Well, the draft is done. I'll certainly miss seeing incumbent NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue step up to the podium to announce which team is on the clock and which team selected whom. Coach Nolan got the players he wanted, so let's take a look at our brand new 49ers - they're certainly a class to get excited about, they bring a lot of talent and work ethic to the table. It all starts with the new "Duke of San Francisco."
Round 1, Pick #6
Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland
6-3, 254, 4.38 40 time at combine
Davis was quite possibly the best athlete in the entire draft. Incredibly explosive, fast and powerful (over 500+ lb max bench press, 33 reps of 225 lbs at the combine and near 700 lb squat), he is undoubtedly the most talented tight end in NFL history. The 49ers were very lucky that the Saints decided to go with Reggie Bush instead of trading down and Jets and Packers decided to go with top need over best player available with their picks. Alex Smith now has a weapon that could take full advantage of the middle of the field against linebacker and safety coverage due to his amazing speed he was the third fastest receiver at the combine, with the same official 40 time as New York Giants wideout Sinorice Moss, who is approximately 70 lbs lighter. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner should be able to take full advantage of Davis’ elite talent and exploit mismatches all over the field. In addition, Davis has tremendous work ethic and character, so we should expect nothing but greatness and further improvement on his end, especially in the route running and blocking technique departments which were considered his only flaws. Superb selection of who in my opinion was the second best pure football player in the 2006 Draft class after Vince Young.
Round 1, Pick #22
Manny Lawson, OLB/DE, North Carolina State
6-5, 241 lbs, 4.43 40 time at combine
Obviously after allowing Andre Carter and Julian Peterson to walk, the team had a glaring hole at outside linebacker with the 3-4 scheme. Lawson is one of those rare athletes that like Davis, only come around once every few years. He was easily the fastest defensive end in several years, but the amazing thing was that his 4.43 speed makes him one of the fastest linebackers as well and would be considered a very good speed for a defensive back to boot. I think the trait that Lawson had that impressed Mike Nolan and staff the most was his high intellect (his 43 Wonderlic score was tied for the highest of the class and he was an engineering major in college), character and work ethic. Other than his lack of bulk, scouts did notice that he has stiff hips and questionable fluidity in his movements, which caused him to drop below Kamerion Wimbley even though all of his combine numbers were far superior. In the end, the 49ers did get quite a steal and someone that should be able to flourish in the 3-4 scheme at both WILL and SAM linebacker positions for many years. My only gripe with this pick is that we passed on DeAngelo Williams, who I think will be one of the very best backs in the league for a long time, but I understand Nolan choosing the top need versus best player available.
Round 3, Pick #84
Brandon Williams, WR/RS, Wisconsin
5-9, 179 lbs, 4.52 40 time at combine
To tell you the truth, I was pretty taken aback by this pick after the two amazing picks in the first round. After thinking about it more, I definitely understand the selection of Williams, who was Wisconsin’s all-time career receptions and kickoff return yardage leader. The 49ers’ return game was downright pitiful last season with Rasheed Marshall and Fred Amey looking horrendous other than the first game of the season against the Rams’ terrible special teams coverage. Williams is a slick, shifty receiver that while he isn’t a burner he has the quick-twitch movements and great agility to do a great job after the catch and of course in the return game. Personally, I would’ve held off on a returner until the fifth round and gone a different route taking either Cal’s monster offensive tackle Ryan O’Callaghan or behemoth guard Max Jean-Gilles from Georgia to add depth to the offensive line and eventually take over at starting right guard whenever David Baas shifts to center after Jeremy Newberry decides to hang up the cleats. Justin Smiley and Eric Heitmann simply do not have the bulk and strength to be forces in Warhop’s offensive line scheme. Nevertheless, Williams should help out both the passing game and special teams, which is always a huge plus on a player.
Round 4, Pick #100
Michael Robinson, HB/QB/WR, Penn State
6-1, 219 lbs, 4.56 40 time at Penn State pro day
(did not run at combine)
Another selection that I felt was a bit of a reach, but an overall good player. Robinson was a great leader at Penn State and a big-time playmaker for them to boot. He was one of the more physically imposing running quarterbacks with his weight and strength and one of the few like Vince Young that instead of only running around a defender would be more than happy to lower his shoulder and run right over them. He’ll provide a nice power runner role that the underachieving Kevan Barlow with all his size was not able to show and perhaps just displace Barlow from the roster altogether, as well as potentially save us a roster spot at quarterback to boot. I did feel this was a bit of a reach as he probably could’ve been available in round five with the questionmarks about which position he would play combined with the lack of elite speed that other potential “slash QB” prospects like Brad Smith and Reggie McNeal did have. Again, I’d rather have taken Ryan O’Callaghan here, who was taken by New England one round later and will be a powerhouse for them at tackle or guard, but I think with Robinson’s leadership and willingness to do anything it takes to win, this will end up another good pick by Nolan.
