Why the 49ers drafted the way they did

We've now seen what the 49ers have done with their six selections in the 2008 NFL draft, each of whom general manager Scot McCloughan said, "we took the best player on the board." The question is why the Niners' draft board said to pick those players when it was San Francisco's time to go on the clock. Here we analyze the why that went into determining each of the team's choices.

First round, Kentwan Balmer
The reasons are self evident as this is an easy selection to both understand and applaud. The 49ers need size and talent along their defensive line, and they got both with Balmer who, if he doesn't step immediately into the starting lineup, will step immediately into the defensive line rotation and should become a factor on that unit during his rookie season. He's also a player who can occupy offensive linemen and keep blockers away from San Francisco's best player, All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis.

Second round, Chilo Rachal
The 49ers were going to take an offensive lineman here; the question was who it was going to be. So why Rachal? Well, does anybody notice that Justin Smiley isn't around anymore? And that Larry Allen is headed for retirement? And that David Baas just underwent surgery for a torn pectoral muscle and won't be available until training camp at the earliest? But it goes a little deeper than that. With an astounding seven offensive tackles taken among the first 21 selections, the 49ers weren't going to get one of the top prospects they coveted at that position. And Rachal, who happened to be one of the highest-rated prospects at guard, also has the potential to develop into a right tackle in the future. In the present, he's a legitimate challenger to start as a rookie at one of the two guard positions along the San Francisco line.

Reggie Smith, third round
With linebacker Shawn Crable and prime receiver prospects such as Early Doucet, Harry Douglas, Andre Caldwell and Mario Manningham still on the board, you sort of have to wonder. Smith seems a bit in the mold of a few guys already on the San Francisco roster such as Marcus Hudson and Dashon Goldson. And during the draft process, coach Mike Nolan even asked McCloughan, "How do you envision him on our team?" This was McCloughan's response: "Corner, safety, whatever – he's a good football player. He's going to come in here and make plays for us one way or another." And, in fact, the 49ers always are on the lookout to add talented cornerbacks – and not just any kind of talented cornerback. They need big, physical, athletic cornerbacks who can match up with the stud receivers in the NFC West, and those are characteristics that describe Smith.

Cody Wallace, fourth round
There still was a promising offensive tackle prospect in Anthony Collins and some highly-regarded guard prospects on the board, but the 49ers went with a guy they felt was the best offensive lineman still available – giving them the two offensive linemen they hoped to get out of this draft by the middle of the fourth round. Wallace will be the first true starting-caliber center prospect the 49ers have drafted out of college in a decade. The team's current starting center, Eric Heitmann, was a guard in college and was a starter at that position with the Niners his first 3-plus pro seasons before moving to center full-time in 2006. And the 49ers also believe Wallace has he potential to play the other two interior positions along the line.

Josh Morgan, sixth round
Well, the 49ers had to pick a receiver sometime, didn't they? They couldn't wait any longer than this to grab a prospect that might actually turn into something, and in the big and flashy Morgan selected the definition of a boom-or-bust prospect. If Morgan can make an impact at the position at some point in the near future, then as McCloughan said, "For us to get him there, it was a heck of a pick." If not, then he's just another late-round flyer who didn't make the grade.

Larry Grant, seventh round
In the seventh round, you get what you can get. And the 49ers needed to get a linebacker out of this draft, so they selected a guy who – if he can make it as a reserve linebacker – is versatile enough to play several different roles at the position and also can contribute in several ways on special teams. For a team that finally is developing some depth, that was a plenty good enough reason to grab this guy over a bunch of other prospects of whom not many casual observers ever have heard.

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