One of the tenets of a 3-4 defense is that you don't have to spend as much to find a quality pass rusher. College defensive ends too small to play in a 4-3 system slip in the draft, and 3-4 teams scoop them up and turn them into outside linebackers. The 49ers, meanwhile, would like to add another outside linebacker this offseason. They are considering free agent Travis LaBoy, who worked out for the team Wednesday. They also have spent time with a number of OLB draft prospects, such as Utah's Koa Misi and Clemson's Ricky Sapp.
Sapp measures in at 6-4, 252 pounds and finished his career at Clemson with 17 1/2 sacks. He played defensive end - he was groomed by the late Gaines Adams - his first three seasons, and then switched to a quasi-outside linebacker position as a senior. Sapp finished the 2009 season with five sacks and 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage despite suffering a torn ACL late in the 2008 season.
Sapp has said that his knee was probably 60 percent recovered last year but he said it is back to full strength as the draft approaches. At the scouting combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds. He said an even mix of 3-4 and 4-3 teams have given him attention in the run-up to the draft.
Acting general manager Trent Baalke spent some time with Sapp following Clemson's pro day on March 11, and I spoke to Sapp on the phone yesterday. He said he was hoping to be a first-day selection but that he wouldn't be disappointed if he was taken by the 49ers with their second-round pick. "I wouldn't. Because I'd enjoy moving out west and playing under coach Singletary," Sapp said from Clemson, S.C. Sapp said he hadn't met Singletary, but knows all about Singletary's exploits in Buddy Ryan's 1985 Bears defense.
Meanwhile, the 49ers haven't been shy historically about drafting players with ACL issues. The team, of course, took running back Frank Gore in 2005. They also selected defensive end Ray McDonald in 2007. Both were taken in the third round.
I'm taking part in a mock draft conducted by beatwriters in the various NFL cities. Steve Corkran, who covers the Raiders, picked OT Anthony Davis at No. 8. We're now two picks away from the 49ers' selection. I'll update this blog to let you know how things turned out ...
10:10 a.m: I took Florida CB Joe Haden with the No. 13 pick. What do I do at No. 17? Remember, this is what I think the 49ers would do ...
-- Matt Barrows