When 49ers general manager John Lynch begins his second NFL draft on Thursday he'll be on the lookout for more Monday guys.
What's a Monday guy? He's the guy who, despite being beat up, tired and mentally spent from the game the day prior, shows up early at the team facility and puts in a full day's work – rehabilitating his body, studying film – to start getting ready for the next game. He's the guy who sets the tone for the rest of the team.
"There are a lot of players in this league who aren't that good on Monday," Atlanta Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay said. "They come in. They're a little tired from the game. Monday's a day I like to measure players. You get to see who's all in and who's not all in."
McKay served as general manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during most of Lynch's 11 seasons with the Buccaneers and is credited with helping turn what was once the laughing stock of the league into a Super Bowl winner.
That Buccaneers rebuild has served as a model of sorts as Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have begun reviving the 49ers. Some of the tenets that McKay and his personnel team followed back then:
▪ The Buccaneers looked for players who had been productive – the best players on their team – in college. "We felt like there had been too much time spent in Tampa, especially in the first and second rounds, on players that had great potential," McKay said. "They could run really fast or they could jump really high. And they really looked good in their uniform. But they hadn't really been that productive as college players."
▪ They wanted players who perfectly fit their schemes, especially Tony Dungy's defense. "We were going to draft Warren Sapp, even though he wasn't a very tall defensive lineman, because he fit the under tackle position," McKay said. "We were going to take Derrick Brooks because he could play Will linebacker in Tony's defense. He couldn't play it, maybe, in another defense because some people thought he was too small. So we were very scheme specific and that was very important to us in trying to get things turned around."
▪ They wanted big draft classes in terms of numbers, especially early on in the rebuild. "We decided we needed to get away from looking for that one player who could turn the franchise around," McKay said. "We needed a lot of players. We needed to stockpile down the road."
Lynch seemed to follow that road map last year. He ended up with a big draft class – 10 players – with several who impressed coaches with their dedication and work ethic and who are early candidates to be the Monday guys on the squad. That includes safety Adrian Colbert and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who along with veterans DeForest Buckner, Kyle Juszczyk, Eli Harold, Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward, always seem to be around the building.
Lynch even went as far as – though not consciously – mimicking McKay's Sapp-Brooks first-round combination in 1995 with his own defensive tackle-inside linebacker duo in Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster. After selecting Sapp at pick No. 12, the Buccaneers traded back into the first round to take Brooks at pick No. 28. The 49ers last year took Thomas at pick No. 3, then got back in the first round to get Foster at pick No. 31.
The comparison ends there, of course.
Brooks started 13 games his rookie season and went on to 11 Pro Bowls. Foster had an injury-riddled rookie season and now is dealing with a litany of legal issues, including felony domestic violence charges, that could cause him to miss a chunk of his second season or could mean that he never plays another snap for the 49ers again.
When the 49ers are on the clock Thursday, Lynch may have to end up using another first-round pick on the same position, inside linebacker, that Foster plays. Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds is a good possibility with the No. 9 pick. Georgia's Roquan Smith, who bears a lot of similarities to Brooks, is another.
McKay, who always counted Lynch as one of his top Monday guys, believes the 49ers general manager will succeed.
"John was a great player for us, but more than that, John is a great person," he said. "He was a guy who as a player – and it's one of the reasons why I think he'll be so successful as an executive – that was really good on Monday. He was very consistent, very competitive. It was always important to him. And that's what leadership is."