Woods is the new and improved No.81

May 6, 2004 at 12:00 AM

The San Francisco 49ers drafted an All-Pro Bass Fisherman in Oklahoma State's Rashaun Woods in the first round with the 31st overall pick after trading down twice in order to acquire more draft choices with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers. The 49ers had the original and coveted 16th pick in the 2004 NFL draft, but their intention as indicated right from the start was to trade down and acquire additional picks to reinforce their depleted roster.

Many 49er fans were bewildered at the actions that the organization took, but in all reality it was in the best interests of the franchise to build now rather than take the most opportune pick at a cost of additional talent. Many 49er fans had Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald, Texas's Roy Williams or even Washington's Reggie Williams at the 16th slot for the San Francisco 49ers.

But the San Francisco 49er War Room was wired to do some trading and did so twice in the first round of this draft, trading their 16th pick to Philadelphia that acquired Arkansas offensive tackle Shawn Andrews and in return the 49ers acquired their 28th pick. When that time came to be on the clock the 49ers again traded with Carolina, which drafted Ohio State's cornerback Chris Gamble, and we acquired their 31st overall pick.

San Francisco 49er General Manager Terry Donahue and his staff felt that anymore trading would have compromised their intention of drafting Oklahoma State's elite wide receiver in Rashaun Woods and they chose him with the 31st overall pick. It was a pick that I was honestly very excited about because the scouting reports on this athlete are just too incredible. My favorite choice to be honest with all of you was Washington's Reggie Williams but he was taken earlier in the draft by Jacksonville with the 9th overall pick.

In fact most of the higher profile wide receivers were snatched earlier with the Arizona Cardinals taking Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald with the 3rd overall pick and Detroit acquiring Texas's Roy Williams with the 7th overall pick. Later Jacksonville took Reggie Williams at No.9 and the Buffalo Bills took Wisconsin's Lee Evans at No. 13 and Tampa Bay acquired Louisiana State's Michael Clayton at No. 15.

As we traded back so did the pickings on wide receivers being the cornerstone of this particular draft. At No.29 the Atlanta Falcons under new head coach Jim Mora Jr. took Ohio State's elite wide receiver in Michael Jenkins. This opened the door for Okalahoma State's Rashuan Woods to be acquired by the San Francisco 49ers who were waiting at the 31st overall selection.

I firmly believe that we did the right thing in trading down, because it was in the best interests of our organization to build now rather than later and to help address the salary cap mess we are now in as well as fill voids left wide open with so many free agent losses.

Some say we should have drafted for the best player and remained where we were. We could have done that, but would it have been for the future health of this team? Probably not, in fact it would have inflicted even more damage. Some believe we drafted the bottom of the barrel but in all actuality we drafted the wide receiver we had high on our boards all along.

"I love him, I really do. I have liked him the whole pre-draft period. I think that he is a very sophisticated receiver. In the areas that we evaluate receivers in the six primary areas that we give receivers grades on, he was a six for six guy. Was there a couple of other six for six guys in the draft? Yes, but not a lot of them. For us he hit all of his boxes. When he was there, frankly there was very little discussion; the only discussion was should we keep trading back. But we felt that we met our goals of 10 picks we had a player on the board that we really liked and made the decision at that time not to trade back. We just didn't want to pass this player up. We just felt like we had done enough, we had met our goals and it was time to fire shots."

"It couldn't have worked out more perfectly," coach Dennis Erickson said. Several teams did call the 49ers right before they selected Rashaun Woods with the 31st overall pick. "My ears are still ringing from all the calls," Erickson said.

A great deal of influence in drafting Rashuan Woods came from new wide receivers coach Eric Yarber, who had a poster of Woods hanging in his locker. It was actually hung there by a Wood's fan in 49er equipment manager Donovan "Doc" Dressler. Hanging it there proved to be a catalyst to acquiring the great Oklahoma State wide receiver.

