5 Players Alex Smith Would Most Love for the 49ers to Draft
The 49ers draft 30th, 61st and 93rd in the first three rounds of the 2012 NFL draft. That means two days’ worth of waiting to find out who will most likely have the best chance of making the team. Of course, there are seven choices, but for this case we’ll focus on five potential players.
In his home in the Bay Area, Alex Smith might be watching. More importantly, he might be dreaming about who could come to the 49ers. Granted, the reality is that no one knows who will come, and there is little chance that these five players will indeed end up being available. But a man can dream, can’t he?
Cordy Glenn, Georgia
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The 49ers' passing-game woes in the NFC Championship game are well documented, but something else stands out—the 44 sacks during the regular season. Granted, some of those came under orders from coach Jim Harbaugh, who believes that no mistake is better than risking a turnover with an unsure, inaccurate throw under pressure.
Nonetheless, the 49ers have a need for a big-play receiver, but they also have a need for a right guard. To be selfish about it, Smith might rather like to have someone in front of him rather than someone to throw to down the field. It makes sense, too.
All quarterbacks become more confident and accurate when they know they won’t be bothered in the pocket. That’s why a player like Georgia’s Cordy Glenn (71), a behemoth of a lineman, could allow Smith time to contemplate where he’ll throw.
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The Niners were one of the worst at converting third downs. Part of that had to do with receivers who were unable to separate against multiple coverages, such as man-under and bracketing. Here’s where size and speed come into play. Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State ranks as the draft’s best receiver. He’s 6’1” and runs like a deer. He’s aggressive and cocky.
Blackmon’s presence means teams have to back off some, and that helps other players get open. The defense isn’t so compressed. Blackmon might go in the top 10, so the Niners will be about 20 picks away, but like we said, a man can dream, can’t he?
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The Niners also struggled in the red zone. Again, it came down to defenses compacting the area near the line of scrimmage. That made it difficult to run and it also made it difficult to throw.
What’s more, because so many defenders were around the line of scrimmage, it also made it more difficult to protect the passer. Defenses can work up diverse blitz packages due to the players near the ball.
What breaks that cycle? A receiver who is tall and can work in traffic. Blackmon is a threat down the field. A Coby Fleener, 6’6” and 245 pounds with good speed, is an ideal target. Fleener’s height would make it easier to find him in traffic, but there’s always the issue of throwing it high even when he’s covered, especially in the end zone.
The thing is, Fleener’s speed as well as his ability to work in high-traffic makes him an outside threat as well. He’s almost a two-for-one player: receiver and tight end.
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A handoff is the easiest play in terms of what a quarterback has to do. But when the offense executes or, more likely, the defense overreacts, a simple handoff to a speedy running back can turn into a big play.
Acceleration is the key to straight-ahead speed, and Doug Martin, the running back out of Boise State, has it. With 210 pounds on his 5’9” frame, Martin has the body to run inside. More importantly, he has the speed to get by. And that makes a quarterback happy.
Get the Ball Back
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One thing a quarterback knows is that he can’t win the game without the ball. Granted, the Niners have one of the game’s best outside rushers in Aldon Smith, and getting insane heat on opposing quarterbacks tends to make good things happen for the defense.
In this case, that would mean adding a player like Vinny Curry, the defensive end out of Marshall. At 6’3” and 266 pounds, he has very similar stature to Aldon Smith. He also has amazing speed. That means offensive tackles are already backing up before they get to the line of scrimmage.