The combine is uneventfully over. The Draft is still more than a month away. In the distance, I imagine Scott McCloughlan crunching away on a calculator while Mike Singletary studies 2009 Division-1 game film. In my imagination, Mike Singletary's doors of communication - with players and management alike - are still open. Their conversations dwell on Draft strategy; they weigh 'addressing needs against 'best athlete available.'
Offensive needs: Last year had a clear moral to it - the O-line needs attention. Both the passing and running games suffered as a result of injury and unpreparedness on the offensive front five. Although the strategy of 'best athlete available' is always a factor in 49ers drafting philosophy, there's no fooling anyone that there is a need to be addressed. If this need is (by some twisted fate) not at least partially met in the first round, rest assured it will be a focus in subsequent rounds.
Offensive Linmen - Offensive Tackles - Rounds 1 & 2:
Russell Okung - Will not be available at pick 13.
Anthony Davis - Probably gone by pick 13 as well.
Trent Williams - Recent mocks have Williams available at pick 13. If he is, he's almost certain to be a 49er.
Bryan Bulaga - Another Possible pick at 13 (or maybe 17) will not slip out of the first round. I guarantee it.
Bruce Campbell - Another Tackle worth first-round consideration. If the heard has been thinned by pick 13, he may be kept in mind at pick 17, or SF may trade down a couple notches to get him in the early second round.
Charles Brown - Figureing to be another early second rounder, Brown has been a top performer at USC for years.
Offensive Linemen - Offensive Guards- Rounds 1 thru 4:
Mike Iupati - The only guard projected to go in the first round, I'm not totally sold on this guy. Although his size and speed seem good for the NFL, he played at Idaho. Not the storied football program I expect great linemen to come from. If he falls to the 49ers second round, he's SF bound without a doubt.
Brandon Carter - This is my guy. If I had any power on draft day, I would trade up a notch or two in the third round to make sure I got Brandon Carter. He looks like Godzilla, plays like King-Kong. Although his run blocking is still unrefined (he lunges off-balance at linebackers) his pass protection is nearly perfect.
John Jerry - Somehow, this fellow wasn't on my radar until recently. He's another dominating interior lineman. Where Carter is a monster Pass protector who needs to learn the finer points of run blocking, Jerry goes the other way with it. His pancakes are famous around the SEC - and nobody is talking about his cooking. is brother was a first-round pick last year for the Atlanta Falcons.
Although they finished strong, there were several problems for SF on defense in 2009. Most seemed to stem from a sub-par pass rush, but secondary also became an issue at times.
Pass-Rushers - First Round.
Jason Paul-Pierre - Likely gone by the 13th pick, but would be great to have. Athletic combine 'freak' of the year.
Carlos Dunlap - May fall and be available due to a DUI that kept him out of the SEC Championship. Not as agile or fast as Paul-Pierre, but bigger.
Sergio Kindle - Could be an option at the 17th pick. Really caught my attention in BCS Bowl. Like his offensive counterpart, Jorday Shipley, Kindle never gave up in what was probably the biggest game of his college career. his heart and his athletic ability make him a solid first-rounder in my book.
Pass Rushers - Second round and down
Greg Hardy - May even go in the first round. Big, solid, and ready to play in the NFL.
Corey Wooten - Big like Dunlap, but with less baggage. But can he adapt to OLB in the 3-4?
Defensive Tackle - Second round
Terrence Cody - The biggest of the big guys, he's a gamble. I call it 40% probability of NFL success, with a payout around 3 to 1 if he receives the necessary coaching.
Defensive Backs - First Round
Joe Hayden - Probably won't be available at 13, but he's a special talent I could see SF picking up before addressing O-line, should he drop to them, though this is highly unlikely.
Taylor Mays - I don't actually like this guy as much as i like what he stands for - a big, hard-hitting safety out of USC. This is historically a good recipe. Could be a find at pick 17, if other options are exhausted.
Defensive Backs - Later Rounds
Myron Rolle - I really like this guy's story. Although he's almost too smart for football, he's giving it a try. His abilities outshine his numbers, but only because he didn't play football in 2009. Still, he may be better suited as a Nero-surgeon than NFL hit-man.
One haunting problem for SF last year was the return game. Here are special-teams talents to keep an eye on. Notice, many also come with offensive benefits as well.
First Round Specialteamers
C.J. Spiller - Nobody ever taught this guy how to fumble?
Jahvid Best - Probably will go late in the first, but if he's around in round 2, he'd be a steal.
Jordan Shipley - Heart of a lion, hands of a reciever. Should be available in round 2 and maybe 3.
Jacoby Ford - In 2006, he averaged 32.8 yards per kickoff return. He returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and a punt 92 yards for a touchdown. Also had the combine's fastest 40. Should have the same draft stock to SF as Shipley.
Late round specialteam-er
Trindon Holiday - This guy is simply way to small to play in the NFL. Keep telling yourself that when he burns you for a 70 yard punt return. He's almost too small to tackle.
So a good Draft weekend might go like this
First Round, First Pick: Jason Pierre-Paul
First Round, Second Pick: Bryan Bulaga
Second Round: Jordan Shipley
Third Round: John Jerry
Fourth Round: Brandon Carter
Fifth Round: Myron Rolle
Sixth Round: Trindon Holiday
Seventh Round: LeGarrette Blount
Or it could go a totally different way all together, but as long as it includes more than one player on my list, I'll be celebrating.