Crabtree's Selection a Huge Steal for the 49ers, But Holes Persist
Once again the Silver and Black were enamored with speed. If Usain Bolt was in this year's NFL draft, the old man would have drafted him the second they were on the clock.
Bolt didn't come off the board, but the whole Raider nation in a total "OMG" moment saw speedster Darrius Heyward-Bey of Maryland become the newest member of the Oakland Raiders (cue "The Autumn Wind") with the seventh pick of the draft. The Red and Gold suddenly realized their top rated player could fall to the 10th pick.
Jacksonville and Green Bay would pick before San Francisco, but the Jaguars and the Packers already had depth at wide receiver and as expected, offensive lineman Eugene Monroe and defensive lineman B.J. Raji got their life changing phone calls from their respective teams.
In what could be one of the biggest moments in 49er draft history since 1985 when the 49ers traded its first two picks for New England's 16th selection and chose Jerry Rice right before the Dallas Cowboys were intending to pick him, Michael Crabtree got his own phone call from 49er brass saying that he is their man.
Jed York, Scot McCloughan, and Mike Singletary can thank Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders for handing the cross town rival San Francisco 49ers a neatly wrapped present—college football's best wide receiver over the last two seasons.
The only real knock on the Red Raider's ability was his reported 4.58 40-yard dash time (Crabtree didn't run at the combine due to a foot fracture) but Jerry Rice ran a 4.71 and he turned out just fine. Hands and separation make the receiver, not blazing speed.
The other knock came when Cleveland Browns' head coach Eric Mangini passed on him with the fifth pick apparently because Crabtree traveled with an entourage, immediately labeling him as a diva.
Diva or not, Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree produced big time numbers and had equally impressive memorable moments during his college career. He gives the 49ers a legitimate receiving threat that has been missing since Terrell Owens wore a Niner uniform earlier this decade.
Crabtree, who red shirted his freshman year, was a 2007 unanimous first-team All American and the winner of the 2007 and 2008 Paul Warfield and Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top wide receiver. He finished with an astonishing 231 receptions for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns in only two seasons.
Although the 49ers addressed one of their most pressing needs when they drafted the talented wide receiver, they still lack an elite pass rusher, a true space eating nose tackle, and a ball hawking safety. Their draft strategy was to obviously pick the best player available rather then draft for need when they used their first four picks after Crabtree on a running back, inside linebacker, quarterback, and tight end, positions the 49ers are deep at.
The 49ers did address offensive line depth despite releasing often injured Jonas Jennings with the signing of tackle Marvel Smith from the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers and picking up undrafted free agent Alex Boone who was a two time All-Big 10 selection during his career at Ohio State.
The former Buckeye played in 46 games and had 35 starts during his NCAA career. Last year's second round pick Chilo Rachal has also shown promise.
The possibility of third round pick Glen Coffee being an upgrade over DeShaun Foster is yet to be determined, but Coffee was a very productive back at Alabama and his combine numbers all ranked in the top 10 of players at his position. Coffee taking pressure off Frank Gore and the return of fullback Moran Norris will benefit the ground game.
The depth at linebacker is strong with 2007 NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year Patrick Willis, speedy Manny Lawson, hard working Parys Haralson, and veteran Takeo Spikes leading the way. Fifth round pick Scott McKillop looks like he could be a serviceable player in the mode of a Derek Smith. Not flashy, but straight forward in your face aggression and solid tackling.
Nate Davis in the fifth round could potentially be a sleeper pick and despite having dyslexia, Davis had a successful career as Ball State's quarterback. Recent observations say his passes travel through the air with more zip than incumbent Shaun Hill, 2005 No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith, and experienced Damon Huard, the signal callers vying for the starting position.
Sixth round pick and former Fresno State Bulldog Bear Pascoe is quickly showing that he's not just a blocking tight end. His good hands have been a pleasant surprise to the 49ers. The speedy and athletic, but often maligned Vernon Davis needs to step his game up now that Pascoe is in town.
As for that safety in the mold of an Ed Reed, maybe seventh round pick Curtis Taylor could surprise. The former LSU Tiger is an impressive athlete, with the physical skills to play at the professional level.
The 49ers' final pick, Ricky Jean-Francois, adds depth to the defensive line. Taylor's teammate at LSU is a bit undersized to play nose tackle in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme, but could compete for a defensive end spot with Ray McDonald and 2008 first round draft pick, Kentwan Balmer.
There have been rumblings about the 49ers inquiring about the Panthers' Julius Peppers who wants out of Carolina and prefers to play for a 3-4 team, but it's just rumor.
The 49ers are about three to four players (QB, DE, DT, S) away from being a perennial playoff contender and only time will tell if Crabtree will live up to the hype, but 49er fans can sit back and relax.
This team is a lot better off now.
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