On Sunday, March 18, 49erswebzone.com and 49ersparadise.com held a chat session with draft guru Shawn Zobel of Draft Headquarters. Attendees were able to ask Shawn questions regarding the NFL Draft from a 49ers fan's perspective. Below are some key points that Shawn hit during the chat session. These questions were asked by 49ers fans from the two fan sites.
Where do you see the Niners going with the first two picks? I personally would love to see Ole Miss ILB Patrick Willis and South Carolina WR Sidney Rice.
Shawn: I think that the two picks should be addressed on defense line, linebacker, or wide receiver. I think that Willis would be a great pick for them at #11, although I'm not that big of a fan of Sidney Rice. He is a bit raw as a receiver.
How likely is it that the Niners move up with those 3rd and 4th round picks they have?
Shawn: I haven't heard much regarding them trading up...they do have a nice stock of picks, so it wouldn't surprise me if they did so, although I would say it's unlikely at this point.
There's been some major debate over this topic so I would like your insight. Can Louisville DT Amobi Okoye be a 3-4 NT or DE?
Shawn: I do think that he could be a NT in the 3-4. DE, not so much because I think that he is more built for the DT position.
Do you see the 49ers drafting a wide receiver earlier than round 3?
Shawn: I do see them drafting a wide receiver earlier than that. The receiver position for the 49ers is lacking after they cut Antonio Bryant, and I'm not as big of a fan of Ashley Lelie, so I think that is their biggest need and should be addressed early.
Is there any receiver other than Georgia Tech's Chad Johnson worthy of a top 15 pick?
Shawn: As of now, [Ohio State's] Ted Ginn. If [USC's] Dwayne Jarrett comes out and runs a faster 40 than scouts are projecting, then I think he will raise his stock.
Can you name your next 3 top wide receivers?
Shawn: 1) Calvin Johnson, 2) Ted Ginn, 3) Dwayne Jarrett, 4) Dwayne Bowe, 5) Robert Meachem...Meachem is the wildcard here. He could potentially be better than all of these receivers, but at this point, every team's draft board is different.
Do you see Patrick Willis as this years Demeco Ryans?
Shawn: I think that he could be as successful as Ryans, but he will be drafted a lot higher than Ryans, so he wouldn't be as much of a sleeper for DROY.
Which do you see making a bigger impact? A linebacker like Willis or a DE like Nebraska's Adam Carriker? If Carriker is gone, how can the Niners upgrade the DE position in the draft?
Shawn: That's a good question. Carriker shows a lot of potential for their defensive line for the future. Right now, Willis would probably bring more of an impact. If Carriker is gone, I think that Notre Dame DE Victor Abiamiri would be a solid pick in the 2nd Round.
If both Carriker and Willis are on the board, who do you think they will draft?
Shawn: Willis. They seemed to take a strong liking to him at the Senior Bowl, and I think that will make the difference.
How far do you see Alan Branch falling and how does that affect Carriker?
Shawn: I think that Branch could fall as far as the Dolphins at #9. They could really use him, and based on his potential, I think that he should be taken in the Top 10. However, I wouldn't be surprised if he were to fall further based on his work ethic. I really don't see that affecting Carriker's status considering they are two different types of athletes and play two different positions.
With the signing of safety Michael Lewis, do we still go after LSU safety LaRon Landry or Florida safety Reggie Nelson in the 1st round?
Shawn: I think that Landry would be a great pick for them at #11. Nelson, I wouldn't take in the Top 15 picks. Sabby Piscitelli or John Wendling would be solid picks in the later rounds (3-4).
Do you have any info on Brian Smith from Missouri? He was injured late in the year and I have heard nothing since.
Shawn: I as well haven't heard much regarding Smith.
Who is a better 3-4 DE for the Niners? Carriker or Branch?
Shawn: Carriker, without a doubt. He is more fit for the DE position, has more experience playing there, and can guarantee you a solid work ethic with a motor that never stops running.
Assuming the Niners take Carriker at #11, who would be a better pick in the second round? DE LaMarr Woodly from Michigan or LB H.B. Blades from Pitt?
Shawn: Blades. Woodley would be a somewhat similar pick to Carriker. If they were to take Carriker at 11, I think WR would be a better pick in the 2nd, and then take Blades in the 3rd, where I think he is more likely to go.
Do you think DE Ikaika Alama-Francis from Hawaii would be a good fit? I read a report that compared him to Luis Castillo.
