NFL Draft 2011: Seven Truths to Guide 49ers Fans as Big Day Nears

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NFL Draft 2011: Seven Truths to Guide 49ers Fans as Big Day Nears
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Even 49ers' head coach Jim Harbaugh is reduced to watching, thinking and waiting at this point in the draft season.

(Sillanpaa sez: Updated story April 23, 2011, 4:31 p.m. Some interesting comments from readers are worth checking, too.)

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There seems to be a basic misunderstanding regarding what San Francisco 49ers' fans should be thinking about as the 2011 NFL Draft nears.

There is a great deal of talk about things like Alex Smith's future with the 49ers, the availability of cornerback Patrick Peterson to the Niners, and the acquisition of veteran quarterbacks, even as the NFL labor dispute goes on.

There is nothing really going on ... nothing to talk about. It's time to wait and wonder. We need to be smarter than to fall for the media NFL draft hype machine.

The San Francisco Chronicle online site featured a headline, "Movement Atop the Draft."

So, maybe there is breaking news?

Turned out that the writer had reported that Jon Gruden says Cam Newton actually learned complicated plays pretty quickly and that ex-Cowboys' GM Gil Brandt likes Newton's family.

The "movement" was the writer concluding that the two pieces of information pushed the Panthers closer to settling on Newton.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
LSU's Patrick Peterson most assuredly won't fall to the 49ers.

Ridiculous! The headline could have been: "Cam Newton, Junk About NFL Draft."

Let's sit back and clear the air -- focus on what we should be talking about in the final days before the draft and agree on the topics that really just waste our time and energy in what could be the last truly exciting time for NFL fans for many months.

Niners want Smith, but Smith might not want to return

Look, GM Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh have, according to the Sacramento Bee, a standing one-year contract offer on the table for Smith.That's a fact we all have to deal with.

Fans don't have to like the idea that the 49ers' management is sold on Smith as the best available free agent QB, but griping about it serves no purpose. See, Harbaugh probably looks at Smith as thinks, "He has physical skill, athleticism and experience that I can use to make him an NFL quarterback." Harbaugh's looking at Smith the same way he's looking at draft-eligible QBs like Jake Locker -- for what they can do and for how far he thinks he can coach 'em up.

Harbaugh and Baalke aren't looking at what Smith has done for the 49ers. We shouldn't be either. They're looking at him and looking to the future. No use wasting energy on Alex Smith now.

First, free agents can't sign contracts until the labor dispute is settled. So, Smith is still a long way from returning to the 49ers. Second, Smith passed up a chance to sign that contract before the labor dispute began, so it's clear that he wants to see what other offers he'll get.

Marc Serota/Getty Images
Andrew Luck is at Stanford. Jim Harbaugh's with the 49ers. Forget Luck finding his way to the Niners, though.

Peterson's going before that 7th overall pick

Peter King has the 49ers needing to trade up to get LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. King adds, however, that the Houston Texans might be willing to trade for the 49ers' pick to get Peterson in a swap that would net the 49ers Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara and a low-round pick.

The only way that the 49ers will get Peterson is by trading up. So, time spent talking about Peterson is best spent considering whether he is worth the 49ers trading up to the fourth or fifth overall pick.

Spend some time fiddling around with draft-day trades that might help the 49ers. Remember, though, future draft picks and players can't be dealt until the labor dispute ends.

Luck has nothing to do with it

Andrew Luck returned to play for Harbaugh at Stanford in 2011. Harbaugh then left for the NFL. There is no connection between Luck and the 49ers. None.

One reader mentioned that, "I hope that Harbaugh doesn't bomb the 2011 season to try to get Andrew Luck in the 2012 draft."

Harbaugh's job is to win games in 2011, not to tank his first year on the job in the NFL simply to enhance the chances of the 49ers getting Luck.

Former CCSF quarterback Jermiah Masoli was brilliant at Oregon, but overlooked in the draft season.

Leave Luck out of the discussion. Just remember that the 2012 QB draft crop will be deep. Study up on those QBs so you won't have to rely on what other people say about them next spring.

Mock drafts are utterly meaningless

Hey, I've done a couple and ... the only way a mock draft can have any real value would be for a writer to pick the brains of insiders in every NFL organization. And I promise, they aren't doing that.

King is an inside as an insider can get and he wrote of the 49ers trading the No. 7 overall pick and called this, "just a guess." Great. Thanks. We can guess for ourselves.

Mock drafts are just proven ways to lure readers to websites. If they were the result of new information, Mel Kiper Jr. and the rest would be telling us what they've heard from NFL insiders ... and all they're doing is telling us that they're arbitrarily changing their draft order.

Fans know as much as analysts do now.

Finding a serviceable veteran QB will be tough

The 49ers can sign a veteran free agent who can win in 2011.

Readers who've responded here with lists of preferred free agent QBs are forgetting one thing -- there are lots of teams who want the same free agent QBs. So, the 49ers won't get Marc Bulger just because we all agree he'd be the best answer for the 49ers. Bulger will get plenty of offers.

It's OK if fans want to keep insisting that Harbaugh should trade for Tampa Bay's Josh Johnson. The idea floated here about dealing for Denver's Brady Quinn or Houston's Matt Leinart is a different approach to finding a veteran. But, teams can't make trades for anything except 2011 draft picks until the labor dispute is settled.

So ...no reason to talk trade now. None. We know it's an option and that's all we need to know.

Red flags? Trust yourselves!

Analysts and scouts are paid to find reasons not to draft guys. So, we hear about character issues, reported drug use and injuries. When you hear NFL insiders talking about those things you're hearing them positioning themselves to cover their tails if a guy falls in the draft or, sometimes, if a guy is drafted higher than expected.

If Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet gets drafted in the first round, the analysts can say, "Well, the club wasn't worried about his reported off-field issues." No. No. There haven't been any official reports of off-field problems with Mallet. We all know the rumors.

So ... until rumors are proven to be fact ... trust yourself.

We all knew that Legarrette Blount had an NFL body, NFL speed and could've been an impact player entering last year's draft, but we let analysts distract us by calling him a troublemaker. Blount wasn't drafted, then became a free agent standout for Tampa Bay.

Look for this year's Blount instead of over-analyzing what draft geeks are telling us.

Look at players flying under the radar

I'll be the first to admit that I'm more interested in the quarterback position that any other. The 49ers might wind up forced to start a rookie QB that they're fixing to draft -- like, maybe, Ricky Stanzi. We, should, however, look a little longer at QB prospects who won in college...have shown the athletic ability that Harbaugh covets and who've been virtually ignored by draft analysts.

Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor is a personal favorite and while he has received attention, remains a guy expected to go in the sixth or seventh round. We ought to be trying to figure out what makes (pick a guy expected to go in the middle rounds) more coveted than Taylor.

Jeremiah Massoli won for an outstanding Oregon team in the Pac-10. He can run. He can throw. He played at the City College of San Francisco. Then, he transferred to Ole Miss last year and played well there, proving he's a quick study. He's had off-the-field troubles that have been well chronicled. And, since he stands officially at 5-foot-11, NFL teams have ignored him. But ... Massoli is a really intriguing quarterback, don't you think?

(Ted Sillanpaa can be reached at tsillanpaa1956@gmail.com)

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