It's a good Day 1 of work for 49ers in draft

The 49ers unexpectedly found an almost too-good-to-be-true talent waiting when they went on the clock Saturday in the first round of the NFL draft. Hours later, when the talent waiting near the top of the second round wasn't up to their standards, the Niners traded away their second pick, figuring snagging game-breaking WR Michael Crabtree was a pretty good day's work to begin their draft weekend.

Crabtree, arguably the top talent in the entire draft and a prospect generally expected to go within the first five to seven selections, slipped down the draft board when two quarterbacks and three offensive tackles were taken among the top eight picks and the Oakland Raiders surprisingly made Maryland speedster Darrius Heyward-Bey the first wide receiver selected with the No. 7 overall pick.

There was little hesitation by the 49ers when a prospect with the pedigree and potential of Crabtree was staring right at them when it came time to make the 10th overall pick in the first round.

"That's a long way for a guy like that to fall," 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan said. "I thought a little bit about (Crabtree falling to the 49ers) because of the fact that he did not work out at the combine (and) he had the foot surgery (recently). I thought that would be the only reason that he would make it to us, in this year's crop of players up there. But I really didn't think it would happen."

But when the Jacksonville Jaguars – who have been burned before by selecting wide receivers with first-round selections – selected offensive tackle Eugene Monroe at No. 8, the 49ers suddenly realized they probably would have a shot at the game-breaking wideout the team has coveted for several years.

McCloughan said he knew the Green Bay Packers, selecting No. 9, would have had Crabtree as the highest-rated player on their draft board, "but with their depth at receiver and the need at other positions," McCloughan said, "I thought he would get by there. Once he got past eight, I got pretty excited."

There was less excitement when it came time for the 49ers to select in the second round.

Looking for impact playmakers to fill the voids on a roster they envision challenging for the playoffs this season, the 49ers decided there really wasn't a prospect worthy of that description or consideration when they went on the clock for the No. 43 overall pick.

So they pulled a sweeping trade with an eye on the future – packaging that second-round selection with their fourth-rounder (No. 111 overall) and sending those picks to the Carolina Panthers in a deal that netted the 49ers Carolina's first-round in 2010.

The Panthers promptly used that pick on another highly-regarded prospect that fell farther than expected in the draft – Florida State defensive end Everette Brown, a player many thought would fit in nicely in San Francisco's 3-4 defense. Several prognosticators had Brown going somewhere in the top half of the first round, and some thought he was being seriously considered by the 49ers and would be a nice fit for San Francisco with their first-round pick.

But the Niners didn't think so. And with an unexpected opportunity to take the free-falling Brown in the second round, the 49ers passed and pulled the trigger on a trade that gives them two first-rounders for next season.

In explaining the reasoning behind the move, McCloughan said it was, "The value of the pick. We had two players pinpointed in the five picks ahead of us, and they both were taken. We did not see a player of the value at that pick for us. Carolina called and sweetened the pot pretty good with next year's (No. 1)."

McCloughan continued: "I just don't want to sit there and say, ‘Well, Geez, it's our pick, we're going to take a player if we don't think the value of the player is there.' As everybody is well aware, (first-round picks) are huge, especially if we want to do anything with that pick anytime here out to next year, which of course, going into next draft with two No. 1 picks. A lot of things we've done in the past, it proved to be good."

But with a team that might just be a few players away from being a contender in the here and now, aren't those traded-away second- and fourth-round selections two potential players the 49ers might have really been able to use this season to get them over the top?

"Might," McCloughan responded. "I think the depth of this draft isn't as good as it's been in the past. Just because we have a pick doesn't mean we have to take somebody. We're not just going to add a player just to add a player. He has to have value that helps us at that pick."

That makes San Francisco's remaining six selections when the draft resumes Sunday all the more important, though the 49ers still could maneuver before the lottery ends Sunday afternoon. They go on the clock early Sunday morning with the 10th selection of the third round, the No. 74 overall.

With their fourth-rounder now gone, San Francisco's next pick is the 146th overall in the fifth round. The 49ers also have a compensatory selection in the fifth round (No. 171 overall), the 184th overall pick in the sixth round and two selections in the seventh round (Nos. 219 and 244).

"We're looking for good football players, and we're not going to take a guy just to take a guy," McCloughan said. "There has to be value of the pick there. If we have to trade again, we'll trade again. There's no reason why we wouldn't trade up so we can go and try to get someone that's sliding our way.

"But we want to have good football players and the value will be there. I feel good about it, and there's going to be good players taken (Sunday) that end up being good players in the NFL and we have to make sure to identify the right ones and take them."

The 49ers had no problem doing that Saturday. Sunday could be a bit tougher.

But the 49ers have found plenty of good talent during the McCloughan era in the third round and beyond, such as running back Frank Gore (2005 third round), offensive lineman Adam Snyder (2005 third round), outside linebacker Parys Haralson (2006 fifth round), tight end Delanie Walker (2006 sixth round), wide receiver Jason Hill (2007 third round), defensive end Ray McDonald (2007 third round), safety Dashon Goldson (2007 fourth round), cornerback Tarell Brown (2007 fifth round) and wide receiver Josh Morgan (2008 sixth round).

In other words, the first day of the draft is for acquiring top talent, and the second day is for building a team.

In that regard, the 49ers certainly got it right with the former on Day 1. Now they try to cap off a quality draft by doing it right with the latter on Day 2.


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