Long list of draft needs for Niners

The 10-day countdown to the NFL Draft begins Thursday, and it's no secret the 49ers will be looking to fill roster voids across the board in the college lottery. When asked Wednesday what the team's biggest needs are in the draft, general manager Terry Donahue said "we have a lot of them," before making a short list that included seven specific positions.

"Dennis (head coach Erickson) and I have talked a lot about this," Donahue said. "We have a lot of holes to fill on the team and certainly wide receiver is going to be something that jumps out at us. A third corner is going to be a pressing need, a starting offensive guard, a backup defensive tackle. We have to consider a punter or at least look at the possibility of that."

Donahue continued. "I think that we have to look at the possibility of a backup running back, so the list goes on and on. We have two tight ends on the team with NFL experience, so there is not too many positions that we feel that we cannot get help from in the draft. We feel like almost all positions are open game for us."

Donahue and Erickson didn't even rule out the possibility of taking a quarterback, though the Niners already have three young quarterbacks on the roster that the team has drafted in the past four years. Salary-cap limitations are preventing the Niners from bringing in an established NFL quarterback who might be available - such as Cincinnati's Jon Kitna - to battle for the starting job with Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey and Brandon Doman to replace departed starter Jeff Garcia.

Even though they have obvious needs, the Niners hope to stick to their usual draft philosophy of taking the best player available when they select.

"What we would like to do is pick the best available player when we are picking at whatever spot we are picking," Donahue said. "We would like the best player available, and yet at the same time we have to be sensitive to what our concerns, needs, and holes on the team are. If it's not close, you pick the best player. If it's close, then I think you have to take into consideration what your needs are, and where your strengths or weaknesses lie, and I think you have to make your decision based on that. We want to take the best player that's on the board when we are picking. I don't think any position on our team, frankly, would be immune from that process."

The Niners are considering trading down to acquire more picks in the draft, but they also are looking to acquire at least one starter - and possibly two or more - with their top picks. If the Niners remain at their current No. 16 slot in the first round, the player they pick there will be expected to come in and be a starter this season.

"I would (expect that), yes," Erickson said. "To me, he's got to come in, contribute and probably be a starter, depending, I guess, on the position. But my thought would be whether it's early or as the season goes on, yes."

While the Niners will be looking for prospects at virtually every position except perhaps linebacker, there is a specific group of positions the team is considering for its top pick.

"I could see us taking a wide receiver. I could see us taking a defensive back," Donahue said, stating the team's most obvious two positions of need. "I could see us, conceivably, you'd have to tell me who's there, tell me what running backs are there, tell me what quarterbacks are there, and I could tell you whether or not we'd use it, what defensive ends are there. Really, it depends on who's there.

"But certainly, those two positions would jump out in my head if there's a really good, quality player at those two positions. Or, again, it could be any position you want to take. If the best defensive end on the board is there, I can assure you we're going to take him."


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