49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

January 6, 2010
Needs, wants, must-haves in the 2010 draft

It's always good when a team's offseason needs match the talent available, and that appears to be the case as the 49ers begin gearing up for the 2010 draft. They have two first-round picks (No. 13 and No. 16 or 17, depending on a coin toss). Here's what I see as the team's most pressing needs followed the opinions of a couple of draft experts. Feel free to throw in your two cents as well ...

OT: The 49ers completely failed to meet Mike Singletary's vision for an offense that overwhelmed the opposition in the running game. They did not "impose their will" on anyone. I think this has to be the 49ers' No. 1 priority in the offseason. A stout offensive line will make everyone on offense -- primarily quarterback Alex Smith -- look better. As far as tackle talent goes, this year's draft is not as good as the previous two, but there is enough talent that the 49ers should come out of the first round with a right tackle if not a left tackle.

Returner: What? Are you crazy? Why would a guy who only touches the ball a few times a game be such a high priority? Here's why: The 49ers lost so many games by a touchdown or less this year that you have to believe a special return man would have made a difference in some of those games. The 49ers were decidedly un-special in the return game. Field position is key to the type of offense Singletary would prefer to run. In 2009, the 49ers averaged 4.4 yards per punt return, the worst in the league. This will be a very good draft for returners. One of them, Alabama's Javier Arenas, will be in action Thursday evening. If the 49ers drafted him (2nd round?), they'd get a cornerback to boot.

S: Two months ago, I would have said that outside linebacker was a top priority. However, Ahmad Brooks' emergence has diminished that need somewhat. It also should be noted that two of the team's top pass rushers, Parys Haralson and Justin Smith, played hurt for a good chunk of the season. The 49ers have a lot of safeties on the roster, but only one, Dashon Goldson, who is a lock for the long haul. The team's starting strong safety, Michael Lewis, turns 30 in April and had trouble with concussions early in the season. Mark Roman certainly could fill in at strong safety if Lewis were to go down, but the team already has turned the page on him as a starter. Reggie Smith has shown flashes of talent. The 49ers see him as a potential free safety, and it's possible that he could play that position while hard-hitting Goldson drops down and plays the more in-the-box strong safety role. Smith, however, has seen scant playing time and was injured for much of the season. In other words, there are a lot of questions at the position. ... And before you ask it, no, Nate Clements isn't being moved to safety.

Here's how Scout.com's Chris Steuber ranked the team's priorities:

CB: "Florida's Joe Haden would probably be a guy they would look at in the first round. If they looked at a safety, USC's Taylor Mays might be around."

OT: "Anthony Davis from Rutgers, Iowa's Bryan Bulaga, Oklahoma's Trent Williams - there are some good tackles who will be available right around where the 49ers are picking." (Note: Bulaga, a junior, still has not said whether he will enter the draft.)

QB: "With Alex Smith and Shaun Hill, they could go looking for a guy. Texas' Colt McCoy could be around in that range. Or they could take a gamble on Tim Tebow. Cincinnati's Tony Pike might be an option in the second round."

Here's how NFLDraftScout's Rob Rang broke it down:

OT: I wouldn't necessarily have thought this a couple of weeks ago, but we've had some juniors come out that make this a pretty good crop. Maryland's Bruce Campbell, Iowa's Bryan Bulaga, Oklahoma State's Russell Okung, Oklahoma's Trent Williams, Rutgers' Anthony Davis. These are five guys who are essentially locks for the first round. I think San Francisco is in a perfect spot. They're not going to have to over-draft.

S: They could look for a cover safety. When you look at the underclassmen who could declare, this could be a really special class of safeties.

OLB: It's a weak class for traditional 4-3 defensive ends, but there are a couple of guys who could play in a 3-4 - Texas' Sergio Kindle and Ricky Sapp from Clemson. These guys are spectacular athletes. I question the instincts of both guys. Neither uses his hands well, but that's something that can be coached."

-- Matt Barrows

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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