Lack of direction from the front office of the San Francisco 49ers has led to the 2011 draft being a critical one, specifically at the quarterback position, where former number one overall pick Alex Smith may have run out of time.
The 49ers focus has to be on improving their third-down success on offense and getting off the field on defense. A Super Bowl appearance may not be in the cards under Smith's direction, but a winning season can be achieved.
While new head coach Jim Harbaugh plans to buck this trend, the offense has had no clear direction and is breaking in a new coordinator for the ninth straight season. It is not surprising that the offense failed to convert on 68 percent of their third-down attempts last season.
The team must either implement a better system and stick with it or allow the team to improve on last season's results by developing the current system.
While big plays are usually created by great talent, consistency and third-down success on offense is developed through repetition and timing. Since the team is hitting the offensive reset button nearly every season, the team has not developed the precise timing that can be witnessed in Green Bay, Philadelphia, Indianapolis or San Diego.
Defensively, the 49ers were second in the league in yards per carry, allowing only 3.5 yards per rush, but their pass defense is not getting the job done, who allowed 25 touchdown passes with only 15 interceptions.
Quarterbacks turn the ball over when under duress, turnovers create field position, field position creates points and points win games. The 49ers have to improve on their ability to confuse quarterbacks and create turnovers.
With the number seven pick in the draft, the 49ers need an elite player that can make an immediate impact. A former NFL quarterback himself, Harbaugh may find the challenge of developing a young quarterback too much to pass on. However, an elite pass rusher may allow this team to immediately compete for the NFC West Division title.