A scout's eye view of the draft: Part II

Former NFL scout Russ Lande, draft expert for The Sporting News and author of GM Jr's Guide to the NFL Draft, answers questions for SFI regarding the upcoming college lottery. Can the 49ers find starter-quality players at positions of need with their first two selections? What players might San Francisco target? Will the Niners consider selecting a QB? Russ talks these issues and more in Part II.

SFI: Are there enough good offensive line and receiver prospects in this draft that the 49ers could find a starter-quality player at both positions with their first two selections? What prospects do you think will still be available that they should target with those picks?
Russ Lande: I think that's definitely doable for them. I think the big thing they're going to have to do is make sure they get a solid player. If they really feel they have to get starters, it eliminates your chance to really gamble, you have to make sure you get really solid players. Now, if they can afford to develop a guy for a year or two who could be real good then, that's a different matter. At receiver, I think you could be looking at Andre Caldwell from Florida, DeSean Jackson from Cal. Offensive line, you could be looking at top tackles such as Pittsburgh's Jeffrey Otah or Vanderbilt's Chris Williams. It could be Virginia's Branden Albert. Personally, at guard, I like the kid from Toledo the most, John Greco.

SFI: In your estimation, who are the best wide receivers available, and who will still be on the board that the 49ers should consider late in the first round and early in the second?
RL: I think when their pick comes, Caldwell could be there - I really like him - I'm not sure Early Doucet will be there, but there's a chance. I think the guy that would be the best fit for them - he's a big kid that can really run - is Michigan State's Devin Thomas. I don't think he will be there, but he would really fit in with what they're doing. He really answered a lot of questions about his ability and makeup at the Combine. Nobody came away from interviews scared about his JC background.

SFI: How is this draft depth-wise, and can the 49ers find some good talent in the middle rounds?
RL: They definitely can. I think the intriguing thing this year is the depth is very strong at some positions and at others there's almost none whatsoever. So it depends on what you're looking for. Quarterback, running back, I think receiver, I think offensive tackle, cornerback is especially deep. Linebacker has some interesting depth. There's not a lot of high-end guys, but a lot of guys in the middle who have interested some people. A lot of the other positions there's not a lot, so you better get one early.

SFI: Of the 49ers' top needs, what position is deeper in this year's draft, defensive end, offensive line or wide receiver?
RL: Wide receiver is really deep, but defensive end is pretty deep too, there's about eight or nine guys that have a legitimate chance to be a pretty good starting player. I don't think that about all of them, but you can't eliminate anybody from that group that could wind up being pretty good players. On the O-line, there's some really good depth at tackle, but if you're looking for a guard or center, by the end of the second round most of the really good ones will be gone.

SFI: The 49ers always have a need for an edge rusher to play outside in their 3-4 defensive scheme. Are there any sleepers that might fall into their laps, or who shouldn't be passed up if they're available when the 49ers pick on the first day?
RL: I don't know about the first day, but in the third or fourth round, I guy that I really, really like is Jeremy Geathers of UNLV. He's not a guy that wows anybody or knocked anybody's socks off at the Combine, but when you put him on film, he's just a really, really good pass rusher. Everything else is secondary. If you put him on the edge, I think he can be a heck of a pass rusher in a 3-4 defense. That kid is a good football player.

SFI: Some observers felt a while back that the 49ers might use a late first-day pick on a quarterback, but now it looks like the team is set at that position for 2008. What is your evaluation of the 49ers at the quarterback position?
RL: Whether the 49ers decide to draft a quarterback, I think a lot of it will depend on what (offensive coordinator) Mike Martz wants to do. It will come down to what he thinks. If Martz looks at the quarterbacks he has now and says, 'You know what, this guy of the two, he's not going to fit the system,' then I could see them take a guy on the first day that they might look develop if their (others) don't pan out. But I think the odds of that are slim. I think that Mike has probably looked at every snap Alex Smith has taken in his career and every snap that Shaun Hill took last year before he even accepted the job. Because Mike is as thorough as they come, and he's not going to put his career on the line with a team unless there's a quarterback there that he thinks he can win with. I think in the later rounds, I do think Martz will pick a quarterback that he likes and that others don't that he will try to make his pet project. I wouldn't be shocked if Martz went and got a guy because it seems like he has always liked to develop a young guy while he's working with the starting guys.

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