Consider the draft possibilities: OLB

Conventional wisdom says the 49ers will draft a quarterback with the No. 7 overall pick. But the last time they did that, they got a shotgun QB in Alex Smith. This time, it's very likely they'll go with a pass-rushing linebacker like Von Miller.

There might not be a collective bargaining agreement in place, but it doesn't mean the NFL isn't conducting business as usual. It is.

That's because the next two major events on the calendar – the Scouting Combine and the NFL draft – don't involve the players association. They're used to evaluate and select draft-eligible college players.

So teams are busily preparing for the Combine (Feb. 23-March 1) in Indianapolis and the draft (April 28-30) in New York. That includes the San Francisco 49ers, who must decide which of their major needs must be met first.

On Thursday, we took a look at the possible quarterbacks the Niners might pick with the No. 7 overall selection. In the end, however, it's likely they'll pass on a QB and focus on one of their other two needs, outside linebacker and cornerback.

Why? Because there clearly isn't a quarterback prospect who can be considered either a first-year starter or a can't-miss project. Blaine Gabbert of Missouri is viewed by some analysts as a possible choice, but he comes from a spread offense. For the 49ers, that's a been-there-done-that consideration (see Alex Smith).

That means it's more likely they'll look at outside linebackers who can provide an immediate impact and give them a pass-rushing presence they don't really have. Here are some players they'll probably consider:

Von Miller, Texas A&M: We've seen Miller going as high as No. 3 to the Buffalo Bills, but if he's still on the board, it's a good bet the 49ers will tap him. Miller (6-3, 243) doesn't have great size, but he clearly is quick off the snap and has good burst to the backfield. His problems may arise when an offensive tackle sets up early; if that happens, Miller occasionally has trouble muscling past the protection. But he's good dropping back in coverage, making him a great first pick for the Niners.

Robert Quinn, North Carolina: Quinn (6-5, 270) is a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, but his ability should help him make a relatively easy transition to a 3-4. He has great speed and excels as an edge rusher, although he's not as quick off the snap as Miller and can often by pushed past the play by a persistent blocker. But he has a good first step and never seems to give up on a play.

Akeem Ayers, UCLA: It's likely that either Miller or Quinn will still be available at No. 7, but if they're not, the 49ers might consider Miller (6-4, 255). He has good speed, but doesn't shed blockers well and can sometimes take himself out of plays. He also needs to work on his coverage skills. But he's a solid wrap-up tackler and is physically impressive.

Final impression: If Miller is on the board, the 49ers will probably pick him and wait until the second or even third round to find a quarterback. That's assuming they can acquire a veteran QB either via trade or free agency.

And we won't know if that will happen until there's a CBA.


Niners Digest Top Stories