If we stay our current course, Jake Locker could be well within our reach, but should we take him?
The 49ers appear to be entering familiar territory for the 2011 NFL mock draft. As of this week, Many mock drafts have them picking in the top five. They are in a position where they could easily play themselves to having the No. 1 draft pick with no serious changes to the way business is done in the bay.
Barring a miracle, this should be Alex Smith's last year in San Francisco. Who would have thought that Alex Smith would have come to the 49ers as a first overall draft choice, and left the team with the first overall draft choice?
Can the 49ers afford to take a gamble with a top five pick on another QB?
With our top priorities being pass rush, cornerback and quarterback, lets have a look.
Patrick Peterson will be an option in the 2011 NFL draft if we stay our current course
Neither Dashon Goldson nor Taylor Mays has much experience under their belt. The 49ers used two first-round picks in 2010 on massive, brutal offensive linemen. Mike Iupati has shown promise, but Anthony Davis has made himself out to be a work in progress.
With the defensive secondary, I don't think that using the top two picks on CB's is warranted, but is also not a good idea. Given the inexperience of our safeties, I would like to see them do one at a time. I think that drafting a CB in the second round would be a wise move. If the Patrick Peterson is on the board for their first-round pick, it's a toss up, but anything less I would advise against a CB.
Peterson has defended a plethora of SEC receivers that project to be first-round draft picks, about as close to on-the-job experience as college football gets.
Drafting one solid CB would enable the 49ers to terminate the contract of Nate Clements, who has slightly improved as of late but hasn't played to near the worth of his eight-year, $80 million contract. If they draft two CB's, they'd better pray for a pass rush, because they would be hard pressed to find contributors in the third round and down.
Allen Bailey is exactly the kind of player that the 49ers defense needs.
Isaac Sopoaga is a mammoth and does a good job of clearing holes for the linebackers to do their job. Aubrayo Franklin is a first-rate nose tackle, but is getting old and is looking for a long-term deal. Justin Smith doesn't appear to be slowing down. Ray McDonald definitely earns his place on the team, but isn't good enough to start yet. Demetric Evans is by all means expendable.
I think one of the 49ers first two picks need to be used on an individual who can fill the left defensive end role, a Bryant Young type individual who has a non-stop motor and is a threat in the backfield on every play. Marvin Austin, Marcel Dareus and Allen Bailey all come to mind.
Sopoaga has, and is again, more than capable of playing nose tackle, Ricky Jean-Francois is a serviceable backup at either DE or DT. This pick doesn't hold as much significance to the standpoint that Sopoaga is a liability as it does that to swap out Evans for a bookend 3-4 defensive end who presents a dominating presence in the backfield.
It also makes a lot of sense from a financial standpoint, as San Francisco obviously has its druthers with signing Aubrayo Franklin to a long-term deal, so he may be gone at the end of the season as well.
The outside linebackers we have are a touchy subject. Manny Lawson is still showing an upside, not nearly worth the contract he's asking for but he is undoubtedly a serviceable starter. Ahmad Brooks seems to be dealt the role of backup for most of the season. Travis LaBoy generates pressure although is inconsistent, and Parys Haralson still leaves me wondering why the team extended his contract more often than not.
When it comes down to it, in a 3-4 defense, the nose tackle is the center key to MLB performance. We have a good starter, and a good backup nose tackle. Defensive ends are the key to OLB performance, and this is where we have struggled.
I firmly believe that the insertion of a fierce defensive end that generates QB pressure starting in Isaac Sopoaga's stead unlocks the key to more mismatches in the 49ers favor than any other move they could make on the defensive side of the ball. These players, as Bryant Young, Ndamukong Suh, etc. have shown us, come at a high pick price, and if the 49ers do not select a QB with the first-round pick they would be foolish not to spend it.
At this point, many mock drafts like us taking Jake Locker with a top 5 pick.
The 49ers organization must make a decision on head coach Mike Singletary by season's end. To me, the decision is simple: Playoffs or pack your bags.
This is critically important if they are to draft a QB who will be the center of the franchise for years to come.
I will go out on a limb here and say that if the 49ers decide to draft a QB in the first round, they had better bring in a good developmental staff member at some level. Alex Smith 2.0 would ruin this team for years to come.
I'll hold my breath for Troy Smith, but not for long.
I have also been watching Northwestern's Dan Persa, who is in a similar situation to Jake Locker as far as team, supporting cast, and mobility, but will fall to later rounds due to only being 6' 1".
Wisconsins John Moffitt is a guard who projects to be available in the 3rd or fourth round. Possibly later.
I think this goes without saying, but the 49ers could easily take players who could challenge for roster spots in the late rounds for the spot occupied by Chilo Rachal. If the 49ers had to transport all of their expendable offensive linemen in a Corvette, lets just say that there would be people riding in the trunk.
David Baas was uprooted as left guard by rookie Mike Iupati, but has since found a new home at center. He has filled in nicely for injured starter Eric Heitmann, with the exception of the snap out of the back of the end zone vs the Saints. With his flexibility, Baas has all but secured his spot on the roster, whether it pans out as a starter or backup.
Joe Staley is having more trouble this season than one would expect, but then again, so is the team. Alex Smith is holding the ball a little too long and the offensive line as a whole is paying for it.
Terrance Toliver brings all of the traits to the table that the 49ers are missing in their receiving corps, and should be available at the start of draft day 3.
We have our possession receiver in Michael Crabtree, and our burner in Ted Ginn Jr. I'm sorry Josh Morgan, you're the odd man out. I'm still not sold on your ability to be a viable No. 2 receiver in this league.
The 49ers are still missing a big, physical receiver that can make catches even when well covered, that guy who commands safety help over the top every time he goes deep. With the other pressing needs that the team has, Terrence Toliver of LSU (6'5") could be available in the third or fourth round, and the team should get him after the top priorities are met.
Morgan is a valuable presence on the roster due to his blocking ability in the running game, and would be a great option to use in the slot on a disguised run, but other than that, receivers with his talent are a dime a dozen. After all, Morgan is sixth-round talent himself.
Marcell Dareus would make me very happy in a 49ers uniform
Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Allen Bailey, DT/DE, Miami
Marcel Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama
Curtis Brown, CB, Texas
Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn (probably won't be available, but if he slides here GET HIM!)
Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Texas
Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia