2010 NFL Draft: Why the 49ers Don't Need to Draft a Lineman in the First Round

Vinnie ButeraContributor IMarch 1, 2010

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 31:  Vernon Davis #85 of the NFC's San Francisco 49ers runs with the ball during the 2010 AFC-NFC Pro Bowl game at Sun Life Stadium on January 31, 2010 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The AFC defeated the NFC 41-34. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

What is something that the Colts and Saints have in common other than being the best teams in their respective divisions?

Front office management that makes excellent personnel decisions.

These two teams have adopted a strategy that other teams would be wise to follow as the benefits are apparent.

The strategy they have adopted is this: Draft linemen on the second day or sign them as rookie unrestricted free agents.

Some may suggest that this is a foolish strategy, that they have two All-World quarterbacks who read the game better than Ron Burgundy on an evening telecast, not to mention outstanding playmakers to surround them.

But not even John Elway would be a prolific passer behind our offensive line of late. 

Between the two teams there is only one starting lineman drafted before the fourth round. The Saints' LT and RG were fourth rounders, with their LG and C selected in the fifth, finishing off with a round two selection at RT.

The Colts take the low-ranked lineman theory to the extreme, boasting three unrestricted rookie free-agent signings, with fourth and sixth round starters as well. Jeff Saturday, widely considered a sure-fire Hall of Famer, is one player the Colts signed as an unrestricted rookie free agent more than 10 years ago. 

So what is to be learned from this? There are literally hundreds of linemen looking to get drafted each year. Just because Mel Kiper says one lineman doesn't have big enough hands doesn't mean he can't play football. Solid players who get the job done can be obtained in the later rounds. 

There are times when there are such tantalizing lineman prospects such as Orlando Pace or Michael Oher that you can't pass up (unless Michael Crabtree is on the board, of course), but for every Pace there is a Robert Gallery, setting back your offense even further. 

Using a first round pick can be better suited on a playmaker on offense or defense. This year there is a possibility of someone like Eric Berry or C.J. Spiller falling to the Niners with the 13th pick. If one of the two fell into Jed York's lap, he would be a fool to not pick him up and sit him down with the 49er family.

The Niners are one or two players removed from taking the next step to greatness. Use the first several picks to fill those playmaker gaps and then set up our offensive line with the late bloomers.