For a moment let's set aside the NFL lockout and looming legal battle that will determine how soon teams are once again able to engage in offseason trades and free agency. The class-action lawsuit filed by Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees against the NFL could lead to an injunction that will allow teams to resume engaging in contract and trade talks as early as mid-April, although this would assume that any injunction is not appealed by the owners.
The 49ers entered the offseason in need of a quarterback to run their new offense under new coach Jim Harbaugh. With only David Carr still under contract for the upcoming season, and their ability to trade or sign a new quarterback in question, it is conceivable that the Niners will select at least one, and possibly two quarterbacks in the upcoming draft.
At the NFL Combine we learned that San Francisco interviewed Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, and Nevada Wolfpack QB Colin Kaepernick, reaffirming the popular belief that a quarterback is definitely on their draft wish list. Despite mixed reviews from the Combine and his Pro Day workout, Cam Newton has emerged as a possible No. 1 overall pick in the draft, removing the possibility that the Niners could select the star QB with their No. 7 pick. Blaine Gabbert also appears likely to be gone by the time San Francisco makes their first selection.
It seems likely that the Niners will use their first pick to fill another hole in the roster rather than addressing their need for a quarterback. As we progress to the second round, however, we could see the Niners start to address their quarterback need. Which quarterbacks would the Niners consider with their picks in round two and beyond?
Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett are both considered late first -round picks that could potentially slip into the second round. Assuming either of these players are still available by the time the Niners use their 13th pick of the second round (45th overall pick) it would be safe to assume that the Niners would then draft either player. It seems unlikely however that either Locker or Mallett would fall to the Niners in the second round unless they were to trade up to grab them.
Colin Kaepernick will be available to San Francisco in the second round. However, several scouts and mock drafts have him potentially being selected in the third round. Kaepernick raised his draft-stock significantly with his performance at the NFL Combine as well as his Pro Day workout. Kaepernick possesses a strong arm capable of making NFL-caliber throws. He has good mobility and has improved his size. He is definitely a developmental player with a ton of potential that Harbaugh would be able to work with.
Christian Ponder will likely be available in the second round. However, San Francisco would probably need to trade up to get him. Ponder seems like the most likely candidate to be able to step right in and run a West Coast Offense. Ponder spoke to the 49ers at the Senior Bowl, and had an impressive Combine as well. There could be a race to the top of the second round to draft Ponder, so we'll see if the Niners decide to compete.
New head coach Jim Harbaugh personally attended Andy Dalton's Pro Day, the only Pro Day attended by Harbaugh. Dalton is projected as a second to third-round draft pick. Dalton has good arm strength, footwork and consistently accurate throws. Harbaugh's presence at Dalton's Pro Day indicates that San Francisco could be targeting Dalton if he is available when the 49ers make their third round selection.
Pat Devlin is another West Coast-ready quarterback that San Francisco could have interest in drafting in the third to fourth rounds if they have not already filled their QB void with another selection. Devlin possess great traits to fit right into the West Coast offense, including solid footwork and a quick release. Devlin is also an intelligent quarterback who surveys the field well, even when pushed from the pocket. He is very coachable and would be a good fit with Harbaugh's talent for developing young quarterbacks.
The final quarterback that the Niners could consider with the potential of being a future "Franchise" quarterback is Greg McElroy. McElroy is projected as a potential fifth round selection. McElroy could wind up being the second quarterback taken by the 49ers in this draft to help build depth at the position. McElroy is an accurate and efficient game manager who could be developed into a more than serviceable quarterback moving forward with the proper mentoring.
The number of quarterbacks the 49ers decide to take in this year's draft will be influenced by their ability to talk with free agent quarterbacks and gauge trade interest from teams looking to unload a quarterback this offseason.
Seems to be a safe bet though that we will see at least one of these young QB's suiting up for the 49ers in 2011 and beyond.
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