Refuse to Build It, and They Won’t Come

Mar 3, 2006 at 12:00 AM


Here's how things will pan out. For the next two months, 49ers fans will prep themselves for the moment the 49ers select Vernon Davis. We'll goggle over his workout numbers. We'll find obscure college videos on him and watch them repeatedly. We'll spend so much time researching the pick that our wives and girlfriends will think the draft is happening this Saturday, not two months from now. We'll spend hours of our workday daydreaming about Vernon Davis running down the middle of the Candlestick Park grass catching bullets from Alex Smith.

And then, at around 10:00 am on Saturday, April 29th, Paul Tagliabue will walk to the podium and rip our hearts out. "With the 6th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, the 49ers select Michael Huff, DB, University of Texas."

And then the mayhem in living rooms will break loose. "Nooooooooo!!!! Why??? Why??? What is Mike Nolan doing?" Remotes will be thrown, coffee tables will be smashed. And in a moment, what could have been one of the greatest days in 2006 will quickly becomes one of the worst.

Why am I telling you this? So you can brace yourselves. There's no way the 49ers will draft who we want them to draft. It's like an episode of the Apprentice, but reversed. Sure, they could fire the most useless character. Better yet, why not come up with an obscure rationalization that only an O.J. defense team could contrive, get rid of the best guy, and keep the insane psychopaths around for a couple more episodes to spruce things up?

So, prepare yourselves for Michael Huff or DeAngelo Williams or someone else that will make our lives miserable for the next several years. They'll come up with some justification. As sure as I'm sitting here, the 49ers braintrust is sitting in a room somewhere saying, "Yeah, you know. Vernon Davis is the best tight end prospect in the last twenty years. Tight end was far and away our worst position last year. Vernon Davis is clearly going to be the best player on the board when we pick. He's the only guy that will make the entire offense better. He runs a 4.38 40. He bench presses 225 33 times. He doesn't have a history of injuries. He's a workout warrior. No character issues. He's universally liked. And he'll make Jeremy Shockey look like Billy Bajema. Why don't we go with Chad Greenway?"

This is why I'm personally interjecting myself into this one. Yes, I know nothing. I'm not a scout, and have no real football knowledge that would lend any credence to this decision. And generally I would trust our scouts and front office to base their decisions off their research as opposed to my gut instincts.

But not this time! Vernon Davis is too good of a prospect. When else are we going to have a tight end fall into our laps that is faster than Shawntae Spencer, stronger than Kwame Harris, and can leap higher than Brandon Lloyd?

But here's the real reason I want the 49ers to draft this guy. The offense was so atrocious last year that I would consider it a small victory if they got a first down before punting. And Nolan and Co. are threatening to bring back the same 11 starters! Yes, Smith will improve, the line will gel a little, and Battle will return to full health, but even with all these elements in play, those 11 starters aren't going to crack the top 25 as a unit under any circumstances.

Which is why we need Vernon Davis. Eric "the false sense of security" Johnson is great, but there's a reason why wide receivers don't just add 30 pounds and become tight ends. Keep him around, but put him on the field 40% of the time instead of 80%. Keep him healthy. Remember, his body wasn't made to take this kind of pounding. With the two of them, however, we could have the best tight end combination in the history of professional sports.

What's the one position we could draft that would make our offense watchable next year? Wide receiver? Har! I don't even know if our practice squad can fit any more receivers, let alone any from this year's pathetic crop. Running back? Absolutely. Barlow, Gore, Hicks, and LenDale White each carrying the ball six times a game will solve all of our problems. Offensive line? Puh-lease. I won't deny that I'm interested in that Nick Mangold fella at center if he's still available in the second round (simply because Jennings, Smiley, Mangold, Baas, and Snyder, with Harris and Heitmann off the bench would settle things once and for all), but no offensive linemen in the first round. Besides, if we drafted D'Brickashaw we'd have to slide Jennings over to right tackle - and we all know how smoothly Kwame Harris made the transition (I'm choking myself with my tie as I write this).

Yes, the defense stinks too, and could certainly use the pick. Only an idiot would deny this. They have no pass rush, linebackers that can't tackle, take on blocks, or rush the passer, and the quintessential Swiss-cheese secondary. And yet, I have some hope for these people because Mike Nolan has them playing hard (I define hope as a top 28 defense). Between our mammoth defensive tackles, Bryant Young, Ulbrich, Moore, Spencer, Thornton, Emanuel, and Parrish, I think we have some pieces of the puzzle. No real stars, but definitely pieces. If we draft Davis in the first round, we'll probably draft some linebackers and whatnot in the second and third rounds, and catapult ourselves into the top 27. On the flip side, if we don't draft Vernon Davis in the first round, there's no way in the world we're cracking the top 30 on offense this year. To say otherwise would constitute preposterous delusions of grandeur.

Now that we've discussed the bleak landscape that awaits us if we pass up Vernon Davis, let's assess what life would look like with him. We would immediately have an Antonio Gates-type talent stretching the field. Lloyd and Battle would both get single coverage because the safeties would know that no linebacker could possibly stay with Davis down the middle third. It would be the equivalent of Derek Smith trying to cover Santana Moss thirty yards down field. Furthermore, what could possibly be more instrumental for Alex Smith's development than having a security blanket over the middle? Considering that Smith hasn't developed much touch on his deep throws yet, having a viable tight end option is doubly important.

Now. Am I going to smash my coffee table to pieces if the 49ers draft Mario Williams in the first round and Marcedes Lewis in the second? No. Why not? Because we won't be making the playoffs until we have a pass rush anyway, and we could be getting our next Bryant Young.

But anything less and I'm revolting. I don't want us taking A.J. Hawk with the sixth pick when this is one of the deepest linebacking corps of our lifetime. I don't want us drafting Michael Huff when Champ Bailey and Antoine Winfield couldn't hold up given our pass rush. And I don't want to watch more games where we have more punting yards than passing yards!

Do you have faith in the 49ers braintrust to make the right decision? I don't. And that's why I'll be spending my next couple Saturdays coffee-table shopping.
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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