What is even more peculiar was that the San Francisco 49ers were not even considering a wide receiver at the No. 16 position because they were on the phone with Ohio State defensive end Will Smith at the time when, they decided to take the Philadelphia offer to trade down. The intention of the General Manager Terry Donahue is to compile at least 20 draft picks over the course of the next two drafts to restock a roster depleted of veteran talent.

Rashaun Woods is an avid bass fisherman. He is a fanatic about fishing period in fact. He has been well known to work out during the day and to take off and go fishing at night. He has fine-tuned this routine almost to a science and has even participated in several Bass tournaments to boot.

"I had one today that I had to miss," Woods said during his Sunday press conference At 49er headquarters. "I got into a bass club earlier in the year and it ended up falling on A tournament day, but you have to put the most important things first. That's kind of on the back burner."

Already at this time Rashaun Woods is busy studying the San Francisco 49er playbook as we speak and getting ready to participate in mini-camps that begin May 7-9. Woods who wore No.82 at Oklahoma State wanted to stay with the same number but 49er tight end Eric Johnson is already assigned that number so he'll inherit the controversial No. 81 once worn and still warm from none other than Terrell Owens.

Woods comes with a low-profile personality that is most comforting to 49er management and the coaching staff as well. The unpleasant confrontations that were a part of 49er history with the much complicated and emotional Terrell Owens will hopefully be in the past. Rashuan Woods will be an athlete that will put the team first and will promote that philosophy as it traditionally is. The pressure of wearing the jersey that Terrell Owens was so famous for wearing is not really a concern for him.

In making his selection to wear the number he simply doesn't get caught up in all the hype that is surrounding the controversial number as we all know in Terrell Owens. When he was asked about picking that number and if he knew who had worn it last he had this to reply about it: "I did, but to be honest, when I chose it, I wasn't thinking in those terms. I was just thinking what kind of number I was going to get. All in all, I'm going to go out and play. I understand the tradition with that number with the guy that wore that number before. People can say its added pressure, but it's just a number."

What is even more comforting and relieving is that the San Francisco 49ers never set out to try and replace Terrell Owens with someone just like him. In fact they wanted a person just the opposite and who wouldn't after last year? Because of his cutting comments on the offensive line, his quarterback and even his offensive coordinator.

"What we like about him is that he is polished, probably the most polished guy in the draft in my opinion," Dennis Erickson said. "He runs precise routes; he is big and catches the football well. He has been very productive at Okalahoma State, probably more productive than anyone at that position. He has made big plays in big games all through his college career. We feel like he can do the same for the 49ers and we are excited as heck to have him."

This my friends was an outstanding catch for a first round selection and I am so happy to have him in a 49er uniform, let alone at No. 81. This will be a receiver in conjunction with Brandon Lloyd and Cedrick Wilson that will assist us in keeping our dynamic offense in check. As much as we hear all the gloom and doom in the ratings and the critics predicting an unpleasant season ahead for us. I know that someone like a Rashaun Woods is going to come out firing for all he's worth as a rookie.

Just midway through his junior season, well before he punctuated his greatest receiving year in Big 12 history, one NFL scout dared to compare Woods to All-Time Pro Michael Irvin. "A poor man's Michael Irvin," the scout said at the time.

When you look at the comparisons to Michael Irvin the similarities stem from Wood's most prestigious attributes: body control, sure hands, precise route running and even a knack for the push-off, enabling him to pluck away passes in traffic.

Michael Irvin, the 11th pick in the 1988 draft, played at 6-foot-2, 207-pounds. He ran a 4.6 in his combine audition. Woods is 6-2 and 202-pounds, and ran a 4.47 in a 40-yard dash agility test.

Rashaun Woods has even been compared to other past and current wide receivers by some NFL scouts like: Cris Carter. Steve Largent. Anquan Boldin. And, yes, Michael Irvin. "I know our coaching staff really likes him," one NFL personnel director said. "He's been so productive, it would be hard to look away from him. He reminds us a lot of Michael Irvin." "You've got to take a real close look at a kid like that."

