I didn't know whether this should go into the Draft or Free Agency sub-forums, but if it belongs there... mods, feel free to move this thread or merge it.
But in looking at a lot of people talk about team needs, do we really need a vertical threat, per se? I've seen names like Stephen Hill, Lee Evans, Mike Wallace, etc. etc. being tossed around, but I don't think that's a problem among our current group of receivers and tight ends.
Vernon Davis is one of the best deep threat TEs in the league. And while they're not burners like a Mike Wallace or Calvin Johnson, we've seen Michael Crabtree, Delanie Walker, Kyle Williams get behind opposing defenses. They're not consistent deep threats, but I'm just saying they have that capability and they're not plodders.
With Manningham and Moss added to the team, I think we have a decent potential to go vertical. And we still have Ted Ginn, who defenses know will only run deep patterns. We're not going to be this explosive aerial attack like the Saints, but we're going to hit some big plays here and there with our current personnel.
To be honest, I think the BIGGEST need is a possession receiver with great hands that will move the chains on third downs. The Cowboys have it in Jason Witten, a TE, on third down. The Patriots' starting WR, Wes Welker, does it from the slot and is excellent at working underneath to convert third downs.
We were a few plays away from the Super Bowl against the Giants. The problem, in my opinion, wasn't that we couldn't beat the defense vertically. The problem was that we had, what, one reception from our receivers? We HAD the big plays with Vernon Davis, but not the consistent passing game that comes from "high-percentage" short/intermediate passes to our wide receivers. Michael Crabtree was absolutely gobbled up with minimal man coverage, and that was EMBARRASSING, for a guy who is supposed to be so highly rated.
To stop the 49ers passing game last season, you can do it if you have a cornerback that's strong in press coverage and a good pass rush. Bump Michael Crabtree, while containing Vernon Davis, get a good pass-rush, and have decent tackling. Alex Smith, while I love the guy, is a fairly conservative passer. Take away his primary options and force him to check down all day (which he will) and that's how you thwart 49er third down attempts.
I know Hines Ward retired, but I felt his play-style as a receiver was more in line with what we needed, rather than a Mike Wallace or a Stephen Hill.
I'm interested to see how we close out the draft and free agency.
[ Edited by Wubbie on Apr 15, 2012 at 6:15 PM ]