With our playoff hopes all but over barring a miraculous four-game win streak and Arizona losing three of its next four, we must painfully turn our attention yet again to the players and prospects we'll need to add for next season. I present to you, a shell of what I think we might possibly expect, and/or hopefully would see.
Note: Most of what I'm throwing out are "considerations," not hard predictions. Keep that in mind.
Things to Consider and Why:
1. Hiring Greg Roman (Stanford's OL coach, who made freshman look like experienced seniors) as our new OL coach. While other coaches make more with less, Foerester produces less with more. We've seen our guys do worse than they ever have before this year.
2. Re-upping Walt Harris, despite his age, for one more run. At the very least, he can be a great "extra DB" whether at CB or S, much better than a horrid street-CB like Keith Smith. He'll be cheap, too. Think of him like an old Terrell Buckley -- he signed with and helped a lot of teams late in his career as that extra DB. I doubt Bly will want to re-sign for as little.
3. Release Brandon Jones. He'll hurt us more in the long run both cap-wise and space-wise taking up a spot on the roster where he won't be used. We could be developing a better, more promising player in his place for less money.
4. Either retain Sims or Pashos as a back-up OT, and sign a proven interior lineman. Good tackles are easier to find in the draft than guards. Proven guards are more likely available in FA. We should sign one, as we have PLENTY of room to do so.
So for this draft consider the following: Walt Harris is re-signed, we sign a free-agent OG, our OL coach changes, and Brandon Jones is gone.
Biggest Weaknesses in 2009?
1. Both run and pass blocking, also struggling in the interior with blitz pick-up.
2. Pass-rush and pass defense.
3. Return game.
I will address those needs here.
2010 NFL DRAFT
1. Bryan Bulaga-OT-Iowa, 6-6 312 4.96 * JR
As I've talked about before, I believe Bulaga is one of the most technically sound linemen in the draft, and that's something we certainly appear to be missing across the OL in general. Unlike Snyder, Bulaga will hold his ground and not be fooled by spin moves, keeping his feet in the proper position as to not get turned around. As well, he fires off the snap in the run game generating great push, especially in short yardage (we severely need help here). Overall, landing Bulaga, with his excellent lateral agility and quick footwork, would provide us with a great RT for a long time.
1. Brandon Graham-DE/OLB-Michigan, 6-1 263 4.74
You want a monster of a pass-rusher, Graham is your guy. Blessed with superb explosiveness, Graham shows his burst off the snap is one of his best qualities. Double-teams seemed to be no issue for Graham this year as he consistently was splitting them and still making plays in opponents backfields. Brandon Graham lacks amazing height, but if he can show his quickness at the combine, he'll be a top 20 pick. Tack on the impression his film will make on coaches, plus his insane numbers of 64 tackles, 26 TFL and 10.5 sacks (that makes back to back 20+ TFL 10+ sack years) along with 2 FF and 2 blocked kicks, Graham should go in the first. While Woodley and Graham are about the same size with the same speed, Brandon Graham has consistently put up enormous numbers while Woodley had only one good year sacks-wise.
2. T.J. Ward-SS-Oregon, 5-10 201 4.56
The Oregon coaches love him. Ward, a playmaker, has the skills to play either FS or SS, and aside from his great playmaking ability, his sure tackling is something the 49ers are desperately missing with many of our players in the secondary. The last thing I ever want to see again is Roman blowing another coverage or picking up some stupid penalty to help the other team get back into it. It's time to get a young guy to take over and groom along with Reggie Smith until Michael Lewis is finished here. He was nicked up earlier this year, but that shouldn't hurt him much. Ward is someone who can fly all over the field and really cause havoc for opposing offenses. Oregon has an excellently coached secondary, so taking Ward day one would be a smart move for the 49ers.
