"That's great, you're going to get us number six!" Jed York was heard telling Jim Harbaugh as they stepped out of his office after coming to a handshake agreement to make Harbaugh the team's new coach.
Little did people know how much of a rollercoaster ride it would be that week with Mr. Harbaugh.
Between Harbaugh interviewing with Miami and possibly returning to Stanford, 49er fans were high-strung and ultimately relieved that they had landed the hottest coaching prospect of the year. Rejoice, San Francisco! For you shall be saved!
Not so fast—the road back to glory has taken detours through mediocrity and disappointment, and the 49ers are still on that path back to glory. However, the promised land is in sight!
The 49ers are trying to become a good, dominant football team again and with a new coach who knows the West Coast offense and coached the dynamic Andrew Luck leading the way, the 49ers are well on their way to becoming a force to be reckoned with.
The 49ers were many people's favorite pick to win the NFC West this year, however, after starting the season with a disappointing 0-5 record, they were able to bounce back and come within one game of winning the NFC West title.
With the 2011 NFL Draft, the 49ers are going to try to correct problems and turn weaknesses into strengths.
With the 2011 draft a few months out, I decided to make a mock of the 49ers' draft class. The 49ers have glaring needs that need to be taken care of through free agency and the draft. I debated having the 49ers trading for extra picks, however for simplicity's sake, I did not include any trades.
So without further ado, I bring you my mock draft for the San Francisco 49ers.
After taking Alex Smith with the first overall pick and having David Carr on the roster at the same time, I don't see the 49ers picking a quarterback in the first round for quite a while. I would expect them to look towards free agency or a trade to get a starting quarterback and drafting one later on in the draft. The 49ers should stick with the safer bet and draft Prince Amukamara in the first round.
Prince Amukamara is a shutdown corner and would replace Nate Clements at cornerback. Clements has agreed to discuss a renegotiation of his monstrous contract, however, a pay cut will not make up for poor performance. Nate is only getting older and has proven he is not as effective as he used to be. It is time for the 49ers to part ways with Nate Clements and move on to other prospects.
The cornerback class runs deep this year and Amukamara is at the top of the class. He is arguably better than Patrick Peterson and has the ability to be an effective starter his rookie year. Prince Amukamara would instantly upgrade an extremely weak 49er secondary and help return it to its former glory that included the likes of Ronnie Lott, Merton Hanks, Eric Wright, Chet Brooks and Deion Sanders.
It is a long shot that Rahim Moore would still be around in the middle of the second round, but it isn't too far-fetched. Rahim Moore is the premiere free safety in the draft and is versatile enough to play cornerback. There will likely be growing pains with Rahim Moore, however, that is to be expected. His adjustment would be eased with Prince Amukamara helping in the secondary.
There are not a lot of free safeties in free agency this year and Nate Clements has said that he does not want to switch to free safety—he wants to remain at cornerback. The 49ers' departing free safety, Dashon Goldson, is a free agent and did not live up to expectations this year. In fact, he was extremely disappointing. Goldson also is asking for a large contract and will probably be offered more money by another team.
Ras-I Dowling would be another choice if Rahim Moore isn't available because of his height and versatility as well. Dowling normally plays CB but can switch interchangeably to free safety like Rahim Moore.
The 49ers pass rush has been a need for a few seasons. In a 3-4 defensive scheme, pass rushing through blitzes is essential for getting pressure on the quarterback. A great pass-rushing linebacker in the draft is Casey Matthews out of Oregon.
Casey Matthews is projected as a great fit for a pass-rushing outside linebacker: He is an intelligent football player, illustrated by when he knocked the ball from Cam Newton's hand in the BCS championship game.
Guided by Takeo Spikes and Patrick Willis, he can be a great linebacker for years to come. His brother, Clay Matthews, is a Pro Bowl linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, and both come from a lineage of great football players.
Casey plays interior linebacker at Oregon but could easily be moved to the outside and upgrade the 49ers pass rush. Travis LaBoy and Manny Lawson have not been effective in pass rushing and probably will not be re-signed by the 49ers.
In this mock draft, he is projected as a late second- to early third-round draft choice. I have the 49ers drafting him in the third round; however, they should be targeting him as early as the second round. This is because the 49ers' pick is in the middle of the second round and Casey Matthews has the pedigree to be a great pass-rushing linebacker, which is something the 49ers will need to be an elite football team.
The 49ers are good at stopping the run, but pass rushing is their weakness. Lawrence Guy seems like just the man to help the defensive line's pass rush. He is projected to fit well as a defensive end in the 3-4 scheme and was a good pass rusher in college.
