When a team struggles like the 49ers have done much of this decade, one would imagine there are a ton of holes to fill. I realize the 49ers have shown improvement at times, particularly the last half of last season. However, I think we'll all agree they weren't a great team.
I bring this up because I'm curious about people's thoughts on draft strategy for the 49ers. Not so much specific players, but more how you address specific needs given the current make-up of the team. The team is not a Super Bowl contender as is (at least I don't think), and yet, I wonder how many true holes exist. The team doesn't have a lot of depth, but I do think there is some very solid talent at a lot of positions. It's a team with needs, but not necessarily holes.
The question then surrounds those high picks, where you're spending a little bit more cash and giving longer deals. Do you necessarily want to grab an offensive lineman if you're going to be sitting him for the immediate future behind Marvel Smith? Do you draft an outside linebacker if you think Parys Haralson and Manny Lawson could be your answer. In the NFL Draft you're looking just as much to the future as you are to the present.
As we're fast approaching the draft in a few weeks, I thought I'd go through the starters at certain positions. I'm curious if people think they're replaceable in the very near future, or how you factor them in when considering draft strategy. This is focusing more on the various first round options, given the big money that would be paid out.
Pass Rush/OLB: I put these together because really we're hoping for the sacks to come from the outside linebackers. Parys Haralson led the team in sacks without being an every-down linebacker thanks to the Nolan substitution "strategy." Given a full season in a more basic 3-4, maybe he busts into double digits? Manny Lawson on the other hand has never been known as a big pass rusher, but put on weight and is anticipating more of a pass rushing role.
Haralson is a free agent after this year, although I'd hope the 49ers would use some of this cap space to ink him to a long term deal. If not, then I could see the reasoning for trying to grab an Everette Brown (or multiple other options). If you re-sign Haralson, do you still try and draft a pass rusher in the first round, even though he wouldn't be an every-down player?
Offensive Tackle: The signing of Marvel Smith conceivably sets up the offensive line for 2009, with depth in guys like Barry Sims, Adam Snyder and Tony Wragge. So, do you draft an Andre Smith or Michael Oher? You're going to be paying some serious coin to somebody that likely won't start unless we see injuries elsewhere on the line. Depth is good, but at that price? Or maybe you start phasing out 2010 free agent David Baas and temporarily place Smith/Oher at guard?
Quarterback: I've been pretty adamant about not wanting a QB with the 10th pick. I do think the 49ers should draft a QB, but not until later in the draft. The up-side though to taking a QB with a first round pick is that you really won't be killed for sitting the QB that first year, and maybe even that second year. I'm not arguing for it, but one could argue it's the most reasonable use of that first round pick. Just a thought.
I realize there are other positions that can be considered here, but I think the same thoughts apply. The general point I'm trying to make is that we've got some serious questions to be answered. You can certainly never have too much talent on a team. At the same time, you don't want to waste a pick. We don't know if Kentwan Balmer will be a bust, but that first year certainly wasn't inspiring. Do we want another year of that from a first round pick?