner towards the end of the season. If he had any hopes to find a niche at WR this season he can forget about them now that the team has significantly upgraded the position with Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and A.J. Jenkins. His immediate future is on special teams right now, and he should be able to make the roster through that unit once again.
211th overall - Bruce Miller (UFC), FB: he is the reason to give the 49ers front office, scouting, and coaching staffs the benefit of the doubt when it comes to moves we are skeptical of, yes even more than the Aldon Smith pick. The 49ers did indeed have great vision when projecting the former two-time C-USA Defensive Player of the Year as a FB instead of DE or OLB, and he turned out to be not just a serviceable FB, but a legitimate starter who should have a lock-down on the position for the foreseeable future. Stanley Havili, by the way, was drafted in the 7th round by the Eagles and only made their practice squad.
239th overall - Mike Person (Montana State), OG: obviously I underestimated him as he cracked the 53-man roster. He was inactive in every game last season and will have an opportunity to make the team once again this season. Other than that it is really difficult to opine on his chances at the NFL level as he has only gotten playing time in exhibition games.
250th overall - Curtis Holcomb (Florida A&M), CB: when healthy, Holcomb has the kind of speed that can get your attention. However, he suffered a ruptured left Achilles tendon just under a year ago, and he will have an uphill battle if to make the team this season. He's still a strong candidate for a practice squad spot if he shows he's healthy this preseason.
So there that goes. Obviously, I need to share my thoughts on this year's draft class and I will do so on my next piece. I would like to take this moment to give a special shout out to DRnSFw at our forums for constantly reminding me about my MIA status on here. I promised you a shout out next time I wrote a piece, so here it is. As far as inviting you all to the wedding, I will run it by the wife-to-be, but I can't make any promises.
As always, please feel free to leave any comments/questions on here as I enjoy responding and interacting with the readers. You can also follow me on twitter @DiegoDelBarco