Draft outlook: Quarterback

For a team whose roster includes three quarterbacks it has drafted in the last four years, the 49ers don't sound much like an organization that wouldn't pull the trigger on a QB prospect again in next week's draft. "That position, you just can never get caught short with," GM Terry Donahue said. "You've got to keep trying to stock it, keeping trying to load it up if you can." With Jeff Garcia out of the picture, there is a scenario in which the Niners might look for a QB upgrade on draft day.

"We're not going to move up to get a quarterback," Donahue said. "However, if we're picking in a certain spot in the draft, and there's a quarterback. ... Let's just say for the sake of discussion, that we've got a second-round value on (a prospect) and we're picking in the fourth round, would we consider a quarterback? Sure. You better believe it. You can never have enough of those guys."

The Niners have three of those guys they have taken on draft day since 2000 - starter Tim Rattay (seventh round, 2000), backup Ken Dorsey (seventh round, 2003) and Brandon Doman (fifth round, 2002), who was beaten out by Dorsey for the No. 3 job behind Garcia and Rattay last year, then signed back to the roster earlier this year before Garcia was released in March.

Since the Niners won't have a shot at one of the franchise-type quarterbacks that will go high in the first round, they seemingly wouldn't use an early- to mid-round pick on a prospect who couldn't come in and make an impact at the position immediately. There are too many other pressing needs on the roster for those valuable picks.

But San Francisco is evaluating college quarterbacks just as it is players at all other positions. Since the Niners say they don't have the money to go after an established veteran who could come in and press Rattay immediately for the starting job, the Niners would think hard about taking a prospect they like should he fall to them in the draft's second day.

"I think you've got to look at it and see who's there in whatever particular round," coach Dennis Erickson said. "Obviously, it depends on who's on the board. But if there's a guy at a certain time when you pick, and there are some guys that we like, then you've got to take him. To me, it's a matter of, can that guy come in and compete and be one of the three guys? But I think you're always looking for a quarterback. I think you're always looking for taking them at the right time."

Top-rated QBs Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers (whom Donahue ranks on a level with the top two) and J.P. Losman will be out of reach for the Niners. But if a prospect such as Cody Pickett, John Navarre or even Bradlee Van Pelt or B.J. Symons is around at the right time, the Niners might take a shot at him.

It's something that worked out pretty well for them in recent years when they found their top two quarterbacks of today in the seventh round.

"The guy we may pick," Donahue said, "he may be terrific and be a franchise-type player. You never know."

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