49ers become power brokers in 2006 NFL draft

The 49ers became one of the power brokers in the 2006 NFL draft when they acquired a second first-round pick earlier this week. The club now holds the Nos. 6 and 22 overall selections, which gives the team plenty of options on draft day. The 49ers traded a second-round pick (No. 37 overall) and a third-round selection (No. 68) to the Broncos to get a second pick in the first round. The 49ers now have 10 picks in the seven round draft.

Their other picks are in the third round (No. 84), fourth round (No. 100), fifth round (No. 140), sixth round (Nos. 175 and 192), and seventh round (Nos. 213, 236 and 254).

Using a widely circulated draft-pick value chart, the trade gave equal value to both the 49ers and Broncos. The No. 22 pick is worth 780 points of total value. The 37th pick is worth 530 points and the 68th pick is 250 points, totaling 780 points.

The 49ers have two first-round picks for the first time since 2000 when they selected linebacker Julian Peterson and cornerback Ahmed Plummer. Both players were immediate starters and played well for the 49ers until their production became limited due to injuries.

But both players now are gone from the team - Plummer was released in February, and Peterson signed a lucrative contract in March to join the Seattle Seahawks as an unrestricted free agent. Two other recent first-rounders - linebacker Andre Carter (2001) and receiver Rashaun Woods (2004) - also have departed since March.

The 49ers have needs at virtually every position heading into this draft. They owned the league's worst offense statistically and the league's worst defense. Moreover, on paper their roster has not improved since the beginning of last season.

Seven veteran starters from the start of the 2005 season are no longer with the club - Plummer, linebackers Peterson, Carter and Jamie Winborn; quarterback Tim Rattay; receiver Brandon Lloyd; and fullback Fred Beasley.

This offseason, the only starters the club has added are left guard Larry Allen and receiver Antonio Bryant. Veteran cornerbacks Walt Harris and Sammy Davis could compete for a starting job, but they appear better-suited as reserves if the 49ers are going to improve.


The 49ers' starting lineup is in such sorry shape that the club could have conceivably drafted starters with all five of its draft picks in the first 100 selections. But coach Mike Nolan did not want to take any chances. He wants to make sure the club gets two players who he can count on to be around a while.

That is why the 49ers traded their picks in the second and third rounds to the Broncos for the No. 22 overall selection. With that selection, the 49ers are almost assured of looking to upgrade the league's worst defense.

But, first, the 49ers might look for a playmaker with their No. 6 pick to bring some life to the NFL's worst offense.

Unless they make a move up in the draft, which is a possibility, the 49ers' best bet would be to select Maryland tight end Vernon Davis. The club does not need a quarterback after selecting Alex Smith with the top overall pick last year, and the defensive players that they would like should already be gone.

The 49ers would love to see defensive end Mario Williams or linebacker A.J. Hawk still there at No. 6, but that does not appear likely.

Conceivably, the 49ers could package their two first-round picks to move up to No. 3 to select Williams, but there appears a good chance Williams will be the second player chosen overall.

The 49ers' offense needs a lot of help, and Davis is the kind of player who can supply it. If the 49ers chose Davis, it would give them the kind of pass-catching tight end that can help turn around an offense.

The Chiefs and Chargers have been successful with a tight end as their leading receiver.

The Chiefs had the No. 1 offense in the league last season, as tight end Tony Gonzalez led the team with 75 receptions. The Chargers ranked 10th in the league, with tight end Antonio Gates catching 89 passes for 1,101 yards and 10 touchdowns.

If the 49ers landed Davis in the first round, they could turn most of their attention the rest of the way to defense. They would likely get a cornerback or outside linebacker with their pick at No. 22.

Whichever way they go, they would likely be able to get the second- or third-rated player at that position with their other first-round selection.

Among the cornerbacks who could be available at No. 22 are Tye Hill, Jimmy Williams, Johnathan Joseph, Antonio Cromartie and Richard Marshall. The outside linebackers the 49ers might consider are Ernie Sims, Manny Lawson, Chad Greenway and DeMeco Ryans.


