Oregon running back Legarette Blount wasn't drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, but he agreed to sign as a free agent on Saturday night to round out a group of incoming rookies clearly hand-picked by head coach Mike Singletary.
Blount would've been the ideal 49er. Too bad he changed his mind on Sunday and appears headed to sign with the Tennessee Titans.
Singletary began his tenure as 49ers head coach by announcing he wanted players who would do what he did in his NFL Hall of Fame career. He wanted guys who would hit people in the mouth. While reviewing the 2010 draft on Saturday, he announced with glee that every player chosen was one who will hit and hit hard.
Blount was the only big-time college player whom we know for sure has experience hitting people in the mouth. He punched that smart aleck Boise State lineman in the face on national TV. Remember?
Blount would've been a perfect fit for the 49ers, but must figure he'll get more chance in Tennessee where the Titans need a big back to team with Chris Johnson.
Regardless, this was Singletary's draft. The 49ers are Singletary's team.
Trent Baalke has some player personnel type title, but Singletary clearly called the shots through the draft. And, because the head coach called the shots the group of incoming rookies, and free agent runner Blount, indicate that Singletary very much intends to get back to a smash-mouth offensive style that failed miserably last season.
Even standout running back Frank Gore can't run at and over defenders without suitable blockers. Singletary, wisely, didn't mess around with the club's two first-round draft picks on Thursday. The offensive line is the key to the coach's desire to run the ball and, ideally, make certain that quarterback Alex Smith doesn't have to win games throwing the ball.
It would've been tempting to some to stick to the original plan and make sure the club came away from the first round with a cornerback and an offensive lineman.
However, once the corner that the 49ers wanted (Joseph Haden) was gone, Singletary just took two big, strong offensive lineman in tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati. They'll likely start up front (now isn't the time to get into the likelihood of two rookies both becoming solid NFL blockers in the same season).
Blocking tight end Nate Byham so fits the 49ers identity that he told the media Saturday that, "I like to bloody noses."
At 6'4", 268 pounds, who wants to argue with him?
Well, Davis might argue. He was downgraded in some pre-draft scouting reports for having an attitude problem. He, reportedly, didn't always give the 100 percent at Rutgers that Singletary will demand.
Penn State linebacker Novarro Bowman is a great pick coming in the third round. He's a study coming out of a school called "Linebacker U." He, too, has had his attitude questioned. However, Super Bowl lineups are rarely filled with choir boys. He has size and speed to plug the middle.
Safety Taylor Mays is from the mold of another USC alum, Troy Polamalu. Mays hits like a ton of bricks. If he'd ignored former USC head coach Pete Carroll and entered the 2009 draft, he'd likely have been a top-10 pick. Mays stayed in school, didn't play particularly well, and actually gave scouts reasons to question his pass coverage ability.
Mays can learn to cover, most likely as a strong safety. It might take time, though, given his seemingly simple-minded response to having been drafted in the second round after Carroll told he'd be a certain first-round pick. Mays is angered that Carroll and the Seahawks passed on him in the first round to take a different safety. Thus, Mays blamed Carroll for every other NFL team passing on him in the first round, too.
It doesn't make sense. But, the hunch is that the type logic that eludes Mays right this minute will help fuel the fire and prompt him to become a big-time NFL defender. It'll be interesting the first time Singletary has tell Mays to, maybe, not hit quite so hard. His tendency to go for the explosive hit cost him tackles as a senior. He'll need to focus on just bringing the ball-carrier to the ground in the NFL.
Mississippi State power running back Anthony Dixon is a 233-pounder was a nice pick and probably one reason that Blount reconsidered signing with the 49ers. (It's worth noting that without that ill-timed punch, Blount would've been a top-50 NFL draft pick.) The 49ers grabbed Dixon late and, while they aren't sure he'll make the club, he brings fullback-type skills to camp.
It's hard for those who remember the Bill Walsh Super Bowl teams to embrace the notion that the 49ers will win, or try to win, like 1985 Chicago Bears. Walsh's 49ers were tough, but they didn't brag about it and managed to move the football and score points without always running over the top of teams. The 1985 Bears? They were Singletary's Bears on defense and they, literally, did score by running over folks.
Whether or not the 1985 Bears model is appealing remains to be seen. But, the draft that Singletary used to push the 49ers far closer to playing like that Bears team was a raging success.
Ted Sillanpaa is a San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area sports writer and columnist. Reach Ted at firstname.lastname@example.org