A scout's eye view of 49ers' draft: Part I

In order to provide an in-depth perspective on the 2007 NFL draft, SFI sought out our resident draft guru, former NFL scout Russ Lande, draft analyst and author of GM Jr's Guide to the NFL Draft. Here, in Part I of a two-part series, Lande answers some of our questions relating directly to the 49ers' positional needs and their possible options based on where their picks are slotted in the draft.

SFI: Whom do you have the 49ers selecting with their first-round pick?
Lande:
I think Ohio State wide receiver Teddy Ginn Jr. would be a good pick for them. He's the number two receiver on my board after Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson, who will be among the first handful of players selected. I think the 49ers will debate between some other players, but I think the chance to add a game-changer like Ginn, after all the crazy stuff that went on with Antonio Bryant, will be too tempting to pass up. Especially when you consider that a lot of teams really believe he will end up being a corner in the NFL.

SFI: What is the biggest difference between Ginn and Johnson?
Lande:
Where Johnson is a huge kid who is super polished, Ginn lacks some bulk and strength, and is raw. His routes are bad, he doesn't do things the right way all the time. But, athletically he is so above almost everybody that you drool at what he can be if everything turns out right. He has the physical tools to be unstoppable when he gets the ball in the open field. He showed great burst out of his cuts, which helped make up for his poor route running. He makes would-be tacklers miss with his quickness and agility, and he has the explosiveness and 4.3 speed to run away from defenders downfield. He can double as a return man. In reality, he has only played a year and a half of receiver ­ he was a corner when he started with the Buckeyes. As I said, there are a lot of teams who still fell he is better as a corner than a receiver.

SFI: The 49ers have added five likely starters in free agency this year and have eight picks in the first four rounds. Conceivably, how many more starters can they pick up in this draft?
Lande:
If they get lucky, they can get three guys who will start, or at least contribute a lot from Day One. That would be ideal. Maybe your first and second picks start, and maybe someone between your third and fourth picks, someone in that mix, also starts. When you have eight picks in the first four rounds you should at least come out with four or five starters in the long term, and in the short term, at least two or three should really make an impact this year, whether it's starting or being a nickel guy, or playing 45 snaps a game. The Niners should be able to get some impact players this year.

SFI: With all these selections, should the 49ers package some picks to move up in the draft?
Lande:
If they were sitting there at 11 and one guy they had really targeted, say Gaines Adams or Calvin Johnson for instance, slid to say five or six, at that point the 49ers would probably have to say, 'You know what, the odds are long of one of them making it to us at 11, maybe we can use one of our later picks in the first three rounds to move up four spots.' But it's going to be tough, because from where the Niners are at now, teams often don't like to drop that far down if they are in the top five or six picks overall. San Francisco might be better off dealing with a team that has the eighth or ninth overall pick, where that team only has to drop two or three spots. That would be a team that would probably consider trading more than a team in the three, four or five range.

SFI: Should Mike Nolan and Scot McCloughan focus on position of need or best player available?
Lande:
When you have eight picks in the first four rounds, the biggest thing you want to do is not miss on picks, so I think in their spot they just have to take the highest-rated guy on their board with each of those picks, because they really don't have a lot of depth. Other than maybe tailback and quarterback, anybody they draft on offense could legitimately unseat whoever's there. Even though Vernon Davis is the heir apparent, he didn¹t prove himself last year, so I mean everybody on that offense could realistically be challenged for a job. And on defense, there are a handful of guys that are good, but there are also a lot of spots that are up for grabs. I think what the Niners should do is take the best eight guys with their picks and hope that five or six will eventually become starters for them.

SFI: If Ginn and Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams are gone by the time the 49ers pick in the first round, what do you think they should do?
Lande:
They are trying to go to a 3-4 on defense, so they may really want to look at a defensive lineman who could sort of be a defensive tackle, sort of like an Amobi Okoye from Louisville. If they wanted to put him at end in a 3-4, he could be an under tackle ­ the big guy who plays out with the tackle, but he doesn't have to be the pass rusher like an edge guy. They could look at him, or if Ginn is gone, I think they will look for a corner. Even though they signed Nate Clements, I think they will look at Aaron Ross from Texas or Michigan's Leon Hall, if he made it to them, because I think they realize their secondary, even with Clements, is not a sure thing. They could look at a corner or safety.

PART II: Check back tomorrow for Part II, when Russ talks about what kind of talent the 49ers can expect to find in the middle rounds with their concentration of picks there, who are the top receivers San Francisco could land outside of the first round, what positions of need for the 49ers are deepest in this draft, and who are some of the top edge rushers available, among other subjects.


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