Seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Bolstered by All-Pro Jeff Garcia and a smart, capable backup in Tim Rattay, the 49ers certainly don’t have quarterback listed as a need position. The offensive line is older than Stonehenge, the receivers other than Owens couldn’t make the Miami Hurricanes roster, and there isn’t a corner after Ahmed Plummer and Jason Webster who could cover anybody.

Many people questioned my inclusion of Western Washington’s Scott Mitchell in the 7th round. I wanted to point out to these people that it was a 7th rounder (I mean, what do you have to lose). But there’s more to it than that. Simply put, quarterback is always a need position for the 49ers.

First off, the 49ers depth at quarterback is nowhere near as deep as it appears. Jeff Garcia is a very undersized QB who exposes himself to at least five big hits a game. The 49ers were very lucky in 2001, but that’s going to catch up with Garcia eventually. Behind Garcia we have Rattay, who looks adequate but has thrown all of three NFL passes. Anybody who says that Rattay is a solid backup needs to get his head checked. Rattay might be a solid backup; but until he plays more we’ll never know.

Secondly, quarterback may be the one position the 49ers cannot afford to lose players at in order to win. The 49ers ask their quarterbacks to make plays and win games. They ask them to make quick decisions and good decisions in the most convoluted passing scheme in the league. You don’t just find a 49ers’ quarterback. You take a guy with the necessary skills and develop them. It may take a year (like Garcia or Montana). But it usually takes a lot more. The 49ers must have great play from their quarterbacks to win.

How important is the health of the 49ers passing attack? Just consider that the 49ers employ one of the most undersized and aging offensive lines in the game and yet have been among the top three rushing teams in the league three out of the last four years. Without the success of their precision passing attack, the 49ers would not be leading the league in any rushing category. They are not built to force the running game onto a defense, a la Pittsburgh. Their passing game sets up everything.

And no QB means no passing game. The 49ers cannot win by taking a mediocre QB like Trent Dilfer and asking him not to lose games, as Baltimore did in 2000. The 49ers can only win with excellent quarterback play.

Therefore, anything less than three proven QBs is tenuous territory for the 49ers. Since having three proven QBs is virtually impossible, is never a bad idea for the 49ers to find young QBs.

This is made even more obvious when one considers that the characteristics that other teams covet (arm strength, height, etc) are mere luxuries to the 49ers. In turn, the players who the 49ers like are deemed undraftable by others. Anytime the 49ers have a lot of second day picks – as they do this year – they will always look for quarterbacks. If they see one they like, they’ll take him.

Consider this: if, despite all the very long odds, Joey Harrington were to fall to the 49ers in the first round, I’m convinced they would think long and hard about taking him.

It is never a bad idea for the 49ers to draft a QB. The only bad idea is thinking that they don’t need to.

The Candidates:
There are three quarterbacks in this draft who really stand out to me, and they can all be had for cheap.
Scott Mitchell, QB, Western Washington, 6-2 1/2, 198 lbs, 4.65
62%, 2778 yards, 25 TDs, 5 ints
Has not played against elite competition, is undersized, and does not have enough arm for the deep passes, but that’s about the only knocks in Mitchell. Is a top athlete, excellent intangibles (easy to coach, a leader, works hard), has top pocket sense for the rush and does not make mistakes (a 67-17 TD-int ratio), can run if he has to (rushed for 291 yards as a senior and has 17 career scores), and is very good at improvising as a play breaks downs and will make a lot of plays on the run. A textbook WCO prospect.
Where to Get Him: In the 6th or 7th round

Brandon Doman, QB, BYU, 6-2, 210 lbs, 4.85
64%, 3542 yards, 33 TDs, 8 ints
An absolute animal. Played the entire 2001 year with a third degree shoulder separation on his throwing arm, and still put up the numbers above and won Moutain West Player of the Years honors. The knocks on him are the same as Mitchell. A super tough guy with athleticism, accuracy, pocket awareness, and quick feet. Good runner – ran for 491 yards as a Senior. Has excellent field vision and makes plays on the run. It’s tough to even say how weak his arm is, given he threw with an injury that sidelines many pros for a whole season.
Where to Get Him: In the 6th or 7th round

Marcus Brady, QB, Cal-Northridge, 5-11, 190 lbs, 4.55
60%, 3355 yards, 34 TDs, 11 ints
Is very undeersized, even by 49er standards, played in Division II, and will need a lot of work going through his passing progressions. But he has the stuff you can’t teach: a very productive player who carried his team in big games and in the clutch. Is athletic, can scamble for yards, buy time, improvise on the run, and has quick feet in the pocket and will make rushers miss.
Where to Get Him: Free Agency