Roy Williams Shouldn't Be at the Top of the San Francisco 49ers' List

Rory BrownSenior Writer IOctober 9, 2008

The Roy Williams to San Francisco rumors, whether or not there's any truth to them, are really exciting to a lot of 49ers fans.

The organization partially built on the foundation of Jerry Rice's records and Dwight Clark's catch hasn't had a star receiver since Terrell Owens left town in 2003.

Since T.O. took off for Philadelphia, "top" San Francisco receivers have included the likes of Cedrick Wilson, Brandon Lloyd, Curtis Conway, Arnaz Battle, Johnnie Morton, Antonio Bryant, Darrell Jackson, and Bryant Johnson.

That's not exactly a group of first-ballot Hall of Famers, which explains why the signing of almost-36-year-old Isaac Bruce this summer was considered a major upgrade.

Only once over the past four seasons has a 49er wide receiver—Brandon Lloyd in 2005 —led the team in catches for the year. Instead, that honor has gone to tight ends (Eric Johnson in 2004, Vernon Davis in 2007) and running back Frank Gore (2006, and he currently leads the team in catches in 2008).

The 'Niners need a clear-cut No. 1 wideout, and Williams, if he actually wants to be traded, could be that guy. He's a pass catcher that hasn't always been consistent but has the size and speed to make big plays. He's also thrived under Mike Martz's offense in Detroit, peaking at 82 catches for 1,310 yards and seven touchdowns in 2006.

With Williams as the go-to receiver, Bruce as the No. 2 option, a host of younger guys to fill the third spot, and Frank Gore catching passes out of the backfield, quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan would have options when looking to move the ball down the field.

But O'Sullivan doesn't have any options when he's getting dragged to the ground by opposing defenders, and that's become a familiar happening.

No quarterback has been sacked more than O'Sullivan this year, as he's been tackled behind the line of scrimmage 20 times—12.5 percent of his pass attempts.

The sacks are partially due to O'Sullivan holding on to the ball too long, but poor pass protection can be blamed for the frequent pocket collapses.

Although a top receiving target is something the 49ers desperately need, protecting O'Sullivan needs to be the team's top priority. That means any kind of trade that would send draft picks—picks that should be spent on bulking up the offensive line in the offseason—to Detroit would likely be bad news for San Francisco in the long haul.

Blitzing is the easiest way to disrupt Mike Martz' offensive schemes, as opponents of the 2002 St. Louis Rams figured out. Throw in a promising, but very inexperienced O'Sullivan, and the forced throws, turnovers, and sacks rise dramatically.

Sure, O'Sullivan needs a target, but opposing defense are targeting him, and the 'Niners need to address that before making any big moves.