Chris Steuber gives his 49ers draft takes

How did the 49ers do in the NFL draft this spring? Scout.com draft expert and analyst Chris Steuber stops by SFI and gives his takes on each of San Francisco's seven selections and all the team's moves on draft weekend. Steuber covers it all in this exclusive Q&A.

SFI: What's your overall take on the quality of San Francisco's draft? Did the 49ers make the most of their seven selections this year in the annual college lottery?
Steuber: Overall, the Niners did well in the draft; they got quality and value throughout the rounds. But the one pick that I wasn't thrilled with was using a third-round selection on Alabama RB Glen Coffee. Coffee has good skills, but his straight-line speed is questionable. He was a backup most of his career and finally had his opportunity last year to start at Alabama. He rushed for over 1,300 yards, but I don't think he's going to be a productive pro. Coffee reminds me a lot of former Penn State RB Tony Hunt, who was also a third-round pick in the 2007 draft. But, overall, I'd give the Niners a C.

SFI: Was Crabtree an absolute slam-dunk, no-brainer pick for the 49ers with the No. 10 overall selection in the first round? How surprised were you to see him still available that late in the early process, and was he the best pick for the 49ers at that spot in the draft?
Steuber: I was really surprised that Crabtree was still available at No. 10. But when Al Davis decided to choose Darrius Heyward-Bey over Crabtree, I thought there was a good chance he'd be available to the Niners. Even when Crabtree was on the board, I still thought the Niners could pass on him in favor of Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin. But Crabtree was the right choice. The one thing that concerns me about Crabtree, and it has nothing to do with his play on the field, is that he reminds me of Terrell Owens' personality. I remember when Owens came into the league - he was a raw, talented player who was shy towards the media. At this point, Crabtree has a reserved demeanor towards the media, just as Owens did when he was a rookie. But, when Owens caught that game-winning touchdown pass against the Green Bay Packers during the 1998 Wildcard Playoff game; the T.O. side of Owens was born. I think Crabtree has tremendous upside, and I don't want to say definitively that he's going to be a T.O. type of character, but the potential is there, and it's something to keep an eye on.

SFI: Is Crabtree a can't-miss prospect? What kind of player do you expect him ultimately to become, and what kind of impact can he make in his first season as a rookie? Should he be an immediate starter?
Steuber: Crabtree has the potential to be one of the best wide receivers in the league, but it's hard to say that he's a "can't-miss" prospect, because he still has some work to do. The biggest question mark against him is his route running. He comes from a spread offense, and a lot of what Texas Tech did was getting him the ball in space. He wasn't asked to run precise routes, and that's still something he has to improve on, but that will come with experience. Again, I'll mention the name of Terrell Owens; that's the player I believe Crabtree has the potential to resemble in the league. They have similar characteristics and are highly skilled athletes. But unlike Owens, Crabtree was a first-round pick, and the Niners are going to pay him a lot of money upfront; that will most likely force him into the starting lineup from day one. He has to ability to make an instant impact and will be in contention for Rookie of the Year honors, but the quarterback play in San Francisco will spoil his chances of realizing that award.

SFI: There were some eyebrows raised when the 49ers passed on Florida State edge rusher Everette Brown when he was still available with the No. 43 overall pick in the second round. Instead, the 49ers traded that pick to Carolina, which promptly selected Brown at that spot. Should the 49ers have taken Brown there, and why didn't they?
Steuber: I was completely shocked that Everette Brown was even available at that point in the draft, because I thought he was a sure first-round pick. If the Niners kept the pick, it's possible that they would have drafted Brown, but I think Virginia LB Clint Sintim, who was selected by the New York Giants with the 45th pick, was a better fit. Sintim played in a 3-4 defense his entire career at Virginia and can play inside or outside. As much as I like Brown, he's a better fit in a 4-3 defense as a defensive end. He's too small to play DE in a 3-4 scheme and is too stiff in the hips to drop back and play linebacker. The Niners made a smart decision to trade the pick to the Panthers for their first-round pick next year. Even though the pick will likely be a late first-rounder in 2010, it will allow the Niners to be creative next season owning two first-round selections.

