McCloughan covers the post-draft spectrum

Most analysts have concluded that the 49ers had one of the best - if not the best - draft of any NFL team. When SFI asked Niners personnel chief Scot McCloughan this week if he takes that as confirmation on the job his crew's doing, he replied, "I don't know what it means honestly ... I like the fact that people think we're doing it right." Here, McCloughan covers a spectrum of post-draft topics.

Q: How do you think the draft went? Did things go how you thought they would?
McCloughan: Overall, if you told me we were going into the draft that we would come out with these types of players, I would have said, ‘Do it in a heartbeat.' I've been very excited to get the players that we got. It did kind of go the way we planned. About two-three weeks prior to the draft, as we did last year, we were trying to get up in bottom half of the first round. We had a pretty good feeling there was going to be a good football player there. We took a lot of phone calls from teams trying to get up there. We started at number 17 and went all the way until we got to 28. Twenty-eight finally happened. Twenty-four almost happened with New England, but at 28 it did happen with New England.

Q: Did you have the plan in place with the Colts before you made the trade?
McCloughan: No, we did not. We had the assumption that we were going to try, from my standpoint for sure, to get a first round pick back. We did not have that planned, but as you're well aware, it fell into place for us later.

Q: What does it say about the upcoming team that you were willing to move out of the first round in next year's draft?
McCloughan: The way we approached is was, ‘Joe Staley is on the board. So we said forget the one next year, get back up there and we're really getting two ones this year and we draft the same guy next year. With this quality of player we'd be very happy.' From that standpoint it made a lot of sense. Now, my personal opinion you never give up next year's picks, especially first day picks unless you feel pretty dang sure you're going to get a good football player, which we did.

Q: How many guys out of the newly drafted class do you see as starters? Maybe not now, but mid-season?
McCloughan: It's hard to say. The thing I feel good about is the fact that we're finally getting enough depth on the roster where - when we'd take guys on the first day in the past we knew they had a really good chance to start because there was no one in front of them. What we're building here now is the fact that you have to come in here now and win the starting job. It's not going to be handed to him. That' what you need. You can't always bring a young guy kid in and say, ‘Listen, we know you're a heck of a college football player. We're going to give you the starting job on day-one when you haven't played a day in the NFL yet.' Don't put too much on their plate early on. Go out there and earn that starting job. I foresee, especially our first day guys, all four of those four guys starting at some time or having a significant role during the season. I really feel positive about that. Even our fourth round pick, Jay Moore, being a big outside linebacker – he'll take something this year. Even our last four guys, it's going to be unique, but they all the ability to make the roster and to have a defining place on this next season.

Q: Why is Darrell Jackson a better pick for the 49ers than Randy Moss?
McCloughan: It's totally different. I had five years with Darrell Jackson. I know him as a person and I know him as a player. I know what he brings during the week of practice and what he brings on Sundays. So that makes it a lot easier for me. I don't know Randy Moss that way. Darrell, he fits with what we're looking for in a football player. I know his make up. I know how important it is to him to be a good player and to be a team player. From that standpoint, it was a slam dunk. With the compensation we had to give up, I felt really good about the trade.

Q: Will you be restructuring Jackson's contract:
McCloughan: No. We're fine. He's got three years left. We talked it through. As a matter of fact, what we did do is we put the off season stuff in there like we do with all of our guys we do contracts for. He's going to be here.

Q: Do you think Jackson will be happy here?
McCloughan: Yes he is. He's very satisfied. As a matter of fact it helped out – he talked to Trent Dilfer and knew him well. He spoke to me. He knows some guys on the team. Personally he said to me, ‘I've played some of my best games of my career in that stadium (Monster Park).' It's a good feeling. He's very excited.

Q: Do you feel like you've addressed the pass rushing need in the draft?
McCloughan: We've gotten better. I can say that. We're never going to be where we want because they're so hard to find, you're always trying to get better. But we have gotten better with pro free agency and this draft. We've got more guys that can get to the quarterback and have proven they can do that either in the pro or college level.

Q: Are you confident you have the personnel now to move to the 3-4 defensive set this season?
McCloughan: Yes. We said this offseason that's what we wanted to do, get the personnel to play the 3-4. Now again, we're not locked in to the 3-4. Depending on what offense we're going against, what down it is, you're going to see some 4-3 as well. But we feel better now, that Coach's background in the 3-4, we have more personnel to play it.

Q: Who have you acquired that has been key to making that transition?
McCloughan: You figure we added a nose tackle in pro free agency with Aubrayo Franklin. We did bring in Tully Banta-Cain who was proven to get the edge off of the 3-4. We drafted Jay Moore. At his size we wanted a big outside linebacker and he fits that role. We didn't take any D-line guys, but you understand that they're 260 pounds and they're not considered linebackers for us, they're defensive ends. We're not doing that. We're taking bigger defensive ends or the tweener type guys knowing that they'll be linebackers for us on a 3-4.

Q: Could Joe Staley eventually be the team's left tackle?
McCloughan: I can't speak for the coaches' standpoint, but from a personnel standpoint one of the reasons I felt really good about moving up to get him is the fact that he can play both sides. I think, when you see how his weight progression has been since he got to college he's getting bigger and bigger. He's going to be big enough to be considered a power right tackle, but he's also athletic enough to be considered a left tackle.

