49ers Should Consider Trading Down
April 8, 2004 at 12:00 AM
By Brett Pahler
This draft consists of four great receivers and two impact defensive tackles. If the first tier of receivers and defensive tackles are off the board by the time they pick, the 49ers should trade down with their sights set on Michael Clayton, Rashaun Woods, or Lee Evans. Of the three, Clayton (LSU) is the best and the toughest, yet also the slowest. Woods (Oklahoma State) is a physical, polished playmaker who wins the jump balls yet also has average speed. Evans (Wisconsin) is the fastest of the group, yet durability is a concern. The point being, none of these three receivers stands out as being significantly better than the other two. The 49ers would do well to have any one of the three if it meant acquiring an additional 2nd round pick.
Continuing, there's a good chance that the 49ers could trade down 10 spots and still have their pick out of the three, as none of the teams drafting behind the 49ers have any need for a receiver whatsoever. Cincinnati, New Orleans, Minnesota, Miami, New England, and Dallas are all well-endowed at the position. Denver might consider a receiver with Ed McCaffrey retiring, but they have other needs as well. Then there's another break, as neither Green Bay, St. Louis, Tennessee, or Philadelphia will draft a receiver.
Thus, the 49ers should be willing to swap with any of these teams, and not only be guaranteed of obtaining Clayton, Woods, or Evans, but maybe even have their choice of the three. Unless Wilfork or one of the Williams receivers slips to us, obtaining an additional second round pick will make or break our draft.
I can say with some certainty that if the 49ers don't draft Wilfork in the first round, they will address defensive tackle in the second round. The immediate impact defensive tackles will be off the board by then, but there's a plethora or intriguing DT prospects that should be available. Igor Olshanksy (Oregon) and Isaac Sopoaga (Hawaii) both blew scouts away with their reps in the weight room. Donnell Washington's (Clemson) effort is inconsistent, but his quickness and potential as a 332 pound disruptive force is first rate.
Thus, the key is for the 49ers to acquire an extra 2nd round pick, and use it on a Michael Jenkins, Devery Henderson, or Keary Colbert. All three promise to be #2 receivers. If we do so, two years from now we may not have an Owens, but we'll have an average #1 receiver, with the rest of our receivers all being above average for their roles.
In the third and fourth rounds it would behoove us to draft offensive linemen. A 3rd round guard should adequately replace Stone right away. A 4th rounder will provide quality depth - not the undrafted free agent depth we're accustomed to. We'll never replace Terrell Owens, but our receiving corps, although needing time to adjust, will likely be faster and more sure-handed than last year's unit. We would have a young offense that would take a year or two to gel, but it would be a talented offense without a glaring need. Improvements will always be in store; teams can always stockpile more offensive linemen. Eric Johnson isn't your prototypical tight end. But if we could trade down and draft these players, last year's 5th ranked offense would more than hold its own.
As hard as it is to believe, our defense should also be better than we were last year. Brandon Whiting and the Olshansky/Washington/Sopoaga defensive tackle would give immediate run-stopping credibility to our line. We lose Webster, who missed most of last season anyway and was unspectacular in his return. Bronson spent most of his time last year tackling shadows. We will still struggle to put pressure on the quarterback with our front four, but the team tied for 4th in the NFL with 42 sacks. We're going to be all right here.
Entering the draft we have luxuries and necessities. A 3rd string cornerback is a luxury. As is a run-stuffing, bull-rushing left defensive end to put Whiting, Engelberger, and Andrew Williams out of their misery. The necessities are two receivers, two offensive linemen, and a defensive tackle. If we come away with anything less, either Lloyd and Wilson will be overmatched by the 2nd and 3rd string corners they face, injuries on the offensive line will threaten to force a repeat of last season, or we won't be able to stop the run on the road.
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