49ers thoughts from Football Outsiders

One of my favorite web sites is Football Outsiders.  The sister-site of Baseball Prospectus has taken football analysis to a whole new level.  However, I realized today I hadn't visited the site in some time this offseason.  I get email updates from them and nothing of note seemed to be coming along.  Well, I did a little combing of their recent articles and found some interesting stuff I had overlooked.  So consider this a Football Outsiders link dump of sorts.

Draft Review
Shortly after the draft, FO did a review of the NFC West's drafts.  They did a nice little review of the events that ended with the 49ers picking where they were picking in the first round.  Leading up to the draft, most websites emphasized how the 49ers shot themselves in the foot in losing out on a top 10 pick.  In discussing the 2007 selection of Staley they said:

Staley started every game at right tackle for the 49ers last season, and runs to right tackle improved from 23rd in 2006 to ninth in 2007. Considering the damage that Staley’s predecessor Kwame Harris was doing to the psyche of the 49ers’ fanbase, the trade seems like at least a wash for San Francisco.

Then looking at what the 49ers did with the acquired Colts pick:

That pick, the 29th overall, and the 49ers’ own second-rounder, the 39th overall, were used to solidify the interior of the line on both sides of the ball. This is the same strategy the Kansas City Chiefs used to set everyone’s hearts aflutter, but the 49ers received much less fanfare.

We all know plenty about the early 49ers picks, so I'll throw out what FO said about some of the later guys.

Cody Wallace: "Wallace cleaned up at the Combine, leading all offensive linemen in vertical jump and broad jump. Jokes about the rarity of centers bouncing around a football field aside, that shows great explosive power in the legs; if he can launch his own body through the air, he should have no problem popping defenders backwards at the snap."

Josh Morgan: "NFL.com’s bio of Morgan is awfully frank, saying he has 'a rare combination of size and speed,' but 'he’s also plagued by rounded-off routes, weak effort as a blocker and ugly drops.'"

Larry Grant: "Grant is somewhat undersized at 235 pounds, but has great agility, placing third in the 3-cone drill and fourth in the 20-yard shuttle at the Combine. That athleticism should come in handy on passing downs and on special teams."

They wrapped up the piece with an interesting tidbit on the undrafted free agents the 49ers signed:

[Robert] Jordan is noted for his physical and mental toughness, but the durability of this thin frame must be questioned; he broke his ankle in high school, and his collarbone in college. Another interesting prospect is Louis Holmes out of Arizona, a monster of a man at 6-6, 270 pounds, who would play an enormous outside linebacker in the 49ers’ 3-4. He has also had “brushes with the law,” so he may be terrorizing on and off the field.


Special Teams and the draft
Mike Tanier used to write a column called "Too Deep Zone" for FO, as well as several other pieces every year.  Just prior to the 2008 draft, he made a change and now has a bi-weekly column titled "Walkthrough," which appears to be a random assortment of this, that and the other thing related to football and analysis.  His first Walkthrough had an interesting discussion about college players' willingness to play special teams their rookie season (and beyond in some cases).

Most teams ask midrange prospects about their special-teams willingness during pre-draft interviews. According to Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout, coaches and execs can’t always take the answers at face value.

“Some prospects say they’re willing to play special teams or ‘do whatever it takes get onto field,’ but are then shocked when they are actually expected to do so.” Wright agrees. “Many of these guys need to swallow their pride and put their egos on the backburner. But some have a real difficult time doing that.”

Assuming they make the 53-man roster, I could see Larry Grant and Josh Morgan seeing plenty of time on special teams.  When Grant was selected in the 7th round, that was one of the primary pieces of analysis about him.  Obviously we won't have a better idea about this until training camp and preseason games.  If a guy can prove he can contribute to special teams, you never know when he might then get a shot at regular play.  It should make for an interesting camp.

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