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April 21st 2001 – Jamie Winborn becomes the second player to be chosen by the San Francisco 49ers in the annual draft.
This selection came as a surprise to many, mostly because of the fact that Winborn was taken so high. Several draft experts had the 49ers addressing their need at RB in the first two rounds, but as was the case last year, the focus was on defense.
The 49ers however, could see the potential in Winborn to improve a defense that ranked near to last.
“Oh man, we really like this kid,” said the 49ers head coach. “He’s fast, he hits hard, he makes plays – we’re excited about his future.”
If there could be one knock on Winborn, it is his size – 5 foot 11 inches. However, it’s his play making ability that is larger than life.
Whilst playing for Vanderbilt, he was renowned for his hustle and ability to shed blockers and get to the ball carrier. He has great natural instincts and the athleticism to match, but it is his determination to dominate the play that should translate well into the NFL.
During his final college year, he racked up impressive numbers in several defensive categories. He was first in solo tackles (62), came second in total tackles (105), had seven tackles for a loss, and tallied three sacks.
Winborn is expected to compete with second year player Jeff Ulbrich for the starting left outside linebacker spot, however several football columnists have already stated that the position is his to loose.
Durability is also another trait that Winborn brings to the 49ers having started all 31 games in his three-year college career. This is an added bonus considering that last year’s defense was plagued with injuries.
As the Ravens proved last year, it’s defense that wins Super Bowls. The problem that the 49ers had last season was a lack of both depth and experience. While the depth 'issue’ has been addressed with the signing of Derek Smith, the soon-to-be-signed Dana Stubblefield, and a collection of defensive rookies, experience will come with playing time.
Many people have commented on Winborn’s upside, going as far as saying he is reminiscent of a young Ray Lewis. While this may or may not hold true, even if he turns out to be half as good, he will be great.
Ever since the end of the 1999 season, the 49ers have been in the midst of a rebuilding process, placing the emphasis on youth and speed. They have gone from a team of aging veterans, to one of the youngest teams in professional sports.
With Winborn’s selection in the third round, it is apparent that the 49ers are sticking with that formula.
When asked about the 49ers continued youth movement, Coach Marriuci said, “Our defense is going to be younger than BYU's.”
While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it is obvious that the 49ers are looking to secure their future by drafting players that should be the foundation for years to come. Players such as Julian Peterson, John Keith, Andre Carter, and Jamie Winborn are bound to taste success sooner or later. It’s just a matter of time – and that is a luxury they have.