The more you hear scouts and former coaches rave about this athlete the more you come to appreciate this particular selection. The San Francisco 49ers need a No.1 and a No. 2 wide receiver to emerge through training camp this year. It will come in the form of Brandon Lloyd, Cedrick Wilson or Rashaun Woods. The competition will be immense in this area and it should be a lot of fun to watch and see what happens.

The Dallas Cowboys are still a long time nemesis for us and we can remember the match-ups well when reminiscing about them but what was special about them is that they had championship talent alongside us during those decades.

Former head coach Barry Switzer saw Irvin in action, from 1994-97. "Michael was special," Switzer said. "Michael was such a physical receiver. The one thing Mike could do was physically dominant corners. He was bigger and stronger than they were." "I don't know of Rashaun is as physical as Mike was, but I've seen (Woods) run routes. Steve Largent didn't have great speed, but he ran great routes. He separated. Rashaun has great separation. He was a good route runner in college football. He separates people and fools people and has the height to make plays in the NFL."

Certainly the testaments speak volumes about what Rashaun Woods is capable of. The only ones that matter though is what he proves and does out on the training field at the Santa Clara complex home of the San Francisco 49ers.

Woods is one of footballs most dominant wide receivers. He has gone on to break every school and Big 12 Conference season and career records for receiving. He is a two-time All-American and also established a collegiate record after catching seven touchdown passes vs. Southern Methodist in 2003.

Rashaun Woods went on to catch 293 passes for 4,414-yards a (15.1-yard average) and 42 touchdowns, topping the previous Big 12 records of 205 catches for 2,704-yards by Justin Gage of Missouri (1999-2002) and 22 scores by Quincy Morgan of Kansas State (1999-2000). Hands: He is a natural pass catcher. They are his strongest attribute; he will not drop a lot of passes. He shows impeccable timing on jumps. He is aggressive, tough and competitive. He wins on most jump balls hands down, and has the ability to catch passes at full speed before the ball gets into his body. He also makes a lot of his plays while in traffic.

Patterns: He is a very smart route runner. He might have trouble getting downfield against NFL cornerbacks because of his average speed. But I think this is misguiding. He does lack great acceleration or burst, but knows how to gain separation. He is a natural, smooth receiver. He can and knows how to set up cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage. He even has a terrific feel for zone coverage as well. He is a playmaker, and is not afraid to go over the middle.

Run after the catch: He was more explosive in college than he is expected to be in the NFL. But I say just watch and see. He does have a second gear while in the open field. He shows good vision and knows where to cut. Is not very elusive and lacks initial burst but this will come with training.

He won't make many defensive backs miss and it is perceived he will struggle in the NFL. I say its great to be considered an underdog. Release: Uses his arms and hands to his advantage and are able to maintain separation. He is very physical at the line of scrimmage. He lacks great footwork and may or may not struggle with quick passes.

Blocking: He is average in this area. He has a strong upper-body and strong hands. Overall: His only weakness and this is only perceived is his speed. His aggressive, tough and competitive nature will overcome many things in the NFL. He is the dark horse in this draft out of all of the wide receivers. I see him climbing the charts high with the approach of the 2005 NFL season.

Said Terrence Newman, the Kansas State cornerback drafted in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys last year, "Rashaun probably was one of the best receivers I faced in college. And I've faced a lot of the top receivers in the draft. He understands how to play the game so well. He's able to use his body and get separation from the defensive back. He sets up his catches and has outstanding body control, which allows him to make catches some defensive backs would intercept."

Rashaun Woods is the new and improved Terrell Owens 49er fans. We are so fortunate to have him. We are also fortunate that we have a management team that is building for salary cap healthiness in the future.

The only downfall is how this season will pan out if it does at all. Or will it be a surprise season that sends critics and skeptics scurrying to come up with another guinea pig team to pick on. All we can do is wait.

I want to apologize for the delay in articles finally as I had personal things to tend to. I will be bringing you more insight and analysis on all our draft picks this season. I am eager to share this with all of you.
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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