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The San Francisco 49ers made the most out of their two picks in the first day of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Time to welcome Kentwan Balmer and Chilo Rachal to the 49ers.
With their first choices, the 49ers addressed the retirements of long time 49er stalwart Bryant Young and offensive lineman Larry Allen.
With the retirement of two possible Hall of Famers, the 49ers were in a bind to find replacements at those vacated positions. Although unspectacular to the average Joe Schmo, Balmer and Rachal will follow in their footsteps.
The 49ers are now anchored by young talent on the respective lines. Balmer is a pure nose tackle that eats up lots of space and Rachal has a Larry Allen-like mean streak and size that will prove valuable to the offensive line and the re-vamped offense.
Newcomer Justin Smith will team with Isaac Sopoaga, Aubrayo Franklin and Balmer on a defensive line that now has the size and interchangeable parts to play a 3-4 defense consistently.
Rachal at pick 39 could be a potential steal as he was touted to be a 1st round talent throughout the offseason. Second year offensive tackle Joe Staley, a young David Baas, and Rachal could anchor the offensive line for years to come. Veterans Eric Heitmann and Jonas Jennings round out the rest of the offensive line that was average at best last year.
The 49ers draft strategy for day one was obviously to fill the holes left by Young and Allen on their respective lines. It is still unclear what the 49ers will do for day two of the draft.
Some mock drafts had the 49ers picking a wide receiver with DeSean Jackson and Malcolm Kelly still on the board, but Mike Nolan went with the right choice by addressing the lines.
Both the offense and defense win with these picks because both units gain players that can step in relatively soon and make an impact.
In essence Mike Nolan gets his 3-4 nose tackle and Mike Martz gets his protection to run his offense. Having seen Martz's offenses with the Rams, protection will be key to the Martz spread offense. I think we can remember what happened to Kurt Warner in the very same offense. Once protection broke down, he became very ordinary.
Current quarterback Alex Smith will need the offensive line to give him those precious seconds to get the ball downfield. He still hasn't proved that he was worthy of being the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft but at least we know this: he is faster than Kurt Warner and can move around back there.
Although quarterback is still an issue, running backs Frank Gore and former Panther DeShaun Foster should benefit immediately with Rachal taking Allen's place at guard.
At UNC, Balmer was named a team captain due to his leadership abilities. For years, Bryant Young was the heart and soul of the 49er defense. Having a leader to follow in his footsteps will prove invaluable to the 49er defense.
Overall, I give the 49ers an A- to Day 1 of the 2008 NFL Draft.