The San Francisco 49ers have few personnel needs for the 2012 season. They have a unique opportunity to make significant improvements in the teams’ performance with just a few personnel changes.
Usually, sports commentators organize personnel needs individually by number, as in “the first need is” type of thinking.
I am going to organize them by 1 through 3 priorities for the major squads of the game: offense, defense and special teams.
First off, let’s mention the difficulties of acquiring talent in the NFL. Drafting college players to fill needs is, to put it plainly, a crap shoot. College standouts often totally collapse in the elevated competition of the NFL. First-round acquisitions who do not last past their rookie years are too numerous to count.
Some of the most famous NFL players were acquired in late rounds, and a few were not drafted at all but were walk-ons. Frank Gore went 64th overall in the third round. Joe Montana went 82nd at the end of the third round.
I dare you: Name the quarterbacks who went before Montana. As I said, it is a crap shoot.
Free agency provides more certainty because the players have already been tested on the NFL level. Even free agency is by no means perfect. Sometimes the free agent is too near the end of his career or physically too fragile to be valuable.
WR Braylon Edwards, hired to be that downfield guy who could out-leap opposing corners, fit into this category in 2011.
Other times, a free agent improves so much from the change of coaches and team that he becomes a star. DB Carlos Rogers comes to mind as he developed glue-coated hands after moving to the 49ers. So either way, the acquisition may or may not work out. You pay your money and you takes your chances.
Second, let’s set the scene a bit. A team of the 49ers' quality that makes it deep into the playoffs with home-field advantage and a 13-3 record, does not just fill personnel holes. The strategy is not just to strengthen the team by patching weak spots. It is not just hoping to improve stats. It already has the personnel to obtain another 13-3 record.
The 49ers strategy is to find the personnel that will assure them of beating their toughest opponents.
They will, therefore, draft and acquire through free agency those players who will perform the best against just those few select opponents. The Giants, the Patriots, the Saints and the Packers come to mind here.
So all consideration from now until kickoff of the 2012 season will be directed toward staffing the squad to successfully compete against those teams.
These slides show the needs they will fill.