QB could be wild card in 49ers draft

The 49ers have checked out Kyle Boller, and they are enamored with the Cal quarterback. They've also had Texas slinger Chris Simms and Florida's Rex Grossman in for long visits at team headquarters. The Niners obviously are set with three-time Pro Bowler Jeff Garcia at QB for this season, but with coach Dennis Erickson bringing new offensive wrinkles to the team, it wouldn't be a shock this weekend if they made a move to draft their quarterback of the future.

If Boller still is available when the Niners select with the No. 26 pick in the first round, the team might jump. But Boller likely will be gone, and the team says it won't go for any other QB with its top pick.

"Who knows what falls into your lap? You just never know," coach Dennis Erickson said. "But that's not our plan right now. A quarterback is not anything we're considering taking early. We feel good about our quarterback situation with Jeff and Tim (Rattay). To take one early, probably not. But as things go on, you've just got to look and evaluate and see what happens."

Garcia's play in 2002 was not as strong as it was the two previous seasons. He's still an elite quarterback, but he turned 33 in February and there are some lingering questions regarding how he will perform in Erickson's offense. Garcia's contract status makes it possible that the Niners may be more interested in drafting a top-rated quarterback than they are letting on.

Garcia is scheduled to make approximately $9 million in salary in 2004, which makes it imperative that he have a strong season and fit into Erickson's new offensive philosophy. Boller, Simms and Grossman all have exhibited the down-field passing ability that is suited to Erickson's offense.

"We do like Kyle Boller a lot," general manager Terry Donahue admitted. "I think everybody that's in an NFL building likes Kyle Boller. Dennis and I both went to his workout. He was extremely impressive in the workout. His arm strength was exceptional. His athleticism was very good. He's plenty smart enough. I think he'll have a very strong NFL career. We like him a lot, sure."

But, the GM added, "Quarterback is not a priority for us. Could it happen for us? Anything can happen in the draft. But we're not going into the draft anticipating picking a quarterback with the first pick. But could something happen wild? I guess it could."

Boller, Simms and Grossman aren't the only names being tossed around by the Niners. They also are studying prospects that are expected to go later in the draft. Erickson indicated that he is up on many of those prospects when he was asked about Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area who was a big winner in college but has had some mediocre workouts this year.

"I like Ken Dorsey," Erickson said. "There, I guess, are times where he hasn't worked out well. When he was here, I really liked what we saw on the field and in spending time with him and being around him. You don't win as many football games as he wins without having a lot of things going for you. They can talk about people surrounding him and all those different things, but he made a lot of plays. We've studied him and I like him."

To be sure, Dorsey's not the only one that falls into that category.


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