Running down the 49ers' draft day wish list
QUARTERBACK: The 49ers will take a quarterback on Day 1, and it likely will be with Pick 1 to begin the draft. If the 49ers trade down or make the decision to pass over Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith, they will consider the second tier of quarterbacks that includes Jason Campbell, Charlie Frye, Kyle Orton and David Greene in rounds 2 and 3. The opportunity to take their pick of prospects to make a needed upgrade at the game's most important position suggests the Niners won't be considering that second batch. RUNNING BACK: Just like the 49ers will pick a quarterback, they seem intent on finding better competition for Kevan Barlow at the tailback spot, and could be looking at a Day 1 pick here if the talent available is too good to pass up. Ciatrick Fason, Rodgers' Cal pal J.J. Arrington, Vernand Morency and Marion Barber III are all guys the 49ers could pick up if the timing's right in Rounds 3-4. The fullback field is thin, but the Niners also wouldn't mind spending a late-round pick on a true backup for Fred Beasley. Names such as Noah Herron and Justin Green might fit the mold. WIDE RECEIVER: If it's not Rodgers or Smith at No. 1, it will be Michigan's Braylon Edwards, but it appears the Niners will be looking for their upgrade at this position later in the draft. Again, the Niners will be looking for a true impact talent with one of their top four picks here, then hoping to find a sleeper who can contribute immediately after that. Jerome Mathis and Reggie Brown are two players that intrigue the Niners if they slip on Day 1. TIGHT END: The Niners have fine receiving tight ends in Eric Johnson and Aaron Walker, but they need a blocking tight end to rotate in and help their run game. They might look to free agency for that, but if bruisers such as Jerome Collins, Madison Hedgecock or Alex Holmes slip into the bottom rounds, the Niners could use one of their multiple picks there to grab them. OFFENSIVE LINE: Jonas Jennings solved the Niners' need for a legitimate starting tackle they can rely upon, but the team still is thin at the position and needs another tackle prospect, particularly if the team doesn't match the offer sheet for Kyle Kosier, which it appears it must and will. Either Michael Munoz or Jon Dunn would add tremendous size at tackle, and both still could be on the board in Rounds 4-5. The Niners also will look at guards Claude Terrell, Chris Kemoeatu and Scott Young if they're still available at certain points and will even keep an eye out for a new backup to Jeremy Newberry at center. DEFENSIVE LINE: It's pretty clear what the 49ers need to do here in their new 3-4 scheme: Get bigger. They particularly need a noseguard, where Anthony Adams and Isaac Sopoaga are tentatively and perhaps temporarily holding down the position. The Niners need edge rushers, too, but need to focus on one area of the line to grab a top prospect, meaning when they grab a DL, it will be a best-player-available scenario. The Niners will be interested to see how far tackle Anttaj Hawthorne drops. If it's far enough, they may be there to catch him. The other Wisconsin tackle, Jason Jefferson, will get a look in later rounds, and so will big boys Anthony Bryant and Albert Means. LINEBACKER: Even though they'll need more linebackers on the roster now, the Niners can get by with what they now have on the roster. But with 11 picks, they will spring for a talent that drops into the later rounds. Mike Goolsby and Troy Bennett both have good speed for inside backers who should last into Day 2, and there is good depth in the list of prospects on the outside. SECONDARY: The 49ers will look for starting talent here with their second pick, assuming they don't trade down with their first. They want a cornerback who can start, and there are a handful of those prospects of which one will slip and be available at No. 33 overall, such as Fabian Washington or Justin Miller. The Niners also are looking for a prospect to compete for starting duties at safety, and will look at a collection of first-day types there, too. SPECIALISTS: Signing free agent Joe Nedney plugged the team's hole at kicker, so there's no need to draft one now. The team found its new punter in the draft last year with Andy Lee, who was a well-used sixth-round pick/ The Niners need to hit like that on a lot of their picks this year.
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