49ers 2007 draft/High needs: Defensive end

If there's one thing the 49ers need even more on draft weekend than a quality pass-catcher, it's a quality pass rusher. And there are many such prospects available at defensive end, which may be more talent-rich than any position in the college lottery. In our continuing analysis of what the 49ers should and will be looking for in the draft, SFI looks today at another position of high need - DE.

Current players: Bryant Young, Melvin Oliver, Roderick Green

Projected starters: Bryant Young (LE), Melvin Oliver (RE)

The current situation: Four-time All-Pro Young, who is entering his 14th NFL season, still has the ability to be an impact force, but the 49ers need to give him occasional breaks to keep him fresh. Oliver was a real find as a sixth-round pick last year - he is strong against the run and emerged as a rookie to start 14 games - but ideally he would be a top backup who would rotate in. Green is strictly a situational pass-rush specialist, but a good one at that, and he'll be used on the edge in passing downs. The 49ers plan to move to a true 3-4 defense in 2007, which means Marques Douglas - who started at defensive tackle in the 4-3 set San Francisco played as its base defense in 2006 - could slide out to end to play his more natural position if the 49ers were lining up in a 3-4 today. Douglas, based on his experience and better pass rushing ability, probably would be the starter over young up-and-comer Oliver. The 49ers are light at this position as their roster currently stands, so this is definitely a place that will be addressed on draft weekend.

When to address: First round, third round or fourth round

Who's there: If Gaines Adams, the top defensive end in the draft, happens to slip to No. 11, the 49ers should - and likely would - select him. But that's unlikely to happen. But Florida's Jarvis Moss and Georgia's Quentin Moses are top prospect who likely will be available, and both players have the ability to morph into an edge rusher in San Francisco's intended 3-4 system. Neither has the bulk to hold up as a base 3-4 end, however, and that's really what the 49ers need. Nebraska's Adam Carriker has classic 3-4 size at 6-foot-6 and 292 pounds, and if the Niners want an imposing, strong, physical base end who plays a big man's game, then he could be their guy. Another intriguing prospect who could go between picks 10 and 20 is Arkansas' Jamaal Anderson, a 275-pound junior who has better pass-rushing skills than Carriker. It's a very strong crop this year at this position, and after the first round, the 49ers will look at Notre Dame's Victor Abiamiri, Texas' Tim Crowder, Purdue's Anthony Spencer, Georgia's Charles Johnson and Nebraska's Jay Moore as possible first-day picks. Quality defensive ends always are in high demand, but with the surplus at this position, prospects such as Central Michigan's Dan Bazun, Hawaii's Ikaika Alama-Francis and Texas' Brian Robison could slip into the second day, where they'd be well worth one of San Francisco's four fourth-round picks.

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