Reviewing the draft: San Francisco 49ers

Massive free agent defections coupled with salary cap victims from the starting ranks left the San Francisco 49ers in familiar territory this past April. With arguably their two best starters cut and traded, San Francisco continues to find itself in a rebuilding mode. The direction Dennis Erickson and Terry Donahue chose to go in April's draft would play a huge role in this franchises future.

After trading down several times in the first round San Francisco settled on Oklahoma State receiver Rashaun Woods.  More productive than any of his collegiate counterparts, Woods combines solid route running and great fundamentals with an uncanny ability to make plays.  While his size and speed are most often listed as his faults Woods measured and timed better than most people expected at the combine.  Should the 49ers be able to get him the ball Woods he could be the next great receiver for the 49ers.  Justin Smiley provides several options along the offensive line.  Though he will immediately battle for a starting position Smiley must improve his playing strength to allow his run blocking to catch up to superior pass protection skills.  A heady, hard working and intelligent guard, Smiley was a solid value for the 49ers in the second round. Shawntae Spencer gives the 49ers another young talented cornerback to replace Jason Webster.  With Ahmed Plummer and Mike Rumph ahead of him on the depth chart, Spencer will fight to earn time as a nickel back.  Spencer combines excellent size, good technique and had the benefit of covering Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Bryant in practice at Pitt. Derrick Hamilton gives the 49ers another young wide receiver to develop.  Hamilton is more explosive than any other 49er receiver and if nothing else, he should earn a spot as a return specialist . Isaac Sopoaga is a big bodied  defensive tackle that was a great value in the fourth round.  He is a  thumper that should allow an ageing Bryant Young and a smallish Anthony Adams to be more effective as Sopoaga will occupy multiple blockers up front.  Richard Seigler adds another young talented linebacker to the teams roster.  Seigler likely projects to the inside where he will backup Jeff Ulbrich and Derrick Smith.  Coached by Dennis Erickson in college, he will not see much playing time as a rookie but he should have no problems finding a roster spot. Andy Lee gives the team a punter to develop, something they have not had for many years. Keith Lewis could earn a roster spot based on special teams play but a home on the practice squad is more likely for the hard hitting safety. Cody Pickett has an opportunity to carry the clipboard for a year unless the 49er brass decides to bring in a veteran to mentor Tim Rattay and Ken Dorsey, something quite possible after Rattay's recent injury. Christian Ferrara is a solid blue collar defensive tackle.  While he does nothing spectacular yet could earn a roster spot by having a good camp.

With  so many needs and a messy salary cap situation San Francisco had little choice but to trade down in the draft, yet they did not sacrifice value and still managed to fill several needs.  As many as four choices from this draft could play major roles on offense and defense this season, with several more possibly starting on special teams.  San Francisco will likely not be a strong team for a few years but this draft could provide the nucleus  that eventually propels the team back into the playoffs.


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