The NFLPA is beginning its argument today before a federal judge, and it should be interesting to see if the owners' lockout will be allowed by the government. Knowing the history of labor squabbles, more than likely the players are going to lose this argument, and the impasse will continue far into the summer.
With this in mind, I think the Niners may be best served to target plug and play draftees in 2011, even if their ceiling is not as high as other players. As we have seen in most cases throughout the years, rookies who are delayed getting into camp due to contract issues or injuries struggle their rookie year in the NFL, and many, if not most, are not able to recover to become highly productive pros. My premise is based on analyzing these scenarios, not on data analysis (if someone wants to run numbers, please be my guest).
With an indefinite timetable before this labor situation is resolved, draftees can respond in many different ways. My guess is that mature, well-grounded, disciplined, intelligent, and experienced players will stay in top shape, train, and even watch tape during the dog days of summer, and will be somewhat prepared for the start of the 2011 season. Meanwhile, many players will sit on their butt, get out of shape, get in trouble with the law, and be completely unprepared when the veil is lifted. In other words, we could see a lot of busts from this draft class.
With this incredibly wordy start, it may be best that the Niners, in this extraordinary year, select players such as Prince Amakumara, a team captain who you know is going to be reliable, and ready to play right away. He may never be spectacular, but he will be in shape, mentally ready, and will carry a low bust probability. Going further, the Niners could stay in that same frame of mind, and draft another team captain, and person who loves the game, Kentucky's Randall Cobb, at 45, and completely bypass the QB chaos of 2011. Carrying this further, if he drops into their laps at 76, Penn State guard/center Stefen Wisniewski, is a team captain, Academic All-American, and well-grounded, having dad and uncle as former NFL players.
None of these three above players may be the athlete/player we would draft in a normal year, with mini-camps, OTA's and training camps that tend to keep players in good shape and sharp-minded. However, this may be the year the Niners play conservative in their draft selection, and select intelligent, disciplined players who are ready to go when the first whistle sounds. It may not be the sexiest of selections, but in a strange and wacky year, playing it safe may be the best option.
[ Edited by MadDog49er on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:23 AM ]