A team on the rise, the San Francisco 49ers are on the way to their first winning season in eight years.
When Mike Singletary was brought in as head coach last year, he brought with him a philosophy of toughness and discipline, turning a desolate team into a team to be feared by opponents. Led by the running of Frank Gore and the tackling of Patrick Willis, the team made tremendous leaps in becoming a contender in the NFC West.
Newly appointed quarterback Alex Smith is one of the forgotten talents that entered the league with high hopes of success and, instead, found himself on his back looking up at a California sky filled with unforgiving fans.
He will now get his second, or third, chance—only this time with a dependable running back and an improved defense. Still, the Niners will have to properly plan and make all the right moves if they intend to improve their roster.
Biggest Needs: OL, WR
With Alex Smith coming in for another shot at greatness, it's vital that the front office folks provide some adequate protection for the young gunslinger.
That being said, David Baas may very well leave as a free agent, and replacing him won't be so easy.
Thankfully, with two decent picks in the upcoming draft (13th, 17th), San Francisco has a shot at nabbing two offensive linemen if they should choose. There will be many talented candidates available.
Frank Gore had one of the highest running averages in '09, but the Niners had one of the lowest rush attempts in the NFL. That tells me the team isn't confident in their line. I expect them to target inside blockers like Mike Iupati out of Idaho, Baylor's J.D. Walton, and maybe even USC's Charles Brown.
Isaac Bruce is headed for free agency this year. The aging wideout may be headed for retirement, pending San Francisco's decision to let him go or re-sign him. Despite his offseason woes, Michael Crabtree has undergone stellar progression and is, deservedly, an excellent No. 1 receiver.
However, I do expect the Niner nation to seek out another weapon for Alex Smith. With an abundance of picks in April, they have the tools to do so. Look for them to target the physical Erick Decker out of Minnesota or even Tulane's Jeremy Williams.
For the remainder of the 49ers' team needs, go here.
Attention San Francisco 49ers Fans: