Need to examine the Niners recent ability to judge OL draft talent by regime:
Pre-McCloughan Era (2003-2004):
1st-rounder Harris had some good run-blocking skills, but not the feet to be a pass-protection OT. Never understood why Harris wasn't tried at OG.
2nd-rounder Smiley was probably the best OL drafted with a high pick by the Niners this decade. Outstanding puller from the OG position and very tough, often playing through injuries that sidelined Jennings. A real loss when McCloughan decided not to pay him, and Parcels did.
7th-rounder Heitmann was well-coached at Stanford, very cerebral, and responsive to prro coaching. Filling the void between Newberry's collapse and the development of Baas, Heitmann developed his body, used his PT experience at OG, and grabbed the starting C job. Heitmann's secret is that he continued to develop in a major way, after being drafted.
McNolan admittedly had Jacksonville envy. They coveted size above other traits, and Warhop was a straight ahead blocking OL coach. Draft picks were made to fit this vision.
2nd-rounder Baas was a spur-of-the-moment, on-the-clock pick, when NE selected Logan Mankins with the preceeding pick. Selected primarily as Center insurance for the debilitating Newberry, Baas has really never played the position for which he was drafted. He has been injury-prone, but somewhat effective as a straight-ahead blocker. His pass protection and pulling performance at OG have been more spotty. Is Baas starting-OG quality? I'm not sure. Is he playing out of his best position? Is he starting C quality? I have no idea.
3rd-rounder Snyder was an all Pac-10 LOT at Oregon, who was drafted with being an NFL OG in mind. His versatility has been a valuable team asset, but he has played more games at OT than OG. Is he playing out of his best position? Who knows?
1st-rounder Staley was the "last true 1st rounder" on the Niner draft board when he was selected at #27. Staley seems to have the right stuff to surpass Smiley as the best Niner OL draft pick of the decade. He is tough and has natural leadership ability. He did a fine job at RT, before being moved to LT. If the club drafted a LT in the 2010 draft, moving Staley back to RT, would not seem to involve much risk.
4-rounder Wallace was selected as Heitmann's back-up, after the club decided that Baas was going to be an OG only. Great college stats in the Big 12, but not a good Senior Bowl. The fact that Wallace has only suited-up for 1 of 32 eligible games, seems reason enough to call him a bust.
2nd-rounder Rachal was a raw player, with a rather high waist for an OG. I first thought that he might start at OG and eventually be moved to RT, because of his body type. Clearly, Rachal is not responding to Foerster's coaching. I would like to see how Rachal would develop under a different OL coach, in order to really make a judgement on him.
FA Wragge has been a good interior OL complement to Snyder, in that he is versatile enough to play 3 positions, C, LG or RG. Wragge is strong, but slow, more of a straight-ahead guy, not quick enough to pull effectively. He earned Nolan's respect and a place on the team with his toughness and durability
Many other OL have passed through the Niner ranks via FA and UDFA signings over recent years. The current "stickees" include OT Pashos and OT Boone. Carolina was considering switching Pashos from RT to OG, before he left there to sign with the Niners as an OT. Pashos might be better used by the Niners as an OG. Who knows? Boone seems to be a lot like Harris. Nice kid, hard worker, slow feet.
So, lot of questions here about evaluating talent in the pre-draft period, even with a lot of close-up Senior Bowl observation advantage. Also lots of questions about whether guys are being used at their best positions. Also lots of questions about the lack of skills being taught to these guys by the OL coach. Also a fundamental question of whether the "size" criteria will continue to rule, or whether a different specification needs to be used to select OL (for example, mobility). I support re-defing the criteria with a new OL coach in the McKittrick mold (Mike Solari?).
And, yes, my recollection is the same as yours. The Jets did bring-in a veteran OG from the Steelers to compelment the rookies in re-building their OL. Don't remember the name or know if he is still there.
[ Edited by jimbagg on Jan 13, 2010 at 13:24:28 ]