Outside linebacker - The 49ers are in desperate need of some people to rush the passer. With their 3-4 scheme, that will likely come from this position. They also play a lot of 4-3, which means that they will likely draft one or more players who can put their hands on the ground and get after the quarterback. Last season, Peterson and Carter were disappointments when it came to rushing the passer, and now those players are gone, so there is not a lot on the roster to compensate for their losses.

Cornerback - The 49ers know Shawntae Spencer will be one starting cornerback, but the other starting position is up in the air. The club has Mike Rumph, Walt Harris and Sammy Davis on the roster, but each of those players has limitations. The 49ers need to find a player, possibly with the No. 22 pick, who can step into the lineup and let the others battle for the all-important nickel and dime jobs. The 49ers have to add some players here so they don't get caught in a situation like last year when they were bringing guys in off the street and starting them.

Tight end - A young quarterback, such as Alex Smith, can use this position as a security blanket. However, that never happened with the 49ers last season because they had nobody here. Four players at this position combined for only 20 catches last season and a 7.9-yard average. The team feels it can not rely on Eric Johnson, who caught 82 passes in '04 but has missed two of the last three seasons with injuries. Plus, Johnson's contract expires after this season.

Free safety - This position was a problem for the 49ers last season, beginning with Rumph's failed bid to convert from cornerback. Mike Adams, an undrafted free agent signed in '04, started nine games in the middle of the season. The 49ers would love to find a more talented starter who can play center field, and shift Adams to a role as a dime back.

Wide receiver - The 49ers likely have their two starters, Antonio Bryant and Arnaz Battle, but they need to find some reliable third and fourth guys who can take over in case of injuries. This position might be de-emphasized a bit if the 49ers select a tight end, such as Davis, early in the draft. But the 49ers still need to increase the competition and talent level at this spot.


--- After a long search, the 49ers hired former Browns executive Lal Heneghan to become the team's executive vice president of football operations. Heneghan, 42, brings some experience to one of the youngest and least-experienced front offices in the NFL.

When the 49ers were believed to be looking for a team president, Nolan had mentioned that the person hired should have the power to fire the head coach. But the job title seemed to change after Seattle executive Mike Reinfeldt turned down the 49ers' job offer.

When asked this week if Heneghan will have the power to fire the head coach, team owner John York paused for a long time before answering.

"Um ... I don't think he will," York said.

Nolan, alluding to the York's initial silence, quipped: "I hope you were taking a drink or something."

York then clarified the role of Heneghan when it comes to making decisions about the head coach. "Mike reports to me and Lal reports to me, so that would be something that would be difficult."

--- York has been portrayed as a skinflint since taking over the operation from his brother in law, Eddie DeBartolo. But York quietly has poured approximately $1.25 million into improvements behind the scenes at the team's Santa Clara, Calif., training facility.

Last year, York spent about $250,000 on improvements to the club's weight room after seeking advice from veteran defensive lineman Bryant Young. This year, the 49ers will add a synthetic turf practice field at a cost of $1 million.

--- The 49ers announced the selection of HNTB Architecture Inc. to provide the planning and design services for the club's proposed stadium, along with Turner Construction and Devcon, which have been retained for the pre-construction management phase of the project.

A 49ers spokesperson said HNTB's success on Denver's Invesco Field, home of the Broncos, was a key factor in the decision.

The 49ers confirmed the club is looking at new ways to finance its planned stadium on Candlestick Point without relying on the $100 million revenue bond narrowly approved by San Francisco voters in 1997 while was tied to a stadium-mall project.

NBBJ Sports & Entertainment is the firm that developed the original plan for the 49ers' proposed stadium in '97. NBBJ was the architectural firm that built Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field and Browns Stadium in Cleveland.

--- The 49ers were one of a reported 11 teams to be represented at George Mason basketball player Jai Lewis' workout in Alexandria, Va. Lewis recently helped lead George Mason to a surprise appearance in the Final Four. Lewis (6-foot-5, 292 pounds) could project as a tight end in the NFL, but others see him as either an offensive or defensive lineman.

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