Round 5, Pick #140
Parys Haralson, OLB/DE, Tennessee
6-1, 253 lbs, 4.80 40 time at combine
One can definitely see a theme here with the 49ers’ selections in this draft - emphasis on extremely high character, work ethic and willingness to do anything it takes to win. Haralson I personally did not consider one of the top 3-4 OLB prospects in this draft due to his lack of elite athleticism in comparison to other prospects such as Stanley McClover, Mark Anderson, Chris Gocong, Brandon Guillory, Charles Bennett or Ray Edwards but certainly got my respect as a player who had a nonstop motor that simply overcame limitations with out and out effort. Haralson, Darryl Tapp, Elvis Dumervil, Charles Bennett, Stanley McClover and Rutgers’ Ryan Neill probably showed me the best motors of any of the defensive ends in this draft. I think Haralson will start out as a backup weakside pass rusher (WILL backer) in the 3-4 scheme and eventually develop into a starter at the position with Lawson manning the SAM and Brandon Moore eventually replacing Derek Smith inside down the line. While this wasn’t really the best 3-4 OLB prospect available on the board with this pick, Nolan was looking more at the person than pure talent.
Round 6, Pick #175
Delanie Walker, WR/F-Back, Central Missouri State
6-1, 240 lbs, 4.53 40 time at combine
Personally this was by far my favorite selection after the round one picks. Walker was an absolute powerhouse at the wide receiver position in college that while having suspect hands (compared to others in the position) brings a real physical presence to the 49ers’ relatively unimpressive wideout corps. Walker and New Mexico’s Hank Baskett were considered by far the best blockers of the wide receiver class and throughout their college careers were more than happy to put any defender on their butts. Norv Turner has said he plans to utilize Walker as a wide receiver, F-back (H-back using their terminology) and occasional third down fullback to boot. I think his versatility and nastiness should help the team if he can keep improving the weaknesses of his overall game.
Round 6, Pick #192
Marcus Hudson, FS/CB, North Carolina State
6-1, 194 lbs, 4.59 40 time at NC State pro day
(did not run at combine)
Hudson isn’t the fastest guy out there but brings a versatile game to the DB corps. He probably will need to bulk up to play in the pros as a free safety. Like Michael Huff, Hudson wasn’t exactly very impressive as a corner but thrived as a safety with the play in front of him instead of having to man cover all the time. Unlike Huff, he’s a tough, hard-hitting tackler who will sacrifice his whole body but also unlike Huff, he is not great in the mental aspects of the game and made a lot of mistakes and was often lost in coverage. He’s one of those players that if he can get down the coaches’ lessons he may emerge as a decent starter.
Round 6, Pick #197
Melvin Oliver, DE, Louisiana State
6-3, 279 lbs, 4.96 40 time on March 16
(did not run at combine, strained groin at LSUs pro day)
Personally I wasn’t big on trading up and giving up two seventh rounders to get him, as there were still a ton of great prospects left on the board due to the amazing talent depth in this draft. Oliver is undersized for a 3-4 end, but can add bulk and eventually become a starter on the line. He’ll most likely be used as a situational pass rusher at right end as well as in goal line packages. Oliver certainly will have to learn how to play two gaps instead of one, but typically LSU defensive ends do decently in 3-4 schemes due to Nick Saban’s influence (Belichick disciple). I would’ve loved to use one of the sevenths instead on an additional pass rushing 3-4 OLB prospect in either Stanley McClover (Auburn), James Wyche (Syracuse), Ryan LaCasse (Syracuse), Ryan Neill (Rutgers) or a big #1 wide receiver type Hank Baskett (New Mexico). McClover, Wyche and LaCasse were all taken in the vicinity of the picks we traded away.
Round 7, Pick #254
Vickiel Vaughn, S, Arkansas
5-11, 208 lbs, 4.62 40 time at Arkansas pro day
(wasnt invited to combine)
Yeah, I know I sound like a broken record here, but I’d much rather have drafted Hank Baskett here who mysteriously went undrafted and immediately was signed by the Vikings, one of the first signings among undrafted free agent rookies. Anyway, Vaughn was considered the best player on a mediocre Arkansas squad last year that went 4-7 in the tough SEC. He’s a tough-minded hitter that was considered inconsistent throughout his career but still made a lot of plays for the defense at both safety spots last season. He’s a long-shot to make the team (probably will be the only one of this year’s picks not to make the team) but should be able to contribute as a special teams tackling demon and backup at both safety spots if he does.
2006 49ers Draft Class:
Nolan, McCoughlan and company certainly did keep the theme of high character and high work ethic going throughout their entire draft and still addressed most needs with high quality talent. The first round for the 49ers was especially excellent and I’d consider the rest of the class good, although I do feel the team tended to reach a lot in the mid rounds and missed out on some other high character, high work ethic, high talent players that might have been better selections. Same goes for the later rounds as well. Perhaps if they got better value for the specific picks, this could have been considered one of the best 49ers drafts ever. However, it certainly was quite a good draft and I do believe many of them will make significant contributions to the squad over the next few years.
Overall grade: B+
George Chaung was kind enough to share his 2006 49ers Draft Review and Analysis with 49erswebzone.com. He is the draft analyst/editor for another 49ers fan site, NinerCapHell, and maintains his own detailed NFL Draft Section.