Niners land Lucky Six pick after winning flip

The 49ers took a mighty step forward in the 2006 NFL draft Friday morning when VP of player personnel Scot McCloughan made the right call in a game of pure chance. The coin flipped in the air, McCloughan called "tails," and the 49ers moved into the No. 6 slot in the first round of the upcoming college lottery when the coin landed tails up. Thus, the 49ers inched closer to the best player available when they go on the clock for the first time in April, and then again several times after that.

The 49ers originally were scheduled to flip the coin with the Oakland Raiders late Friday afternoon at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, but the flip was moved up to this morning at the nearby Westin Hotel.

McCloughan, who already had been designated by Nolan to make the call for the 49ers, guessed right.

"Scot continues to show he has more talent every day," Nolan said jokingly. "He is more than just a personnel guy."

And the No. 6 pick certainly is more than the No. 7 in the first round of this year's draft, which is laden with tremendous prospects at the top. The 49ers would have had the No. 7 pick in April if they had lost the coin flip, which could have been the difference between them getting the player they actually wanted.

"Winning the coin toss gives us a great opportunity to focus on getting the best possible player at any position to help our team." McCloughan said. "It puts us one slot ahead of where we might have been and we can take a player we have our eye on."

The flip became necessary when the 49ers and Raiders ended the season with the exact same .539 strength of schedule during the 2005 season. The combined opponents of the 49ers and Raiders each finished with 138-118 records during the season, a better final record than the opponents of the other three teams that finished with 4-12 records – the Tennessee Titans (131-125, .512), New York Jets (135-121, .527) and Green Bay Packers (136-120, .531).

Those three teams will pick directly in front of the 49ers in the first round. After picking 6-7 in the first round, the 49ers and Raiders will then flip-flop their top picks in Rounds 2 through 7 of the draft.

McCloughan never had a doubt when making the call Friday morning.

"It was just a gut feeling I had," said McCloughan, who will play as big a part as anyone in the organization regarding which player the 49ers ultimately select with their first pick on April 29 in New York City.

Oakland senior personnel executive Michael Lombardi was on hand to represent the Raiders and Joel Bussert and Ken Fiore represented the NFL office, with Fiore actually flipping the coin.

The successful coin flip not only has an impact in the first round, but its echoes will reverberate throughout the draft, also providing the 49ers with an advantage in the early stages of subsequent rounds.

In a rotation with the other teams that finished 4-12, San Francisco will get the fifth overall pick in the second round, the fourth overall pick in the third round and the third overall pick in the fourth round. Barring trades, the 49ers will pick seventh overall in the fifth round, sixth overall in the sixth round and fifth overall in the seventh round.

"This puts us in even a better light in the second and future rounds, which is very important," Nolan said. "It gives us a better spot to find more quality football players."

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