NFL Draft 2011: San Francisco 49ers' 5 Biggest Needs

Kyle VassaloFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2011

NFL Draft 2011: San Francisco 49ers' 5 Biggest Needs

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    The San Francisco 49ers haven't exactly done well in the war room for the past decade. Their selections have been hit-or-miss, often times completely whiffing on high first round picks.

    As a result, the 49ers roster has a few glaring holes. These will be the areas the 49ers need to address come draft day. With the labor dispute still up in the air, the 49ers will want to have their roster as complete as possible prior to free agency.

    This article is part one of two. The second will feature draft picks who could potentially fill the needs mentioned in this article.

    Let's take a look at the five biggest needs for San Francisco heading into draft day.

5. Guard

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    Chilo Rachal looks worse and worse every season. Once heralded for his smashmouth blocking style, Rachal has regressed into a pass blocking liability. He is consistently beaten off the ball and fails to live up to the expectations the 49ers had for him when they drafted him in the second round.

    On the other side, Mike Iupati appears to have Pro Bowl potential. With three first-round offensive linemen on roster and a first-round tight end, the 49ers have invested more in their offensive line than any team in the NFL.

    Anthony Davis suffered through rookie growing pains last season, but appears to have the potential to secure the right tackle position. As for Rachal, it appears it is time to cut bait. The 49ers will not see results from their investments until they address the right guard position.

4. Pass Rusher

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    This is the point in the list where people are going to start saying, "That should be No. 1!" The 49ers' pass rushing production was actually right in the middle of the pack last season. Collectively, the team is average at getting to the quarterback.

    Unfortunately, the 49ers have not had a double-digit sack player since Andre Carter in 2002. They have swung and missed on a number of outside linebackers. The 49ers need to bring in a guy who can play every down and get to the quarterback.

    Newly anointed defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is a mastermind when it comes to scheming, but he needs better tools to work with. In a 3-4, a team needs to have a guy who can come off the edge and wreak havoc in the backfield. The 49ers just don't have that guy on roster.

3. Quarterback

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    The quarterback position has been anything but stable in San Francisco for the last 10 years. It seems as though there is always a quarterback controversy brewing. Not a "Steve Young or Joe Montana?" controversy, either.

    When given the choice between Alex Smith or Shaun Hill, Mike Martz chose J.T. O'Sullivan. The quarterback situation was in shambles then, and it remains so today. The 49ers brought in David Carr, made Alex Smith the clear cut No. 1, and made Troy Smith the emergency QB.

    Fast forward to the end of the year in a must win game against the Rams and Troy Smith is starting, only to lose his starting job mid-game to Alex Smith. The 49ers need a franchise QB. Jim Harbaugh seems to be the answer in finding one. Whether or not the quarterback of the future lies within this draft class is yet to be seen.

2. Cornerback

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    It is clear that the 49ers missed on Nate Clements when they brought him in during free agency in 2007. He is very physical for a corner, but his coverage skills are lacking. He was brought in to be a lockdown corner, but has failed miserably in coverage against even slightly above-average talent.

    Coverage at the safety position is of major concern as well. Without ball hawking safeties, the coverage skills of the number one corner need to be immaculate. Clements is grossly overpaid for the production the 49ers see from him.

    Two new cornerbacks could very well begin the 2011 season. While the secondary can point to lack of a pass rush as the catalyst for their downfall, the 49ers certainly aren't seeing coverage sacks all that often.

1. Defensive Tackle

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    It is becoming painfully obvious that Aubrayo Franklin will probably not return to the 49ers next season. Ricky Jean-Francois has exceeded expectations, but faltered in the starting role against Green Bay.

    In the absence of Franklin, the 49ers could slide Isaac Sopoaga inside, but the team would still be lacking a surefire starting nose tackle. A 3-4 cannot function without an anchor. They will need to pursue a defensive tackle who has the potential to develop into a starter.

    Without Franklin, the entire front seven will likely see a huge regression. The 49ers' run defense has been a bright spot. Having a hole at nose can cripple the run defense. The 49ers have a few major causes for concern, but none more prominent than defensive tackle.