SFI: The 49ers packaged that second-round pick with their fourth-rounder in a trade and got back Carolina's 2010 first-round selection in return, giving San Francisco two first-round picks next year. In your estimation, was that a good move or a bad move?
Steuber: It was a good move, because Everette Brown wasn't a fit in their defense, and although I believe Clint Sintim would have a been a good choice, having two first-round picks next season gives the Niners a lot of options and the ability to be creative.

SFI: Was Alabama running back Glen Coffee a good value pick early in the third round? How do you see him fitting in with the 49ers and complementing front-line starter Frank Gore?
Steuber: As I previously stated, I didn't like the selection of Glen Coffee. He had a nice season last year, but I worry about his overall speed. He has a solid frame and looks to make contact, but in a league where speed is necessary to compete, especially at the running back position, Coffee falls short and I don't believe he will ever become a featured back in the NFL. However, as a complement to Frank Gore, he should be serviceable.

SFI: Some observers had Pitt inside linebacker Scott McKillop going as high as the third round and the 49ers got him in the fifth. Is he a guy that you think can eventually step in and be a long-term starter next to star inside linebacker Patrick Willis in the middle of San Francisco's 3-4 defense?
Steuber: I really like Scott McKillop. He's not as athletic or as talented as a lot of the other linebackers in the draft, but he's extremely instinctive and gives you maximum effort every time he's on the field. McKillop has a chance to be a very productive player, and anyone who plays alongside of Patrick Willis will benefit from the ground he covers. It's hard to say that any fifth-round pick will be a long-term answer, but with the way McKillop plays, if he stays healthy, it's hard to imagine him not being successful.

SFI: What's your take on Nate Davis? How did the 49ers get a productive college quarterback who once was considered a first-round prospect at the bottom of the fifth round? How do you see him fitting into the quarterback mix with the 49ers? Could he become their starter one day?
Steuber: Nate Davis has a lot of work to do. To me, he's a developmental quarterback who has to start from the ground up and totally restructure his footwork and mechanics. He lacks quickness and isn't fluid in the pocket. But he has a strong arm and makes good decisions with the ball. Davis is famously known for wearing gloves and using the seams on a football rather than the laces to throw the ball. The realization of him being more of a project and not a polished passer really concerned teams and allowed him to fall to the fifth round. With that said, he has upside and the talent to be a productive player. But, it will be at least a few years until he lines up as a starter.

SFI: The 49ers got some intriguing prospects from LSU in the seventh round in safety Curtis Taylor and defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois. What do you see the team getting from those two prospects?
Steuber: I think you used the correct word, "intriguing," when describing these two prospects. Curtis Taylor had a really good junior campaign, but was slowed by injuries last season. He didn't bench or run particularly well at the Scouting Combine, and that hurt his stock entering the draft. But he has great size and enters a situation in San Francisco that lacks depth at strong safety, and he has an opportunity to see action this season. Ricky Jean-Francois is an enigma to me. He has great potential, but whether it was academic reasons or injuries, he had a problem staying on the field. But when he played, he was one of the most dominant interior forces I've seen in a long time. He's so quick off the line and possesses great strength. I thought Jean-Francois fit best in a 4-3 scheme as a defensive tackle, but he'll be asked to move to the outside and play defensive end. If he's able to put it all together he will be the steal of the draft.

SFI: Do any of the 49ers' selections qualify as a steal in your estimation? Are there any picks you thought were a reach?
Steuber: As I just mentioned, Ricky Jean-Francois has a chance to be the steal of the draft, from a talent standpoint and where he was selected. Glen Coffee was the biggest reach to me, as I thought there were better running backs on the board at the time and other positions the Niners could have addressed.

SFI: In the final analysis, what kind of contributions and impact in general and particular do you expect the 49ers to get from their 2009 draft class?
Steuber: It's obvious that Michael Crabtree will have the biggest impact of all the rookies this season. But a wild-card selection to keep an eye on is Fresno State TE Bear Pascoe. He's not a flashy player, but he's a consistent receiver who's a very good blocker and could work his way into the lineup this season. Scott McKillop will be an important part of the special teams this season and will see action at linebacker in some packages. Glen Coffee will have an opportunity to showcase his skills this season, especially if Frank Gore or Michael Robinson goes down with an injury. Overall, outside of Crabtree, the Niners draft class has potential, but as far as first year contributors, it's an average class. Grade: C


Niners Digest Top Stories