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Aside from the regular season and playoffs, the most anticipated event on any fans calendar is the annual NFL Draft held each April ... and for good reason.
With each draft brings renewed hope; hope that the next Jerry Rice or Barry Sanders will be uncovered and catapult their new team to the next level of success.
Of course there is a flip side to that coin. The NFL landscape is littered with numerous 'busts’; players that for whatever reason failed to make the impact desired by the team that selected them. For every Payton Manning, there are 10 others that could never quite make it.
A year ago, the 49ers uncovered several gems in a draft that was hailed as one of the best ever by any team. The players that were picked last year are expected to be the cornerstone of the franchise for years to come. This year, they hope to duplicate that success.
Over the course of the last few weeks, the 49ers draft needs have altered substantially. The focus has now shifted to identify a RB to fill the void of the soon to be departed Charlie Garner.
In most people’s opinions, Garner has overrated abilities. This was more than evident heading into the 'home stretch’ of last years regular season as Garner failed to post a 100-yard game for well over a month. He simply wore down.
Despite this drop-off in performance, Garner is seeking a deal via free agency for approximately 3.5 million dollars. A price that is far too high, especially now that the team has just used up what little cap space they had left on re-signing OT Scott Gragg.
Regardless of this, it now appears as though Garner may be heading to across-bay rivals, the Oakland Raiders.
With the ninth overall selection in the first round and considering the wealth of talent at the RB position, the 49ers are assured of picking up an impact player.
Most mock drafts have players such as Deuce McAllister, Michael Bennett, and LaDainian Tomlinson still available at the ninth pick. The 49ers couldn’t go too far wrong with either one of these fine athletes, although early indications suggest McAllister is the favourite.
Most scouts have compared McAllister to the likes of Edgerrin James and Marshall Faulk in terms of sheer ability. Comments such as “The complete package” seem well placed.
McAllister’s receiving ability is something that the 49ers covet, as it is almost a prerequisite of any back in the West Coast system. He was often utilised in college as a wideout in the same way the Rams use Faulk. Put the ball in his hands and he’s always a threat to take it all the way downfield.
If there could be one knock on McAllister, it would be his questionable durability. During recent interviews, he has tried admirably to squash any doubt NFL clubs may have about him. Even though he did not participate in most drills at the Indianapolis combine, he underwent the same extensive medical exam given to every other draft prospect.
If selected by the 49ers, the one thing McAllister will have going for him is that he will have the opportunity to play behind an offensive line that has remained intact from the previous season - something no other 49ers running back has had the luxury of since 1992. It is also quite possible that he would split duties with Paul Smith in the same way as when he played for Ole Miss.
As much as the 49ers need defensive help, the running back position must take priority. Besides, with a strong ground game and controlling time of possession, this would benefit the defense by keeping them on the sidelines and ensure that they are kept fresh for when they are needed.
Given Bill Walsh’s history of trading down for extra draft picks it’s not a sure thing that the 49ers will choose McAllister with their ninth overall selection. While I would like to see him in 49ers red and gold, the talent is so deep in this years draft that everyone’s a winner.