Just one more day until the 2011 NFL Draft folks! All 32 teams are finalizing their draft plans and updating their big boards while draft experts and fans all across the league are revising their mock drafts in preparation for the big event.
The San Francisco 49ers, who are coming off an underwhelming 6-10 campaign, are one of the many teams that hope to utilize the draft to catapult themselves over the hump and into the playoffs.
They've got needs ranging from quarterback to outside linebacker and will look to fill as many holes as possible and will have plenty of opportunities to do so. In fact, they've got a total of twelve picks (including the supplemental draft), five of which come in the first 115 selections.
That said, here's my seven round mock draft analyzing what the San Francisco 49ers should and will do.
Patrick Peterson is arguably the most gifted player in the draft. Not only is he a shutdown corner, which is quickly becoming one of the more coveted skills in the league, but he also brings tremendous ability in the return game.
He received the Chuck Bednarik Award, which is given to the most outstanding defender in the nation, last year and rightfully so.
Fortunately for the San Francisco 49ers, they sit here jumping up and down and all we can hope is that they take a break from celebrating enough to hand in the card.
After allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 65.1 percent of their passes against their porous secondary, its time for a major upgrade.
That is why I have them taking LSU CB Patrick Peterson.
He could be their No. 1 corner from day one and would also allow them the flexibility to let Nate Clements go, relieving them of a ridiculous amount of cap space.
That said, should he be available, there's absolutely no way the 49ers pass on this golden opportunity.
LSU CB Patrick Peterson (Jr.) 2010 Stats: 42 Tackles, 4 Interceptions
Other Possibility: Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert. The 49ers need a franchise quarterback and if they feel Gabbert can be their man, he could be the choice here.
Generating an effective pass rush is an integral key to success in the NFL today, especially with the league becoming more and more pass heavy by the day. Just ask the New York Giants who ultimately upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII by constantly harassing quarterback Tom Brady.
That being so, the 49ers may look to bolster their unit by bringing in a player who specializes in getting after their quarterback.
That is why I have them taking Pittsburgh Panthers OLB Jabaal Sheard.
He played defensive end in college, but with his unique skill set I believe he can make a fluid transition to the NFL as a rush linebacker.
Let's just hope he's available when they pick.
Jabaal Sheard (Sr.) 2010 Stats: 52 Tackles, 9 Sacks
Other Possibility: Oregon State NT Stephen Paea. The San Francisco 49ers employ a 3-4 defensive scheme which typically requires a nose tackle to anchor the three-man front and clog up the middle. With Aubrayo Franklin potentially leaving as a free agent, they may want to have a safety net and even though Paea isn't the biggest guy around, he'd fit the role well.
Balance is important in the NFL, which is why having a reliable ground game is still crucial for teams.
Sure, with two-time Pro Bowler Frank Gore leading the backfield, it may not seem as if running back is an issue. However, just look at how much they suffered when he was sidelined for the final five games of the season with an injury.
The 49ers need some depth at the position as neither Brian Westbrook nor Anthony Dixon stepped up.
That is why I have them taking Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray.
He's a strong downhill runner with a hard-nosed style which would make him a great compliment to Gore. Moreover, he could be a potential long-term replacement because I view him as a three-down back who can not only run inside and out but is a threat as a receiver and has the ability to block as well.
Not to mention he's a leader in the locker room with absolutely no character issues. If it weren't for some issues with durability, he'd be taken much higher. But, hey, in the third round I think he's a good deal.
Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray (Sr.) 2010 Stats: 1,214 Yards Rushing, 15 Touchdowns, 594 Yards Receiving, 5 Touchdowns
As I referenced to earlier, having stability at quarterback is critical in the NFL today and without one it's tough to go anywhere.
Currently, the San Francisco 49ers are in complete disarray at the position.
Former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith has shown little promise to become the franchise quarterback and has been a huge disappointment. Meanwhile, the Troy Smith experiment didn't really work out too well either.
That is why I have them taking Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi.
He's made gradual improvements as a three-year starter for the Hawkeyes, and with the proper coaching I expect that to continue at the next level.
Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi (Sr.) 2010 Stats: 3.004 Passing Yards, 64.1% completion, 25 TD, 6 INT
Nowadays, its good to have a wide array of wideouts on your team. You need someone who can go deep and make the big play, someone who can make those underneath catches, and someone who can go up the middle.
The 49ers have Michael Crabtree, who will be their primary target, but they lack someone opposite him and they need a physical body who can catch in traffic.
Moreover, since they ranked 31st in the league in passing on 1st downs with just 149 receptions, they need someone who can fill that role.
That is why I have them taking Boise State WR Austin Pettis.
While he may not have the top-tier speed to take it the distance, he's a natural receiver who uses his body and hands well in traffic to make tough grabs. In addition, he's an excellent red zone target as he hauled in 39 career touchdowns, a bonus considering the 49ers were 24th with just 19 passing touchdowns last year
Boise State WR Austin Pettis (Sr.) 2010 Stats: 71 Receptions, 951 Yards, 10 Touchdowns
As I referenced to earlier, the 49ers need a massive nose tackle in case of the scenario where Aubrayo Franklin leaves via free agency.
That is why I have them taking Notre Dame NT Ian Williams.
Due to his impressive lower body strength and ability to shed blockers, he's a prototypical nose tackle in a 3-4 system. Interestingly enough, he can also chase down ball carriers in pursuit at 311 lbs.
More importantly, he's a four year starter who possesses the experience to play from day one.
Notre Dame NT Ian Williams (Sr.) 2010 Stats: 38 Tackles, 2 Sacks, 1 Interception
Don't underestimate the importance of the fullback position, as he plays a big part in a tailback's success. For example, Houston Texans All-Pro fullback Vontae Leach was a monumental reason why Arian Foster had such a productive season.
That is why I have the 49ers taking Stanford FB Owen Marecic.
Apart from being one of the top players at his position in the class in terms of sheer talent, he's got a great work ethic and competitive nature which should translate into a solid NFL career.
Plus, I'm sure newly appointed head coach Jim Harbaugh will want to bring in one of his players from the college ranks.
Stanford FB Owen Marecic (Jr.) 2010 Stats: 46 Rushing Yards, 5 Touchdowns, 75 Receiving Yards
Sure, this may not be a flashy pick, but kickers can be incredibly important at times, especially in closing out games.
Henery nailed 94.7 percent of his field goal attempts last year and he's shown he can make kicks from 50-plus yards out.
With Joe Nedney (38) getting up there in age, it may be time to look for a replacement.
Nebraska K Alex Henery (Sr.) 2010 Stats: 18-19 FG, 54-54 XP, 108 Points
The 49ers have four 7th rounders and even though it may seem like a crap shoot, there have actually been some notable picks made this late in the draft. All-time great Shannon Sharpe was a 7th rounder back in 1990 and more recently, Marques Colston and Cortland Finnegan have both been huge 7th round steals.
This is who I project the 49ers to take, and lets hope they can find the next hidden gem.
7th Round (No. 211 Overall): Oregon DL Brandon Bair
7th Round (No. 231 Overall): California MLB Mike Mohamed
7th Round (No. 239 Overall): Rice OLB Cheta Ozougwu
7th Round (No. 250 Overall): Fresno State G Andrew Jackson