Draft wrap: Covering the Niners from A to Z
A is for 'A': As in an 'A' grade, which is what San Francisco's 2007 class received from many draft analysts who trumpeted the 49ers' performance on draft weekend as the best of any NFC team, and right up there with the Cleveland Browns as the best of any team in the NFL. B is for Butkus Award: Which is an honor bestowed upon top draft pick Patrick Willis, representing him as the best college linebacker in the land during the 2006 season. Willis also won the Lambert Trophy, another honor representative of the nation's top linebacker, and reeled in the Conerly Trophy, given to Mississippi's best football player. C is for Compensatory picks: The 49ers had two premium compensatory picks in this year's draft, compliments of losing linebacker Julian Peterson and defensive end Andre Carter in free agency after the 2005 season. With the extra picks, the 49ers fortified their defensive line, selecting Ray McDonald with the 34th selection of the third round and Joe Cohen with the 36th selection of the fourth round. D is for Defense: After spending so many premium selections on the offensive side of the ball the past two years, the 49ers focused on defense this time - just like they said the would - drafting defenders with six of their nine selections. E is for End: As in defensive end, which is where the 49ers envision third-rounder Ray McDonald - who often lined up as a tackle in college - playing in their 3-4 system. Fourth-rounder Jay Moore - who played DE in college - will be tried first at linebacker, but could add some bulk to move back to end in future seasons. F is Florida: As in the University of Florida, which produced third-rounder Ray McDonald and fourth-rounder Joe Cohen, two promising prospects who starred on the defensive line in the Gators' charge to the national championship last season. G is for Goldson: As in fourth-round selection Dashon Goldson, who some see as a sleeper pick for the 49ers with the team able to get him with the No. 126 overall selection in the fourth round. Goldson has quality size, can play both cornerback and safety and is seen as a player with potential to develop into a starting NFL safety. H is for Hill: As in Jason Hill, the third-round selection who could immediately challenge for playing time in San Francisco's rotation at receiver. In Hill's case, H also stands for hotfoot, after he shocked several observers by running a sizzling 40 time below 4.4 seconds at the NFL Combine, and also Hometown Hero, which is something the native of San Francisco hopes to become with his new team. I is for Interceptions: Which is something that was lacking in the repertoire of the six defenders taken by San Francisco in the draft - two of them defensive backs. Those six players produced just one pick last season - an interception returned six yards by Goldson. J is for Jackson: As in Darrell Jackson, who becomes an addendum to San Francisco's 2007 draft class since he joined the team during draft weekend and was - in essence - acquired with a 2007 draft pick. But, to be sure, the 49ers feel they got the most out of the No. 124 overall selection they sent to Seattle to get Jackson, who led the Seahawks in receiving four of the past six seasons and could give San Francisco the legitimate No. 1 receiving threat the team hasn't had since 2003. K is for Kick returner: Which is a talent also possessed by fourth-rounder Dashan Goldson and fifth-rounder Tarell Brown, who each had some experience returning kicks in college and may get a look there this summer with the 49ers. L is for Linebacker: Which is a position with the 49ers that didn't necessarily require a whole lot of upgrading in this draft, but may have ultimately got more than any other position with the addition of Patrick Willis and Jay Moore, two guys who could become immediate contributors in San Francisco's 3-4 scheme. M is for McCloughan: As in Scot McCloughan, the 49ers' personnel chief who again appears to have hit on a collection of winners on draft weekend as he oversees the team's rebuilding process with coach Mike Nolan. N is for Nebraska: Which is a college that always seems to churn out some premium prospects for the 49ers. Two of the 49ers' last three draft picks from Nebraska go by the names of Tom Rathman and Roger Craig, which bodes well for fourth-rounder Jay Moore. O is for Off-the-field problems Which is something that followed around both fifth-rounder Tarell Brown and sixth-rounder Thomas Clayton in college, but that San Francisco hopes will disappear after they join the professional environment and team structure of the 49ers. P is for Parade All-American: Which is what fourth-rounder Joe Cohen was in high school, when he was versatile enough to line up at defensive end, fullback and running back - and at H-back after arriving at Florida as a true freshman - before moving into the defensive interior the rest of his college career. Cohen was considered by one publication as the nation's No. 1 fullback prospect coming out of high school. Q is for Quotable: Which is certainly something confident third-rounder Jason Hill has a flair for, as he said after being drafted by the 49ers, "I am going to come in and they can definitely count on big plays from me. I am a motivated guy and I'll be ready to go. They are getting a big-play receiver. I'll be ready to play; you can definitely count on that. I plan on not playing like a third-round pick; I plan on playing like a top-10 pick. Everything I did in college, you can times that by 10." R is for Records: As in school track and field records established by Joe Staley during his days as a sprint champion at Rockford High School in Michigan. As a lanky 220-pounder who played tight end in high school, Staley set school records in the 200 meters (21.9 seconds), 400 relay (42.5) and 800 relay (1:27) before bulking up to add more than 80 pounds at Central Michigan, where he still was the fastest lineman coming out of college football this year with a 40-yard dash time of 4.7 seconds. S is for Senior Bowl: For the second consecutive year, San Francisco's coaching staff coached the South team during Senior Bowl week, and it again paid big dividends for the team as all four of San Francisco's first-day picks played in the Senior Bowl, as did six of the team's selections overall. T is for Trades: The 49ers made three of them on draft weekend, and it allowed them to move up into the first round to select promising offensive tackle Joe Staley and acquire veteran receiver Darrell Jackson, along with getting back the 2008 first-round pick the Niners had originally relinquished in the trade to get Staley. And don't forget the 2006 trades involving Brandon Lloyd and Kevan Barlow that netted the 49ers extra third- and fourth-rounders in this draft. U is for Upgrade: Which is something the 49ers feel they have done to their team again through the draft this year in at least six roster spots. V is for Value: As in high value, which is what the 49ers got for practically every selection they made in the draft, particularly from the third round on as quality prospects slipped to them in the selection process. W is for Wingspan: As in the long wingspan of first-rounder Joe Staley, which has allowed him to add muscle and bulk across his chest and also gives him the reach with which to neutralize oncoming pass rushers. X is for X-receiver: Which is the split end position in the San Francisco offense, where third-rounder Jason Hill will get his shot for playing time in competition against free-agent newcomer Ashley Lelie as the 49ers look to replace Antonio Bryant this summer after the latter's one-year failed experiment with the team. Y is for Youngest: As in youngest players in this draft class, which is a distinction held by 22-year-olds Patrick Willis and Jason Hill, who each were born on the same day - January 25, 1985. Z is for Z-receiver: Which is the flanker position in the San Francisco offense, where newcomer veteran Darrell Jackson will have a prime opportunity to unseat incumbent starter Arnaz Battle, who was San Francisco's leader among wideouts last season with 59 catches.
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