Instant impact is what 1st-rounders all about

What's it going to be like to see Manny Lawson covering Vernon Davis during practice in the years to come? One thing's for sure: It's something that hasn't been seen around 49erland in quite some time, as the team's two first-round picks come to San Francisco as possibly the two fastest, most athletic players on the entire team. And they have the sculpted physiques to match. "They'll look the part when they come in," Mike Nolan said. "But most important, I think they'll perform like that, too."

Performance is what Davis and Lawson have been all about during their decorated college careers, which crossed paths a few times in Atlantic Coast Conference play when Davis' Maryland Terrapins met up with Lawson's North Carolina State Wolfpack.

Both put up big statistical numbers at tight end and defensive end, respectively, but it's the numbers that each put up after the 2005 season that had scouts and NFL personnel types drooling and the 49ers feeling equal parts giddy and smug that they were able to land both elite prospects on the same day.

"We just drafted the two fastest guys on our team," said Nolan, and the numbers seem to bear that out. Davis ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at the NFL Combine in February – the fifth-fastest time of any player at the event. Lawson covered the same ground in 4.41 seconds.

"We want to get better and speed is a plus," Nolan continued, "but you want to get football players first. I don't want to draft off a combine. When you're picking as high as we did, in both cases you want to get as clean a player as you can in every way. I feel great about the two we got. We got two players who are going to be with us a while."

Speed is one thing, but both Davis and Lawson have the engine and chassis to go with it. Davis is 6-foot-3 and 254 pounds of driving muscle. Lawson stands 6-5 and 241, and while he doesn't bulge out of his skin quite like Davis does, he is all lean and mean.

Lawson is a former decathlete who competed in several events for North Carolina State's track and field team during the football offseason. Davis is a noted workout warrior who holds several Maryland strength records in the bench press (460 pounds), power clean (355) and squat (685). Both players have incredible 40-inch vertical leaps.

So who wins the battle when these two hotshot rookies start going head-up once they start practicing together as 49ers? That battle could get so good that their teammates might just stop what they're doing to gather around and watch.

"I'm looking forward to it," Lawson said. "I'm a competitor, so I'm very eager. It's going to be great. I've seen what Vernon can do."

The 49ers expect Davis and Lawson to step in immediately as starters, and neither player was backing down from that challenge during their first interviews as 49ers on Saturday.

"I see myself making an instant impact, right away," Davis said. "I'm going to learn the system and then get out there and get it done."

Said Lawson: "The 49ers just got somebody who is very intense on the field who can give 110 percent, everything he has to get to the ball. Somebody who can cover and also rush the passer. They can have a complete package in one guy who can fulfill many roles on the field. I'll do anything they want me to. I told them they can use me any which way they want to. All they have to do is tell me."

The 49ers plan to make Lawson their new Julian Peterson, using him at outside linebacker and moving him around to rush from the edge. Lawson had 20.5 sacks, 39.5 tackles for losses and 40 quarterback pressures during his college career. His long wing span also provided seven blocked kicks and 17 deflected passes.

He's the new, shiny part for a San Francisco defense that ranked last in the NFL in 2005. Davis, most definitely, provides the same kind of thing for a San Francisco offense that also ranked last in the NFL.

"One of the things we are really excited about," Nolan said, "is that we felt we not only got the best tight end in the draft, but we also got the best wide receiver in the draft. He's that kind of player. He's a good person, hard worker, good player, explosive player and also a good blocker. He will be effective not only on the plays where he's carrying the ball, but also on the plays where he's blocking. His involvement in the offense will help out just about every phase of our offense."

That's what good first-rounders are all about, right? As Nolan said, Davis and Lawson both look the part as they join the 49ers as the team's top 2006 draft prizes. Now it's up to them to perform like it, and perhaps no two players in the draft have better tools to do so.


Niners Digest Top Stories