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Following the 1985-86 season, the Boston Celtics were on top of the basketball world for the 16th time in franchise history and third time in the last six years. Not only did Boston have one of the most imposing front courts in NBA history in Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish returning the following season, they also owned the second pick in the NBA draft due to a 1984 trade of Gerald Henderson to the Seattle Supersonics, which struggled to a 31-51 record for the second straight year.
Does this scenario sound familiar?
While most sports historians know all too well the tragic story surrounding 1986 second overall pick Lenny Bias and subsequent fall of the Celtics dynasty, few remember what happened to the Celtics' trading partner. With a boost from second round pick Nate McMillan, the SuperSonics squeaked into the playoffs during the 1986-87 season and advanced all the way to the conference finals, beginning a run in which they made the playoffs 11 of 12 straight years.
While trading away a top-5 pick is never a recipe for success, it is also not a doomsday sentence. While everyone is disappointed in the 49ers performance this season, the team is not as far away from contender status as most fear. Joe Staley, the player acquired in the Patriots trade, has given up his share of sacks but has also shown signs of developing into a solid player at a critical position for years to come. With Norv Turner leaving so late in the offseason, the 49ers were stuck with taking the best offensive coordinator candidate available on the staff, a problem that will either work its way out through the season or will be corrected immediately in January. Most importantly, the cupboard is not bare on the roster, with Patrick Willis, Manny Lawson, Nate Clements, Frank Gore and Vernon Davis, the team has a young nucleus to build around.
So while the 49ers can not get back the top pick that has been lost, there is still plenty of talent in the draft for the team to grab and improve this team immediately.
(Round, position targeted, two players who should be there, other possibility)
First Round, Defensive Tackle, Joseph Bryant, Texas A&M/Frank Okam, Texas
While San Francisco has struggled monstrously to generate a pass rush, how much easier would it be if they had one of these guys taking two pass protectors away from the protection?
Other Possibility: Early Doucet, WR, LSU
Second Round, Offensive Tackle, Barry Richardson, Clemson/Michael Oher, Ole Miss
The 49ers have given up the third most sacks in the NFL and Jonas Jennings has affinity for the trainer's table. If you've seen those big holes C.J. Spiller and James Davis are running through at Clemson, you've seen Barry Richardson. Michael Oher was a star before he took the field at Ole Miss thanks to Michael Lewis' book "The Blind Side."
Other Possibility: Lawrence Jackson, DE, USC
Third Round, Wide Receiver, James Hardy, Indiana/Marcus Monk, Arkansas
Worst passing offense in the NFL and a team of receivers that loves to put the ball on the ground = high receiver draft pick in the next draft. The 49ers need to go big with this pick, and when I mean big, I mean 6'5 big. Both these guys will do the trick and both have not seen their potential reached.
Other Possibility: Jordan Grimes, Guard, Purdue
Fourth Round, Running Back, Kalvin McCrae, Ohio/Ryan Torain, Arizona State
In this league you need two solid running backs, the 49ers have one. Kalvin McCrae would be a change of pace back, Ryan Torain the power, which do you want? Torain is injury prone, but so was Gore. Watch how Arizona State falls off after his injury.
Other Possibility: Shawn Crable, LB, Michigan
Fifth Round, Linebacker, Jeremy Leman, Illinois/Ben Moffitt, South Florida
Time for Derek Smith to hang 'em up. Leman and Moffitt are always in the right place at the right time, Moffitt might go higher the better South Florida gets.
Other Possibility: Carlton Medder, Guard/Tackle, Florida
Sixth Round, Quarterback, Sam Keller,Nebraska/ Anthony Morelli, Penn State
Trent Dilfer proved to everyone this year he belongs in the coaching box and not in the pocket. Keller has a rifle arm and had been one of the few bright spots on a bad Nebraska team before his injury. Morelli has had his ups and downs but so did Tom Brady in college. Anthony has had his good moments, and some bad when under intense pressure. Would be interesting to see what he could do with an offensive line.
Other Possibility: Trae Williams, CB, South Florida
Seventh Round, Lionell Singleton, Florida International/ Ambrose Wooden, Notre Dame
Good potential at a deep position in this draft. You can never have enough cornerbacks, especially ones with speed.
Other Possibility: Steven Coleman, Defensive Tackle, Oklahoma