The San Francisco 49ers on the verge of becoming a contender again, after years of disappointment and mediocrity. However, they do have needs that must be addressed before they can move forward.
The 49ers took the first step by landing coach Harbaugh and placing the final touches on a solid coaching staff. Now it's time to focus on what players the 49ers should draft with their selections in the 2011 draft.
The 49ers secondary is terrible, making it a big weakness. Nate Clements is overpaid, old and more than likely will not be back next year. It is time for the 49ers to draft a premier corner in the first round. Mel Kiper has Patrick Peterson falling to the 49ers at the no. 7 spot, and so do I. He would immediately be able to become the 49ers No. 1 cornerback and breathe rejuvenated life into the 49ers secondary.
The 49ers outside linebackers aren't bad on paper, however, Manny Lawson has not lived up to his first round billing and Parys Haralson and Ahmad Brooks have not been consistent.
Brooks Reed would be an excellent pass-rushing outside linebacker for the 49ers. He had the fastest 10 yard split of an outside linebacker at the Combine and he was faster than the highly touted Von Miller and the speedy Dontay Moch.
Brooks Reed is also a hard hitter and has a high football IQ. The 49ers pass-rushing would be greatly improved. Brooks Reed also played defensive end in college, and if he gains some weight and maintains his speed, Vic Fangio could put him in that position when he uses his exotic blitz packages.
Everybody seems to have their favorite quarterback in this draft, whether it be Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick, Pat Devlin or whomever.
Personally, Andy Dalton isn't my favorite choice for quarterback, but rumor is that Harbaugh is interested in Dalton and flew out to get a first-hand look at the young quarterback. To Dalton's credit, he is accurate, intelligent and is able to scramble when he has to. If given a few seasons of grooming by Harbaugh, Andy Dalton can become the franchise quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
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, spelling off Justin Smith who is still playing at a high level going on age 32.
Eventually, Guy would be able to be a full-time starter. He 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.
A receiver who manages to get yards after catch and able to secure the ball with little fumbling issues, Greg Little would make an excellent complement to Michael Crabtree.
His stock dropped to the scandal that rocked the UNC football program and his season long suspension due to his involvement with it.
Little is a 6'3”, 230 lb player who has quite a bit of upper body strength showcased by his Combine performance of 27 reps on the bench press. He is still a bit raw as a route runner, but given time to develop, he could challenge Crabtree for the No. 1 receiver spot.
Owen Marecic would fill a gaping hole at fullback for the 49ers. Marecic is one of Harbaugh's favorite players at Stanford and with the ability to play both sides of the ball, his football IQ is very high.
Tom Rathman would enjoy coaching Marecic and the 49ers will have a good quality fullback once again. Marecic could also fill in at the linebacker position. He played both linebacker and fullback in college and would be a very versatile player for the 49ers, able to contribute on special teams and fill in as a linebacker in emergency situations.
David Arkin is the definition of a sleeper pick. Though he's not on a lot of scouts' radars, he has many positives and very few negatives. He had a somewhat disappointing Senior Bowl, but rebounded back by having a strong showing at the combine. He is driven and extremely hardworking, if the 49ers do not address their need for an interior lineman via free agency, Arkin would be a decent choice in the later rounds.
Richard Sherman has not played cornerback very long, but shows continual signs of improvement. He knows Vic Fangio's system and is not afraid to get physical with wide receivers. He had a great game in the Senior Bowl, with an interception. He also had a good Combine as well and would help implement Vic Fangio's defensive scheme. He has excellent body control and could switch back to wide receiver, like the Marecic pick in the previous round, he would be a versatile pick for the 49ers.
A late defensive lineman pick, Chris Neild was an unsung hero on West Virginia's defense.
He is extremely good at taking on double teams and stopping the run. The 49ers could continue their defensive dominance against the run and with Aubrayo Franklin testing the free agent markets, Chris Neild and Ricky Jean-Francois would be ideal candidates for taking over the nose tackle position.
Mark Legree had a great Combine, and is known for being a heavy hitter and tackler. Legree also finished his career as the interception leader in division I. He could be a sleeper hit and improve the 49ers secondary. He had a good showing at the Combine, running a 4.53 40 and a 6.73 cone. He could become a quality defensive back for the 49ers.
Devon Torrence, CB, Ohio State
Torrence could likely go undrafted. He ran a remarkable 4.25 40 at the Combine and a sub seven second cone drill. He also played against top competition at Ohio State. He would at least add speed and depth to the defensive backs.
Darrin Walls, CB, Notre Dame
Another fast cornerback who ran a 4.47 40 and is versatile enough to switch to free safety and play special teams, including returning kicks.
Chris Prosinki, FS, Wyoming
A defensive back that ran two sub 4.45 40's and a sub seven his second time on the cone drill during Wyoming's pro day, he had a productive career at Wyoming.
Kenny Rowe, OLB, Oregon
A pass-rushing outside linebacker only, Kenny Rowe could be quite a catch as an undrafted free agent. He averaged about 2.5 sacks a game last year while playing for the highly respected Oregon Ducks. A bit undersized, he would still work well with Fangio's blitzing schemes.
Scott Tolzien, QB, Wisconsin
The most accurate passer in college last year who played in a pro- style offense could go undrafted...
Zane Taylor, C/G, Utah
Other mock drafts have Zane in them and I read up on him. He has been a very solid player for Utah, however he would more than likely be available in free agency. I think the 49ers should pick up a guard in free agency to bring experience to the offensive line. However, with Heitmann likely done, Baas moving over to center, and Chilo's poor play, Zane Taylor could be a capable o-lineman for the 49ers. If nothing else, he adds depth to the center and guard position.
Chase Beeler, C, Stanford
A Stanford product under new coach Jim Harbaugh, Chase Beeler would add depth to the offensive line while developing into a possible starter.
Dan Bailey, K, Oklahoma State
Joe Nedney is getting older and I refuse to spend a draft pick on a kicker.
Mario Fannin, RB, Auburn
A third down running back, Mario Fannin could help lighten the load for Frank Gore and Anthony Dixon.