Most of the offseason speculation regarding the San Francisco 49ers has been focused on who will fill the quarterback position at the beginning of the season.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke seem to have focused on a number of quarterbacks that should be second- and third-round selections.
With Blaine Gabbert likely off the board by the time San Francisco makes its first selection, and Cam Newton not a fit for the Niners' new West Coast offense, it is more likely that San Francisco will use its first pick to fill a hole at a defensive position.
Two of the top names that should be on the draft board at the seventh position are cornerbacks Patrick Peterson from LSU and Nebraska's Prince Amukamara.
The question when it comes to Peterson is not whether the Niners should draft him with the seventh pick, but how fast do they run to the podium to announce their selection.
Peterson is about as close to a sure thing as there exists in the draft. The only problem is that his stock was already so high, that his impressive combine performance and workouts have likely elevated him out of the Niners' range with the seventh pick.
Peterson ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at the combine, second best among all participants. He recorded 38" in the vertical jump, and 10'6" in the broad jump. He finished fourth in the three-cone drill, ninth in the 20-yard shuttle run and fourth in the 60-yard shuttle run. Peterson put forth an all-around impressive effort that could force one of the six teams ahead of the 49ers to select him despite not having a positional need for a cornerback.
The 49ers' need for a cornerback to help Nate Clements does not necessarily hinge on Peterson's availability though. Prince Amukamara elevated his draft stock enough that the 49ers could justify taking him with the seventh pick, or trading back just a few spots to select him.
Amukamara had a solid combine showing as well. He ran a 4.43 40-yard dash, and tied Peterson at 38" in the vertical jump. He finished second in the broad jump, and 13th in the 20-yard shuttle run.
Both Peterson and Amukamara project to be No. 1 cornerbacks for whichever team selects them in the draft.
Obviously the Niners have a number of other positions they could choose to address with the No. 7 selection, and it is no guarantee they will choose to select a cornerback. With so many quarterbacks projected to go in the first and second round, there is plenty of talent that will be left on the board for the Niners to select from.
Another trendy suggestion recently has had San Francisco trading its No. 7 selection for a pick later in the round.
It is possible that the 49ers, who recently held a private workout with Colin Kaepernick, are targeting a quarterback in the late first round, while picking up an additional third or fourth-round draft pick in the process.
Some potential late first-round quarterback targets in addition to Kaepernick could be Christian Ponder and Jake Locker. The Niners have also shown interest in Andy Dalton, and are rumored to potentially select multiple developmental quarterbacks in this draft to help build depth at the position moving forward.
If Peterson is available with the seventh pick, then this is not a discussion worth having—San Francisco will keep the pick and grab Peterson. Should the 49ers pass on the opportunity to draft Amukamara with the seventh selection in order to take a late first-round quarterback though?
I personally don't see it. No quarterback available in this draft is ready to step in and run the Niners offense in Week 1. The Niners will need to sign a free-agent quarterback or make a trade for a quarterback capable of filling the gap until their draftee is developed fully.
Since no quarterback figures to be a major factor for San Francisco in 2011, the 49ers should use their top pick to draft a player who can make an impact in their quest to win the wide-open NFC West.
With a total of 12 selections in the draft, the most of any NFL team this offseason, the 49ers are in a good position to address several positional needs while adding some depth to the practice squad.
You can follow Brandon on Twitter: @BMcClintock_BR for more coverage of Bay Area sports. Brandon writes regularly about the San Francisco 49ers, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics and San Jose Sharks as well national topics assigned by Bleacher Report.
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