Shawn: He would be a solid pick in the 3rd Round for the 49ers. He is a bit raw, so I wouldn't completely compare him to Castillo, but I can see some similarities there.
Who in this draft do you think can transition the best to a 3-4 OLB?
Shawn: I think that a sleeper prospect for a 3-4 OLB would be Brian Robison from Texas. He had an amazing workout at the Combine and would be a good pick in the later rounds.
Do you see the Niners trading up for multiple 1st round picks as they have in the past or possibly trading up for a higher pick?
Shawn: I could see them doing something similar to what they did last year when they traded their 2nd and 3rd Round picks to the Broncos. I wouldn't expect them to trade everything to make a giant move, but a smaller move or two wouldn't surprise me.
Where do you have Penn State OT Levi Brown's stock? Do you think Nolan would take a crack at him with the #11?
Shawn: Probably not. Tackle isn't as big of a need for the 49ers and Brown's stock has been falling, especially with Joe Staley's impressive Pro Day workout this week.
What is your one sleeper pick of the entire draft? The guy that pretty much no one knows now but could be a great player next 5-10 yrs.
Shawn: Yamon Figurs, KR/PR from Kansas State... ran a 4.30 40 at the Combine, fastest of anyone. I really really like the guy. He is a bit raw as a receiver, but is an amazing returner.
The 9ers signed NT Aubrayo Franklin, but do you see them drafting a NT at some point to add depth? If so, who?
Shawn: I do expect them to add some depth. I think that Brandon Mebane from Cal or Paul Soliai from Utah would be good picks.
What round will Fresno State WR Paul Williams be taken in and could he end up on our radar? The kid looks like a player!
Shawn: I could really see the 49ers taking him in the 4th Round. William's stock has been up and down over the course of the past year. He has all of the tools that you look for in a receiver, but wasn't as productive as you would have liked.
In your opinion, what other linebacker, besides Willis, can play inside in the 3-4?
Shawn: I think that [Michigan's] David Harris, [Florida State's] Buster Davis, or Blades could all be successful.
What's your opinion on linebacker Anthony Waters from Clemson?
Shawn: I think that he is somewhat of a sleeper in this year's draft. He has nice size, solid speed, and is an athlete.
Tim Shaw played DE for Penn State this past year. Even though he is a bit smaller, with that experience, can he play on the outside in the 3-4?
Shawn: He played outside before his senior season, in which they moved him to defensive end. I expect that he will make the switch back to linebacker for the NFL and should be pretty good.
Is Rutgers fullback Brian Leonard a possibility for us with one of our 3rd or 4th rounders?
Shawn: Leonard won't be available in the 3rd or 4th. I actually wouldn't be surprised if he was gone by the time the 49ers pick in the 2nd round. So, unless they trade up for him, I don't expect him to be taken by the 49ers.
Have you heard anything about LB Mark Zalewski fromWisconsin? People we saying that he was snubbed by not getting an invite to the Combine.
Shawn: Zalewski is a deep sleeper this year. You could argue that he got snubbed, but there are more smaller-school players that have higher potential than Zalewski does.
Will the Niners draft a running back? If so who might they have their eye on in the middle rounds?
Shawn: After Frank Gore's amazing season last year, I don't think that they will take a running back very high. They also have Michael Robinson who showed some promise last year. If they were to take someone late, I think Alonzo Coleman from Hampton could be a good pick.
Which WR is most likely to get drafted by the Niners and in what round do you think that will happen?
Shawn: In the entire draft and any wide receiver...I think that Dwayne Bowe would be a great pick for the 49ers if they were to trade down in the 1st Round. In the 2nd, Jason Hill would be a good pick. In the 3rd, Steve Smith would look good and in the 4th, a guy like Brandon Myles or Paul Williams (mentioned earlier) would help them.
Is there an answer to our OT Kwame Harris problem in the middle rounds?
Shawn: Allen Barbre from Missouri Southern State would be a great pick for the 49ers in the 4th Round.
Do you think Sidney Rice would be a good pick in the 2nd?
Shawn: Rice would be a good pick, although I'm not as high on Rice as I am a guy like [Washington State's] Jason Hill. Hill was very productive in college and had a great workout at the combine.
Do you view Tanard Jackson from Syracuse as a FS or CB? About what round do you see him going?
Shawn: I see Jackson going in the 3rd Round. I really see him as more of a safety, although he could play the corner in the right system (zone).