He would most likely start his first year as a rotational lineman but eventually would be able to be a full-time starter. Guy is a hard worker; overcoming dyslexia in high school to get into college, he taught himself how to learn. He needs some development but a season as a rotational lineman should polish him up to be a full-time starter.
I originally had a nose tackle in my prototype mock draft, but I believe the 49ers are going to sign Aubrayo Franklin to a long-term deal. Franklin and Smith are both getting older but still producing good results. The defensive line will need youth and some pass-rushing skills if it is to stay competitive.
Owen Marecic would be the first Stanford player that coach Harbaugh will draft in this mock. Marecic knows coach Harbaugh's system and would fill a need for the 49ers.
Marecic would replace Moran Norris at fullback. This year, Norris was terrible and a change and under Harbaugh's system, Norris will not be useful. Instead, coach Harbaugh should look to a fullback that he knows quite well.
In college, Owen Marecic played both fullback and interior linebacker. The fact that he's able to play both offense and defense means that he understands the game of football from both sides of the ball, and playing under coach Harbaugh in college doesn't hurt either.
Coached by the great Tom Rathman, Owen Marecic could develop into a great fullback for the 49ers.
Nicknamed "The President" in college, Andrew Jackson was an important part of the Fresno State Bulldogs and help make up their veteran offensive line.
Now entering the draft, Jackson is projected to be a solid but not amazing player in the NFL. Chilo Rachals has been terrible and as a result of his poor performance, Andrew Jackson could find himself as the starter.
At worst, Jackson would at least add depth to the offensive line.
A mobile, durable, intelligent and accurate quarterback, Scott Tolzien lead the NCAA in accuracy with a insane 74.3 percent. He also has the ability to throw on the run and played in a pro-style offense for two years in college.
Groomed by Harbaugh, he could be the quarterback of the future for the 49ers. He is one of the few quarterbacks in this draft who could be molded into the prototypical West Coast offense quarterback.
His biggest knocks against him are his arm strength and mechanics. Arm strength is not really important in the West Coast-style offense, but mechanics are vitally important. Under Harbaugh's guidance, Tolzien can hopefully correct these flaws and be groomed into the quarterback of the future for the 49ers.
The alternative picks include Andy Dalton from TCU and Pat Devlin from Delaware. Both of these quarterbacks would be good options, however, most mock drafts place Dalton in the fourth or fifth round.
Also, Dalton comes from the spread offense, where as Tolzien is already familiar with taking snaps under center in a pro-style offense. I think Pat Devlin has the most potential of becoming a West Coast offense quarterback, but he will likely be gone by the middle rounds, if not the first day.
The other options are to draft a quarterback next year, when the quarterback talent is supposed to be very strong. Or trade the pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for Josh Johnson, who played for Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego.
Further rounding out the secondary talent is Cortez Allen.
A tall cornerback at 6'2", Allen is able to make hard-hitting tackles on receivers and break up plays. He is also extremely fast, being clocked at under 4.5 in the 40 by NFL scouts. He has a high football intelligence and is a durable defensive back.
His footwork does need work to be effective at the next level, but overall, he is a great value and doesn't need a lot of work to become a starting cornerback in the NFL.
Ryan Whalen is a decent-sized receiver (6'2") with decent speed and great strength, but his true asset is catching the ball in traffic, which is very important in the West Coast offense.
Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn Jr. only have one more year on their contracts and have not produced enough to live up to expectations. Ryan has the ability to be a solid receiver in the NFL, with good route running and decent size. Ryan Whalen would be a great receiver to study under Crabtree and Vernon Davis.
His stock has dropped because his production dropped off this year. At the start of the season, he was projected as a mid-round pick. He would also help install Coach Harbaugh's offensive system along with fullback Owen Marecic.
A great running back from a school known for their running backs, Damien Berry would help spell Frank Gore and Anthony Dixon. Berry was the main running back in Miami's crowded backfield and had a productive season with nearly 900 rushing yards.
He would probably become pretty close to Frank Gore, seeing as how they play the same position and both went to the U. Damien Berry could be a sleeper pick for the Niners.
With the 32 year-old Brian Westbrook a free agent, the 49ers will probably be looking at other areas of need to address before re-signing him. With plenty of good running backs in the draft, the 49ers can pick up one in the later rounds of the draft for a less expensive price than Westbrook would cost. Brian Westbrook showed that although he is older, he is still able to be an asset to teams and will be picked up by another team in free agency.