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With little cap room remaining, the 49ers have made it fairly clear what needs they will fill through the draft and which ones they will fill through free agency. With discussions heating up with guards Chris Naeole of New Orleans and Ron Stone of the New York Giants and safety Tony Parrish of Chicago, it appears that they will not be drafting a starting guard or a safety. The 49ers also will have a healthy John Keith and Ronnie Heard competing for the strong safety job. This simplifies things quite a bit.
My draft philosophy is pretty simple: give me reliable, coachable players in the early rounds and take risks in the middle rounds. As much as I love Charles Grant, Anthony Weaver is probably a better pick because he’s more of a sure thing. Weaver will be a very good NFL player – you can bank on it. Even though I think Grant will be very good, he’s simply too much of a risk for the 49ers, who are competing for the Super Bowl NOW and cannot afford a first round bust or a player who takes three years to develop.
I think cornerback Joseph Jefferson has a chance to be special. But he’s not going to step right in during his rookie year and play good ball. By the time a player like Jefferson is playing consistently, he’s almost a free agent. Echols, on the other hand, can step in on day one and play. We’ll get three-four years of solid play from Echols; we’d get maybe two from Jefferson.
The remaining needs are defensive line, cornerback, wide receiver, and offensive line depth - in no particular order.
1 (27) Anthony Weaver, DT/DE, Notre Dame
A great, intense player. Will add a lot of depth and versatility to the line.
Lito Sheppard, CB, Florida – A great cover guy who would move Webster to nickel.
Charles Grant, DE, Georgia – Best size/pass rush end after Peppers.
Levi Jones, T, Arizona – Big, talented, smart. Needs more heart. Could be gone before we pick, though.
Mike Pearson, T, Florida – Another athletic tackle for the 49ers to consider.
Dwight Freeney, DE, Syracuse - Should be a great third down pass rusher at the very least.
Edward Reed, S, Miami – Plays the same position as Bronson, but he’s just too good to ignore.
Kendall Simmons, G, Auburn – Looks like a great player…but a guard in round one?
2 (61) Mike Echols, CB, Wisconsin
A reach at this spot, but he’s a great cover corner to play nickel. Could trade down.
Bryan Thomas, DE, AL-Birmingham – High effort speed rusher.
Eddie Freeman, DT, Alabama-Birmingham – Big tackle who could be a star. Needs some refining.
Joseph Jefferson, CB, Western Kentucky - Was the best corner at the Blue-Grey game.
Marquise Walker, WR, Michigan – Just as good as JJ Stokes but a HELL of a lot cheaper.
Fred Weary, G, Tennessee - Very athletic guard with adequete size who has tackle potential.
Coy Wire, S, Stanford – Could be a great strong safety. 49er kind of player.
3 (no pick currently)
4 (125) Kahlil Hill, WR, Iowa
A big, athletic player with more playmaking ability than Stokes. Great return guy, too.
Kevan Thomas, CB, UNLV – Good little cover guy with solid fourth round value. Needs to bulk up.
Joanquin Gonzalez, T, Miami (Fl) – Tough, hard nosed player. Limited athlete.
Brian Poli-Dixon, WR, UCLA - A very big, very athletic, player, but injury prone and inconsistent.
Tony Beckham, CB, Wisconsin-Stout – Could develop into a great player. Size and speed.
Ron Johnson, WR, Minnesota – Very big, physical receiver. Team leader and clutch player.
5 (157) Matt Hill, T, Boise State
Big, athletic tackle who could be a starter by 2003. Was very raw but improving rapidly.
Charles Hill, DT, Maryland – Has the size and the desire to be a solid tackle.
Chris Cash, CB, USC – Could be a contributor. Good cover skills. Injury must check out.
Steve Smith, S, Oregon – Corner who could develop into a very good safety. Plays the ball well.
6 (191) Kurt Vollers, T, Notre Dame
A big (6-7, 321) mauler who will likely be a guard in the NFL.
Nate Dwyer, DT, Kansas – Has the frame and strength. Needs to work harder.
Kyle Kosier, G, Arizona State – Has pretty good feet and movement skills. Could be bigger.
Frank Romero, G, Oklahoma – No very big, but a good athlete who plays hard and never misses games.
7 (223) Scott Mitchell, QB, Western Washington
Could be a very good 49er quarterback with some tinkering.
Brandon Doman, QB, BYU – Another guy who looks like a WCO player.
Jeremy Allen, FB, Iowa – Big, athletic, fast. Needs some time to work on blocking.