Can Florida's Marcus Thomas be a 3-4 DE or 3-4 NT?
Shawn: A 3-4 NT would be more realistic for Thomas, although I would stay as far away from him as possible. I wouldn't want to have to deal with his issues off the field.
Do you think there are draft websites that develop relationships with agents? I've noticed one site that has pumped Zach Miller TE like they were getting paid to do so.
Shawn: That's a good question. I could potentially see it happening. I have talked to a few agents about setting up interviews for my site, so there is definitely talk that goes on between websites and agents. Someone that runs a website could be doing the agent a favor, and pumping their client like that, or they could just be very high on them, but for an agent to pay someone that runs a draft website seems a bit unrealistic.
Since the 49ers signed Nate Clements, CB is not really a priority, but Mike Nolan may target a CB with one of his multiple 4th round draft picks. Which corners would be good value in the 4th round?
Shawn: Travarous Bain from Hampton, Kenny Scott from Georgia Tech, AJ Davis from NC State, or Michael Coe from Alabama State would all be of good value in the 4th Round.
I believe we currently have 10 picks (we actually have 8), how many players will we draft next month and when are the Compensatory picks announced?
Shawn: Assuming they trade up once or twice, I think that 7-8 players would be realistic. I honestly am not sure when the Compensatory picks are announced, but it should be sometime within the next few weeks.
Shawn: Also, my 2007 Draft Preview will be available in early April and is for sale on my site!
Shawn was nice enough to stick around and chat with the remaining 49ers fans in the chat room. Below are some of the questions that were asked.
WoooHit: Since his biggest weakness is shedding blockers, do you see Willis being a better fit in the 4-3?
Shawn: yes, I do
Ninerstorm: Shawn, do you see it necessary for the 49ers to draft a running back? At least one draft site has us doing so with our first pick.
Shawn: I really don't think the 49ers need to draft another RB. If anything, they should sign a veteran to mentor Gore and Robinson.
d-roc: Bowe looks like a special player. Could he go in the top 15?
Shawn: Bowe could potentially be a Top 15 pick. I really really like him and wouldn't be surprised if he went that high.
Sean4shey: When will Calvin Johnson go?
Shawn: Calvin Johnson should go #1. If not, someone will trade up for him at #2.
WoooHit: Also, what are your thoughts on [U.T.E.P. WR] Johnnie Lee Higgins?
Shawn: I really like Higgins and his stock has been rising. He could potentially land in the Late 2nd Round.
Sean4shey: Can you tell I want CJ? Realistically, what would the 9ers have to give up?
Shawn: realistically.... 2nd, 2 4ths, 1st next year... at least.
darkknight49: Any small school wideouts you see that can make an immediate impact in the pros al la Marques Colston?
Shawn: Mike Mason from Tennessee State.
NinerMadman: What about Alan Branch? Is his freefall going to continue?
Shawn: He could be there at #11 when the 49ers pick. Someone could trade up for him though.
dmbgeek: What are your impressions on the TE from Minnesota - Matt Spaeth - and what round do you think he gets picked?
Shawn: I love Spaeth...I'm from Minnesota, so I know more about this guy than anyone in the draft....Late 3rd, Early 4th looks likely.
Sean4shey: What about Okoye, does he fit?
Shawn: Hey guys, don't forget about my book: Shawn Zobel's 2007 Draft Preview...It will be available in Early April.
WoooHit: Anyone think Carriker will be gone before we pick at 11?
Shawn: He should be there.
NinerMadman: What is the story on Hill? He ran fast at the Combine but that speed didn't necessarily show up on the field?
Shawn: Good question...he must have worked his butt off before the workouts, which is even better because it shows that he has a solid work ethic.
dmbgeek: Do you honestly see us replacing Derek Smith this year at ILB Shawn? He has a 5-ish million dollar salary and it would be fiscally irresponsible to cut him this early. I am sure we can find some good solid backup players in the mid-round for that position.
Shawn: Smith could be replaced...I think they could draft a future ILB and then let them take over next year.
dmbgeek: What are your thoughts on Josh Gattis? I'd like to see the 49ers take him in the 4th round.
Shawn: Gattis is a bit raw, but could be a good project for a secondary coach. That would be a nice pick, although they could probably get him in the 5th.
Special thanks goes to Shawn Zobel of Draft Headquarters for taking the time out of his busy schedule to attend this chat session. Thanks to Bryan Hersh of 49ersparadise.com for managing the chat and keeping it organized.