Q: Will the acquisition of Staley impact Adam Snyder moving to the guard position?
McCloughan: It gives you luxury to possibly do that. Our whole team wants to get the best five on the field. Having guys that can be tackle/guard type guys as Adam is, or Baas being a guard/center type or guy and Staley being able to play left or right tackle, we'll get the best five on the field. It didn't impact the pick whatsoever. If Adam's the best guards, he'll be guard. If he's the best tackle on the right side, he'll be playing tackle. There will be competition that proves that.

Q: Is there a part of you that wishes you could have fast forwarded to this point and not get beat up over the past two years?
McCloughan: Yeah, but again I've learned so much. We've gone through so many ups and downs. But that's how you build a winning organization. You need to go through that. You need to understand why you succeeded or why you failed. Do I want to go back and have the first pick all over again? Absolutely not. But I learned a lot. I was telling coach after the season last year, ‘You know, we're going to look back at these first two year.' We've had some struggles, everybody knows that. Those might be two of our funnest years because the team is coming together and playing as a unit. We're not really talented but we're going to get better and better because we believe in each other.

Q: When you look at the roster, will you be competitive at just a roster strength point?
McCloughan: I'm not going to go out and make any predictions. I've been around really good football teams. Especially at Green Bay with the Super Bowl teams, but this roster, I feel really good from the standpoint that if we stay healthy, we can go week in and week out, especially on the road, and compete with anybody. Does that mean we're going to win them all? Absolutely not. But I do feel good that if we do get a couple of injuries here and there that we have enough depth now in positions that we can still go out and function as a good football team.

Q: Can you keep all the "tweener" guys?
McCloughan: Yeah, and again, they're not tweeners from our standpoint. They'll be tweeners at a 4-3. At a 3-4 they're considered outside linebackers. They are OEs. They're rush and stand up. They're not tweeners. Yeah, the team at a 3-4, you carry more backers – from the standpoint that you need more – so it makes the special teams better. You carry less D-lineman and more backers. The linebackers are more athletic, they're faster, they can make more tackles in space. So it's kind of a double whammy in a positive way that we'll carry more, but it will also make our special teams better.

Q: Who is your backup fullback right now? Delanie Walker?
McCloughan: The nice thing is that we have Billy Bajema who can play that role as a halfback/fullback. Delanie Walker can do it. Even Michael Robinson can do it if you get in a pinch. Now Moran Norris is our guy and we're very excited to have him resigned and have his contract extended with us, but we have some guys that can fill that role. Zak Keasey has been on the practice squad the last two years. He's only getting better and better. We'll probably add one more before training camp for numbers. But we have guys on the team that can play that position if Moran does get hurt.

Q: How far do you feel like you have come, looking back to your first draft?
McCloughan: Well, I think we came a long way from getting our style of football players. From the standpoint that we talk about character, we talk about the passion, we talk about the work ethic, we talk about the importance. It's a team game played as a team. We're going to win as a group and we're going to lose as a group. I like that standpoint. Where we need to get? No. We're probably half way there in my opinion. But we're going in the right direction and we're going to keep going in the right direction.

Q: What do you mean by halfway there?
McCloughan: Everybody is always trying to get better. Each team is trying to get better. I feel right now, this season, if we can stay healthy, we can go out there and compete week in and week out. Especially on the road – not like we have the last two years. You want to get to the point where you say, ‘Now I have a chance to compete, we're going to win every game this year if we stay healthy.' We're not there yet, but we're going in the right direction.

Q: Are your expectation more reserved than they have been?
McCloughan: I'm probably more realistic from the standpoint – I watch so much pro tape out there on other teams – we're becoming a good team. There are a lot of teams out there that are good teams. We need to become a great team. We're not there yet. We're adding players at skilled positions where we're starting to go in that direction. Teams are starting to talk about us now and the media is talking about us now because we are getting better. But we've got to prove it on the field. We've won 11 games in the past two years. That's not good enough from my standpoint, but we have to go out and prove it on the field before you can say we are a good team.

Q: When you look at the rest of the NFC West, did any of the other team's drafts stand out?
McCloughan: I hate the fact that Levi Brown is in Arizona. I thought really highly of him as a prospect coming out. I think they all did well. With Seattle not having a first round pick, people kind of knocked their draft a little bit, but they all did well. I think they're all good football teams. Seattle is Seattle and if their quarterback stays healthy and their running back stays healthy, they're a good football team. St. Louis is always scary. They're going to put points up. And Arizona, we haven't beat them yet. It's an interesting division. I see why people are talking about it, because it might be up in the air a little bit on who will win it. It will come down to who stays healthy and who's the most consistent team week in and week out.

Q: What do you think of the media reports that you had one of the best drafts? Do you take that as confirmation?
McCloughan: I don't know what it means honestly. It's great from the standpoint that people out there think we're doing the right things. None of these guys have put on an NFL uniform yet. So it's hard to say. I like that fact that people think we're doing it right. It's good to feel that people that are so called experts think we're drafting good players. But you never know. Two or three years into it, we'll understand if we did the right thing or not.

Niners Digest Top Stories