49ers go for draft gusto after glorious Day 1

Mike Nolan's appearance and relaxed manner revealed unmistakable traces of delight early Saturday evening at the end of the first day of his second NFL draft as head coach of the 49ers. "I feel very good about our picks," he said matter-of-factly. "I would say at each pick we hit the target this year." Of course Nolan would say that, but – considering the Niners addressed glaring needs on offense, defense and special teams – he didn't have to spend much time trying to convince the naysayers.

Looking at it from any way and every angle, it was a good opening day and a glorious Round 1 for the rebuilding 49ers.

Getting a lethal offensive weapon brimming with the potential of Vernon Davis at the No. 6 overall pick, then adding to that selection several hours later with another athletic prospect and much-needed pass-rushing force in Manny Lawson … Well, that went like clockwork for the Niners, who couldn't have drawn it up much better.

They didn't reach. They didn't miss. They simply got two elite prospects, the best players available at each pick, and two guys who can step right in with this team and be starters – and, perhaps, begin a path to stardom – from Day 1 in a San Francisco uniform.

The skeptics will say the 49ers reached a little and maybe missed a lot by taking smallish Wisconsin receiver Brandon Williams late in the third round, but that's missing the point. Williams is a polished pass-catcher who also happens to possess game-breaking skills as a kick returner.

So, with three calculated and well-planned picks, the 49ers improved their offense. Then they improved their defense. Then they improved their special teams.

And maybe improved each of those units a lot.

Isn't that what the draft is for?

You bet it is. And that's why it looked as though Nolan was fighting to hold back a smile while discussing the three most important selections of the team's 2006 draft.

"It's evident we made the right decision of moving up (into the first round), because Manny would not have been there at No. 37 (in the second round)," said Nolan, who 10 days ago traded San Francisco's second- and third-round picks to Denver for the No. 22 overall pick that was used to nab Lawson. "That worked out in our favor. Manny, very much like Vernon Davis, is a player that has a lot of measurables that are very positive and the two things that are most important – he is a very good football player and also a great character person.

"And I would like to think (Williams) will come in and become our starting kick returner and could be a slot receiver on the three-wides (formation) that you use quite a bit on third downs and others. I consider that guy a starter because it's used on all downs. So we added another guy who will compete to start on this football team. We added a lot of speed in all three players and very quality people who are also good players, so I am pretty excited about that."

But there is no time to rejoice after a slam-dunk first day. The draft continues early Sunday morning, a day when the 49ers will make seven more selections they hope will make their football team at the end of this summer.

The Niners hold the third pick to begin Sunday's action, and there still are several prospects who would fit in nicely with what the team is trying to accomplish.

How does a defensive end such as Victor Adeyanju, Mike Kudla, Stanley McClover, Parys Haralson, Mark Anderson or Ray Edwards hit you? (Pretty hard, we'd imagine). Or a safety such as Ko Simpson or Darnell Bing? Or a defensive tackle such as Montavious Stanley or Rodrique Wright? Or a cornerback such as Anwar Phillips, Alan Zemaitis or Charles Gordon? A running back such as Jerome Harrison or Andre Hall, perhaps?

Each of those highly-regarded prospects – and many more beyond them – remain on the board entering the fourth round that begins Sunday's action. To be sure, the 49ers are going to add another high-caliber prospect to their draft haul to get things started. Then they'll have six more shots to try it again as the talent begins to thin the remainder of the day.

Can the 49ers find another starter in this group to go along with the three they feel they added to the team Saturday?

"Hopefully, but we will see," Nolan said. "In the second day, it is less likely because you're moving down the food chain, so to speak. But it could happen. I'll still be looking for our type of guys, and if they compete for a starting role, that's great. I think (Sunday) we talk about guys that will be good for our football team in a lot of ways, guys that have a lot of fight in them, that are real good football players and quality people that make your team better.

"I am looking for guys that I think will be solid competitors for every position that we get. I want guys that can compete that are our kind of guys. (Sunday) can be a good day, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm counting on it to be a good day, to be honest with you."

And why not?

The 49ers just had a nice practice run toward that pursuit, since they added three of those kind of guys Saturday. With the draft roll these Niners are on, can several more be far behind?


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