As the newest member to the Niner's Nation family, I will be providing a look at all things 49ers, but with a scouting twist. Future articles will include breaking down the offense, defense and special teams of the 2008 49ers and looks at the draft history in San Francisco. There's also a good chance Joe Montana and Steve Young are scouted and graded.
A little background on myself: I've been scouting college football since 1999, long before I really knew what I was getting in to. Since then I have worked as a scout for NFL teams, have been credentialed to the NFL Draft, Senior Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine and numerous schools across the Nation. However, without any further ado, here is our look at the San Francisco 49ers 2008 draft class.
Pick 29:: DE Kentwan Balmer, North Carolina
Scout It: In the 49ers 3-4 scheme, Balmer will start out playing defensive end. At 6'5 and 300lbs, Balmer is the ideal size for an end in the 3-4 defense. He comes from a defensive tackle position at North Carolina, even playing over the center in a zero technique (nose tackle) position at times. He has the tall and lean physique preferred by most 3-4 defensive coordinators, with the lower body strength to anchor against the run and the agility to rush the passer. In the 3-4, Balmer's primary responsibility will be to stop the run as a two-gap player. He is projected to start as the left defensive end, matching up against the offense's strongest blockers in the right guard and tackle. His job will be to split the B gap between the guard and tackle, keeping the guard from blocking down on an inside linebacker or helping the center block the nose tackle. Having a good defensive end here is pivotal, as he can create problems for the offensive line by making them choose whom to block. Balmer possesses the strength and instincts to become an instant starter at defensive end.
Pick 39:: OG Chilo Rachal, USC
Scout It: Chilo Rachal comes from a pro system at USC which prepared him greatly for the NFL. He is an experienced guard who can do it all in the run and pass games. Rachal projects as a left guard in the NFL. His ability to pull and trap, seen weekly at USC, will benefit the 49ers new offense under Mike Martz. Martz has often been criticized about his lack of interest in a blocking scheme, but one thing seen in St. Louis was the dominance of the man blocking scheme used. Martz prefers to lock his linemen up on defenders when running the ball, something Rachal has been doing for four seasons at USC. He has the strength to move the pile, but he's not your traditional over-weight guard who cannot move. Rachal is very mobile, he'll get up field to the second level and find linebackers to block. He'll be a good lead blocker on sweeps, something Martz used often for Marshall Faulk.
Pick 75:: CB/S Reggie Smith, Oklahoma
Scout It: Smith is a versatile defender who can step in to a starting role immediately at safety or a nickel corner position. At 6'1 he has the height to make plays in coverage. He was moved to a safety role at Oklahoma because the Sooners wanted to put their best athletes on the field and had depth at cornerback. Smith as a successful starter at cornerback before this move. He is a little stiff in the hips, but has a knack for finding the football and making plays. He is an aggressive tackler as well. Smith will be at his best playing centerfield in the 49ers 3-4 defense. In most 3-4 schemes the cornerbacks are put on an island, with linebackers constantly blitzing. The safeties in this defense must have the speed to run the field and get deep in coverage. Smith excels at getting deep, never letting a man behind him. He is also adept at blitzing, something we've seen Mike Nolan use in the past.
Pick 107:: OC Cody Wallace, Texas A&M
Scout It: Much has been made of the tragic past of Cody Wallace, and it is a heart wrenching story. On the football field Wallace is a quiet technician. His showing at the 2008 NFL Combine was impressive, proving he has the size and strength to hold up. He must get better at the point of attack. He excels at getting to the second level, but will struggle locking down a nose tackle. He has shown to be a good help blocker, coming down on a three-technique tackle. Wallace is a project player who must get stronger and do a better job of locking down his man. Wallace has experience as a shotgun snapper, something the Martz offense is known for.
Pick 174:: WR Josh Morgan, Virginia Tech
Scout It: Morgan was overshadowed at Virginia Tech by Eddie Royal, but early in their careers Morgan was the better overall player. What he lacks in elite speed, he makes up for with good size and quickness. He will get in and out of his breaks quickly, with little wasted movement. In the Mike Martz scheme he will be asked to run inside routes based on timing. Morgan can do this, showing the ability to make the quick cut on his outside foot when running the slant. Morgan must get better at catching every pass, as he has shown some inconsistencies.
Pick 214:: LB Larry Grant, Ohio State
Scout It: Larry Grant has moved around a lot in his career. First as a JUCO player and then as a Buckeye. He has played all three linebacker positions for Ohio State. Grant is an accomplished special teams player, blocking three kicks in 2007. Grant has shown the strength to come off the edge as a pass rusher, logging 5 sacks as a senior. Interesting enough, Grant will most likely compete for the starting job at the "Ted" linebacker position, which is the strong side inside linebacker spot. The Ted linebacker will line up on the tight end side of the field and is responsible for taking up blockers, catching a lot of "trash" coming from the offensive line. If the defensive linemen are not accomplishing their job of taking up blockers, the Ted linebacker will get double teamed.