Inside the 49ers
One position that could experience an upheaval is at wide receiver, where the 49ers need to improve their team speed and talent. With the No. 1 pick in the draft, the 49ers might take Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards, who would give the offense its top playmaker. But who else will be on the depth chart at that spot? Cedrick Wilson is a free agent, and might not return. Arnaz Battle is a big-play threat who has shown a willingness to do whatever it takes to get on the field. The 49ers need to see what they have in second-year players Rashaun Woods and Derrick Hamilton. The biggest question mark is receiver Brandon Lloyd, who incurred the wrath of teammates Fred Beasley and Kevan Barlow last season. Lloyd, who caught 43 passes for 565 yards and a team-leading six touchdowns, is known around the 49ers as a high-maintenance individual. Coach Dennis Erickson and wide receivers coach Eric Yarber catered to Lloyd last season, but the new staff will not do that. New receivers coach Jerry Sullivan is a demanding coach who will require Lloyd to get in step with the program. The 49ers will also have the option of signing Jerry Rice for this season, which might not be a bad move if the club lands Edwards in the draft. Those close to Rice say he would only consider returning for another season in the NFL if it were with the 49ers. If Rice does not play for the 49ers, he will almost assuredly retire as a part of the organization at some point this offseason. --- The two aides who worked with 49ers owner John York during the process to find the club's new head coach and personnel director have been awarded with new titles. Paraag Marathe is the 49ers' director of football operations, while Terry Tumey is the director of football administration. --- The 49ers finally relieved Bill Rees of his duties as director of player personnel. Rees had sought to get out of his contract for more than a month to join the Cleveland Browns. --- Once again, there has been no offseason for 49ers backup QB Ken Dorsey. The Bay Area native has been a daily visitor to the club's practice facility, where he works out, watches film and regularly throws passes to receiver P.J. Fleck, who was activated from the practice squad to the team's 53-man roster for the final game of the season. --- The day after the Super Bowl, new coach Mike Nolan called all of the 49ers' scouts together for two weeks of intense film sessions to get ready for the upcoming NFL Combine. The 49ers have needs at virtually every position as they approach free agency and the draft. Nolan is taking his time filling out his coaching staff, as he's looking to hire coaches for his running backs and tight ends. QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think that background with the 49ers helps. There's an added juice to it. It helped me, and I'm sure it'll help him" -- Former 49ers coach George Seifert, a San Francisco native and lifelong fan of the organization, on new coach Mike Nolan, whose father coached the 49ers from 1968 to '74. 49ERS DRAFT NEEDS AND PRIORITIES 1. Defensive back. The 49ers expect CB Mike Rumph, who missed most of last season with a broken forearm, to return at full strength. They can't be too sure of CB Ahmed Plummer, who missed 10 games with a bulging disk in his neck. If the 49ers acquire a good corner, it might allow them to move Rumph to FS, where they have a need. 2. Wide receiver. The 49ers did not have any big-play threats from this position last season. Their roster is filled with mediocre NFL receivers, and they need to find somebody who can consistently get open and make plays down the field. 3. Offensive tackle. With new decision-makers, it remains to be seen whether the 49ers envision Kwame Harris at LT or RT. Also, RT Scott Gragg's future with the club is up in the air after a rough season. The offensive line might not be as big a priority as some might think because many onlookers believe a lot of its problems can be fixed with coaching. 4. Running back. Halfback Kevan Barlow was a disappointment last season, and it remains to be seen how he reacts to a new coaching staff. Regardless, the 49ers need to find a backup halfback who can take some of the pressure off him. 5. Quarterback. Is Tim Rattay the answer at this spot? Can he remain healthy for an entire season? The 49ers might be in the market for veteran help via free agency.
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