1999 rookies must make an impact now for 49ers

Sep 14, 2000 at 12:00 AM


So much has been said of the 49er blockbuster draft of 2000 that we tend to forget that the draft of 1999 remains just that, almost a start from scratch for four out of seven athletes drafted for the San Francisco 49er’s whom for most will start for the very first time this year due to season-long injuries.

This 1999 draft was supposed to be a very well combed over bunch of players carefully analyzed and scrutinized by General Manager Bill Walsh and Director of Player Personnel Terry Donahue.

Little did they realize that this class of 99 would yield very little production as four out of seven would be lost to season ending injuries, that helped transform their season record to (4-12) which would signal the fall of a mighty dynasty that ruled their division for 16 straight winning seasons.

I remember these injuries as plain as day when they came to light and were announced, so much had been riding on these new prospects to contribute to a aging franchise, with hopes of revitalizing both sides of the line as salary cap issues came to a head, and the omen of roster cuts would translate into high priced veterans being let go for immediate relief.

Well for all intents and purposes this class was a major disappointment, in the fact that four of these talented athletes would have made an enormous impact if they had stayed healthy and played all season, now we are relegated to finding out what will they do for us this year?

1) First-Round Pick Defensive Tackle Reggie McGrew.

Strong, powerful defensive tackle from Florida is known for as a dominant run stopper, Plays with quickness, balance and intensity, has shown improving technique as a pass rusher, was a three year starter for Florida at defensive tackle.

McGrew is 6-1 and 301 pounds packs a wallop at DT and was supposed to be the premier run-stuffer going into the 99 season with duty behind Bryant Young and Junior Bryant, however that never transpired due to a injury to a triceps tendon tear that placed him on Injured Reserve (10-4-99).

Today questions abound as to how he will handle his position, with depth very limited and his healthiness more relied on than ever, McGrew is still the coaches choice to take the starting right-tackle position along the defensive line.

The Jury remains hung on the mans durability, knee and elbow tweaks continue to hamper his practice time, causing instant concern as to his starting status and his ability to become healthy enough to contribute full time this year.

“I’d like to see Reggie McGrew be a real factor this year,” Mariucci said. “I think he’s making progress but he’s got to show us he can be a durable guy, somebody you can count on.”

McGrew’s answer to that is do not worry he wants to prove to all that he is what he was drafted for, however I can’t help but be concerned with the latest injury signs he continues to display from time to time as he begins more playing time.

My hope is that he will be able to replace Junior Bryant here and elevate him to defensive end, where his speed and agility as a veteran will be a factor, and McGrew can solidify his stay at tackle and be the rock wall to a dashing elite running back.

2) Third-Round Pick Defensive End Chike Okeafor.

Physically impressive defensive end with quickness and strength, From Purdue played both inside and outside linebacker, Durable never missed a game due to injury, until drafted and played went out to injury due to back and knee problems.

Okeafor was supposed to be the lightening quick defensive end Walsh and Company coveted since the departure of great defensive end Chris Doleman, His plays at Purdue had him confident that this would come to pass, the only thing that did was more frustration.

Okeafor is 6-4 and 248 pounds and a lean and mean specimen of a lightening fast pass rusher, one that is sorely needed to sure up one of the dead last pass rush defenses in the league for 1999. Will he be able to step up; I have confidence that he can, as long as he is blessed with a health voidable of last year.

Can he be an every down player is still waiting to be seen, the adjustment from a college schedule still needs to be felt, and his durability is in question as well, however this must be his season to learn and do so quickly in this position he has the talent to excel.

Okeafor joins 2000 second-round pick defensive end Virginia-Techs John Engelberger in the lineup for depth, along with Junior Bryant and Anthony Pleasant, his recent play time has him in front to start, I have optimism that he can hold a starting position.

3) Fourth-Round Pick Cornerback Anthony Parker.

Excellent athlete, who has good size and speed, Capable of playing bump and run coverage, Has quick feet and good closing speed. Parker from Weber State is 6-0 and 198 pounds, He was counted on to be the answer at a 49er secondary that was diminishing in ranking even before the disastrous 1999 season.

However he was placed on Injured Reserve on August 31,1999 after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during training camp. Parker has responded back this year in a positive fashion catching the eye of General Manager Bill Walsh whom has been so far impressed with his speed and toughness.

Now Parker will have to bring that to the forefront and prove he has the size and agility to stay with some of the elite of the receiving threats that will face off with the 49er’s this season, the era of the tall, lanky and speedy receiver is here, we must counter that with the same formula as a defensive back.

At corner the 49er’s will start veteran Monty Montgomery and first-round pick Ahmed Plummer, Anthony Parker and second-round pick from Texas A&M Jason Webster will be the depth of that position, if either of the starting two do not step up quickly in the beginning of the season, count on Parker getting the green light.

Parker in all reality is a raw rookie itching for the prospect of going in and proving himself, his durability has already been a strike one for him, now he must erase any lingering doubts and establish himself as the next in line on the depth chart behind the starting corners.

4) Sixth-Round Pick Wide Receiver Tai Streets.

Big-play, athletic receiver who started last 37 games of career and played in 45 games since his freshman season. Has developed into one of the premier deep threats in college while showing prototypical athletic skills for the position. Has the speed to go deep and beat the defender for the big play.

Big target who utilizes size and reach to create mismatches in coverage. Displays soft hands and ability to adjust nicely to the ball. Has improved as a pass catcher, especially going over the middle. Uses good speed well and has ability to get open deep consistently.

Yes Tai Streets is the real deal at 6-1 189 pounds he has the receiving talent that will definitely push J.J. Stokes for the third wide receiving position should he falter early.

Streets has come back strong this year with finesse and determination to secure a roster spot in pre-season playmaking, being the receiver with most receptions throughout the pre-season.

However Streets too fell to injury last year with a right Achilles injury to his foot and ankle, and was only able to play final two games of the season even then he showed promise.

“My thing right now is to just take advantage of every opportunity I get,” he said. “With three great receivers (Jerry Rice,Terrell Owens and J.J. Stokes), those may be few and far between.”

I have been very impressed with his playmaking and decision making throughout the pre-season, I feel Streets gives us even another option on offense and special teams in a array of talented weapons we have in a power packed offense.

With the uncertainties that surround all time great legend Jerry Rice come next year he could move into the top three with his departure. But he still has lots to prove in the running as the fourth receiver on the depth chart.

He will still certainly make rookie mistakes, but has the talent level and capability to be a real star as a starting wide receiver with the 49er’s, He has shown me the versatility and speed a real young receiver in the NFL is most sought after for.

The year 2000 will not be that kind and soft for us, we are a rebuilding franchise and must understand that and developed a sound patience with these players. I believe it will be exciting to observe these fine young athletes make plays on the field all season long.

The 1999 class must make an immediate impact to help fill the cracks so damaged by nagging injuries, and casualties from this years salary cap will be filled with these types of unproven athletes for some time to come.

There is enough raw young talent here to still obtain us a reasonable proven record as we see the 2000 regular season, however first and foremost it is to fill those positions in immediate question permanently for a long time to come, and establish the foundation of toughness and respect that was subject to erosion in 1999.

The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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