3. Brian Jackson-CB-Oklahoma, 6-0 200 4.54
Jordan Shipley (who set a UT record with 270+ receiving yards) was flat out shut down by Jackson when Texas played Oklahoma this year, limiting him to just 22 yards receiving. Jackson is the kind of big, physical cover corner we need here in San Francisco. He excels in man-to-man and press coverage, and his ability to shut down fast/quick receivers like Shipley is something we're really missing right now. All year, Jackson has been very, very impressive and his disciplined play I'm sure has garnered him a lot of attention from pro scouts. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Jackson is on the 49ers radar already. We could really use him here.
4. Brandon Carter-OG-Texas Tech, 6-6 344 5.42
One of the best guard prospects (who actually has spread pass-blocking experience) who could be had in the middle rounds is Bradon Carter. He was a team captain, but was later stripped of it because of some off-the-field problems. Carter is a guy who I believe is a lot like Vernon, who under Singletary could capture his full potential. His "character issues" could very likely have him landing somewhere around here. Carter is a massive man and extremely strong and carries himself with a nasty mentality. While he's not as great of a prospect as his former teammate Vasquez, who was drafted by the Chargers, he can be groomed into a terrific all around lineman with some good coaching. The one thing I love about Carter is despite his size, he doesn't tire out at the end of games.
5. Marcus Easley-WR/RB-UConn, 6-2 216 4.40
Easley reminds me a lot of last year's hot riser, Mike Wallace. But he definitely also has a bit of Percy Harvin in him, if you've seen him play. Ever since getting put into the game, Easley simply scorched everyone, and I mean EVERYONE. That includes multiple top-ranked passing defenses that he blew by for 100+ yards with ease. If he's here, we must -- I repeat -- must take him because he could be the missing vertical threat and speed receiver we so desperately need. On top of that, Easley's upside is absolutely huge and there's no telling what he could become if developed. I'd love to land Easley, but I get this nagging feeling he's going to shoot up the boards and some team is going to pull the trigger in the 3rd round. If not, this is the pick that needs to be made here.
6. Chris Scott-OL-Tennessee, 6-4 346 5.36
I think Scott compares somewhat to Carl Nicks in that he's got the massive size one might look for in a guard, yet can move decent enough to play tackle. Scott is an absolute mauler and Tennessee's sudden offensive emergence late in the year can be greatly attributed to him anchoring that OL. He can play anywhere along the line, and wherever we do use him, whether it is at tackle, guard or even center, I think he'd do just fine. He's got the intelligence to learn to play any position we want him to, and for a team that could use him at about any spot from LG, to RG, to RT, selecting him would be a wise choice.
7. Deji Karim-RB/KR-Southern Illinois, 5-9 205 4.46
As I've noted before, a guy who I think who could be the next Ahmad Bradshaw is Deji Karim of Southern Illinois. Excellent speed and elusiveness and a feature back who I'm sure is a better blocker than Sheets at the very least. He's also an extremely talented kick-returner who has ran back 3 TDs in his career. His finishing stats for the year? 205 carries for 1,512 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns, 7.4 average, 13 catches for 161 yards and 2,068 all-purpose yards with 1 kickoff return touchdown (3rd career). Oh, and by the way -- he won his conference's Offensive Player of the year award. Southern Illinois is #3 in the FCS in big part due to Karim's outstanding play this year. He deserves to be drafted, and with a team like us needing his kind of speed and explosiveness, we might pull the trigger late. For you YouTubers.. I found a clip for you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej8pypXXA7k -- He's #31. (Not much footage, but 3:06 shows a bit a what he can do.)
DE/OLB - Haralson, Brooks, Lawson, *Graham, Briggs
WR - Crabtree, Morgan, Hill, Easley
LT - Staley, Sims. RT - *Bulaga, *Scott
LG - FA, *Carter. RG - Rachal, Snyder
C - Heitmann, Wragge
CB - Clements, Spencer, Harris, *Jackson, Brown
S - Goldson, Smith, Lewis, *Ward