This is my favorite time of the year. Baseball just started, the NBA playoffs are underway, and the draft is right around the corner. I am in sports euphoria. With that in mind, I thought I would take a look at the 49ers roster and what spaces appear to be available:
Offense (Normally 25 players):
QB (3): Alex Smith, David Carr, Nate Davis
This position is set. You might not think Alex Smith can lead us to the promised land, but he has one more season to prove himself. He's healthy, he has the same offensive coordinator for once in his career, and his numbers have improved every year he has been healthy. I am excited to see if he can put it all together this season.
No need to add a player here beyond an UDFA/camp arm
WR (5): Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones, Ted Ginn Jr.
I got goosebumps just typing those names in. This team hasn't seen a group this talented since Jerry Rice was doing his G.O.A.T. thing. The Ginn pick-up will pay immediate dividends on ST, and he should see about 5 snaps a game as the go-route guy to open up the middle of the field. Many on here are calling for Brandon Jones' release, but I think that's premature. Ginn isn't the WR Miami hoped he would be and Jones has had one injury shortened year here. Let's let HIll, Ginn, and Jones battle for playing time. Whoever wins will be better for the competition.
No need to add a player here
TE (3): Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, ???
Vernon Davis finally made good on all those "potential" comments he has been hearing for years and Delanie Walker is still a threat as a receiver, though he needs to be more effective when he is on the field. The third spot, the all important "blocking TE" spot is the question mark. Many posters here believe we will use a late round pick on this position, but I disagree with this idea. J.J. Finley has shown improvement over the last couple years and Curtis was brought in to push him. Why waste a pick on a position that wasn't even used last year? If Finley or Curtis wins the job, great. If carrying a second fullback or 6th WR makes more sense, even better. Singeltary has proven that he will keep the best players on the roster without regard to traditional roster spots.
No reason to bring in a player here unless a talent TE slips into the later rounds and is the BPA
RB (5): Frank Gore, Glen Coffee, Michael Robinson, Moran Norris, ???
We all know that Gore is a Pro-Bowler. Coffee had a less than spectacular rookie season, but I believe he has the makings of a quality back-up. Robinson gets plenty of flack here, but he is truly a great ST player. He may not be a ball-carrier, but he has more than proven his value on this team. I can't wait to see him as the lead blocker for Ginn on kick-offs. Rossum was quoted as saying that Robinson was the best lead he ever had. Norris is still capable of bending the backs of a few LBs. That leaves one spot available, and maybe two if they decide to carry an extra FB instead of a third TE. If there is only one spot available, we all hope the team finds that change-of-pace back. Spiller is probably out, but there are still a few speed backs available in the draft. McCluster is a popular idea in the third, but I'm sure they can find someone. If they do carry the extra FB, it will be an interesting battle between Britt Miller and Jehuu Caulcrick. Miller was the preseason darling last year but Caulcrick is a special talent for anyone that followed Michigan State.
Need to find change-of-pace back
OL (9): Joe Staley, David Baas, Eric Heitmann, Chilo Rachal, Adam Snyder, Barry Sims, Tony Wragge, ???, ???
It's no secret that the 49ers are looking for a starting RT and some OG depth. Staley is a very solid OT and Heitmann has proven his worth in the middle. Rachal gets plenty of crap but I believe he really came on at the end of the year. I think he will excel this year. Baas was inconsistent throughout and Snyder was horrible. This will be the group to watch during draft day. Of course an OT will be taken with one of the team's first three picks, but if they take Iupati, Baas might play out his last year on the bench. Or, Baalke might take Pouncey, which would make Wragge expendable, leading to the signing of someone like Pitts. Wragge's saving grace is that he can play Center, but if they get a guy like Pouncey then we could upgrade that back-up position. Regardless, the team should add at least two guys through the draft.
Need 2 players (OT, OG)
Defense (Normally 25 players):
DL (7): Justin Smith, Aubrayo Franklin, Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald, Ricky Jean-Francois, Demetric Evans, Kentwan Balmer
In my opinion, a 3-4 team shouldn't keep more than 7 DLs on the team. 7 makes a good rotation and saves spots for LBs. That said, Balmer and Evans should be looking over their shoulders (Balmer should pay close attention to his bad one). With Franklin's contract situation the team needs to find a guy that can step in at NT if he gets injured or if the team can't resign him. Sopoaga can't play NT, Balmer needs to get healthy before they can evaluate his ability to play the nose, and Jean-Francois is getting his chance right now but he might need another year to bulk up and learn the basics of the position. In the mean time this might be the best draft ever for NTs. The 49ers would be foolish not to get someone that can plug the middle, whether that be Dan Williams in the first or someone like Troup in the 4th. That leaves either Balmer or Evans on the outside looking in. My guess is that Evans is the odd man out. Balmer still has plenty of potential while Evans is a solid but not spectacular DE. I think the coaches give Balmer another year to show that he has learned the 3-4 technique.
Need one player capable of playing NT
LBs (9): Parys Haralson, Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes, Manny Lawson, Ahmed Brooks, Scott McKillop, Matt Wilhelm, Diyral Briggs, ???
On the surface we have one spot available, but Briggs might end up on the PS, so it could be two. I would love to see the team sign Travis LaBoy, draft an ILB for Spikes to mentor at the TED, and then draft Schofield in the 6th or 7th round and put him on the IR. If Briggs impresses enough, he could bump Wilhelm off the team and then they would carry five OLBs. Many posters want the team to grab Graham in the first, but I think that would be a mistake. If you draft Graham in the first then you are forcing Haralson, Lawson, or Brooks to the sidelines more often. Haralson might not be a double digit sack guy, but he gets solid pressure while playing the pass and run very well. Lawson is in a contract year and considering the injury he suffered a few year back, this might be the team's last chance to evaluate him and decide if they want him back. Lawson plays the pass and run extremely well and, if you remember, these guys took a few years to get the nuances of the position. Graham would have the same learning curve. I'd rather develop Briggs and maybe a guy like Schofield.
Need one ILB and possibly an OLB to develop
Secondary (9): Shawntae Spencer, Nate Clements, Dashon Goldson, Michael Lewis, Tarell Brown, Reggie Smith, Curtis Taylor, ???, ???
After OT, CB is the biggest need for this team. Spencer came out of nowhere to be the team's best CB. Nate is getting older and Brown needs to prove his consistency. Paymah is an unknown and Keith Smith better not see the field. Haden's potential has been hotly debated here; I tend to like Patrick Robinson in the second round much more, but we definitely need a CB with one of the first three picks. Safety is another issue. Reggie Smith and Curtis Taylor are both incredibly athletic, but unproven commodities. Do we draft a guy like Earl Thomas early and have Smith and Taylor fight it out for the other safety spot? Could Thomas play CB like many suggest? I tend to think safety is something the team can wait until the later rounds to fill. Get a guy in the 4th or later that can push Smith and Taylor. At worst we carry five safeties and have Smith as the emergency fifth CB.
Need at least one CB and possibly a S
I didn't include ST because we know Nedney, Jennings and Lee are solid. No need to waste a draft pick on one of these positions.
So, by my calculations, we need 8 players and we have 8 picks. Funny how that works! Here is the approximate order we SHOULD draft these players:
7. CB/S (Maybe a player that can play both, or the best player at either position.)
Of course these positions might flip flop, but that is the priority ranking as I see it. Thoughts?