The run-up to the 2010 NFL Draft, naturally, has everyone interested in the San Francisco 49ers thinking way too much and ignoring the simplest path to determining who the club should take with the No. 13 pick in the first round.
An offensive lineman, right?
The Oakland Raiders landed offensive tackle Robert Gallery in the first round, and he can't block anybody. Bill Walsh's 49ers utilized O-lineman selected down in the draft. Walsh's teams won a little bit, didn't they?
Nope. Every team needs them, and the 49ers really are thin in the secondary. There's some depth among top DBs on the draft lists, but they all some holes in their game.
The No. 13 pick has to be used on a game-breaker ... on a star who stretches the defense to the perimeter and opens up the middle. If he's there at No. 13, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller just has to be the 49ers' guy.
Others have talked about it. But selecting Spiller is actually essential to the team's continued growth. The Niners should trade up to get the guy if necessary.
There's no faster way to breathe life into a woeful offense than to add a running back with the mind-boggling speed and game-breaking ability Spiller showed in college.
It doesn't take a great O-line to open holes for a guy who can just out-run dudes to the corner.
It doesn't take a pinpoint passer to hit him in full stride and get him into the open field.
Here's betting even 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye has a number of ways to get the ball to Spiller.
All the mock drafts show Spiller being there at No. 13—even those from Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. Neither have the 49ers choosing the No. 1 running back in the draft, the most likely among this class to become a game-breaker. They over-analyze to justify the rating, the draft being a full-time job.
One of the biggest mistakes that NFL teams make every year is that they ignore the key skill positions to fill holes in the first round.
There's not that much separating a first-round O-lineman from a second-round guy. If healthy, the 49ers are OK to start with Adam Snyder and Joe Staley at tackle and Eric Heitman at center. There's no rush to grab an O-lineman at No. 13. There'll be blockers around later.
Smith has three young, improving targets in Vernon Davis, Josh Morgan, and Michael Crabtree. Before you do a spit take and repeat some silliness about how Crabtree's not a big-play guy, remember that the insiders were saying that Crabtree would be worthless when finally signed after the holdout in 2009. The guy caught 48 balls in 11 games. He's not going to be a game-breaker? Consider the sources of that information.
And we saw the spread offense with Frank Gore as the lead back. He's solid, but not suited to the spread. Teams don't build their offenses around a straight-ahead runner, especially when the team has outside threats and a quarterback who works best from the spread. Wait...the Niners did build their offense around Gore last summer. How'd that work out for them?
The 49ers' defense is solid. Not great, but good enough to win. And don't forget, the club has the No. 17 pick in the first round, too. They could snag a defender there.
There's only one outstanding running back in this draft class...one game-breaker. The 49ers can't afford to pass on C.J. Spiller.
There's talk that the Cleveland Browns might go for Spiller with the seventh pick. He's got talent to go at that spot, but a quick look hints that Cleveland isn't in position to draft a game-breaker yet. They have holes everywhere, including at quarterback and all over the defense.
Some are talking about the 49ers grabbing Spiller. It's far more urgent than most think. Trade Gore to the Browns if that will make Spiller available. Deal one of the first-round picks.
Whatever it takes.
The 49ers must have C.J. Spiller.