Looking Ahead Early: 49ers 2012 Draft Needs

Entering week 7, the 49ers bye week allows us to cover other areas since there is no gameday to report on. Right now, San Francisco looks much improved at 5-1 but if the draft were tomorrow, what would the 49ers' area of needs be?

Certainly there has been a big change and this year's draft needs don't necessarily apply to next years. A lot of San Francisco needs have been addressed and with consistent strong performances from all three phases of the game, it'll be a little harder to narrow down what the Niners need to build a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Wide Receiver:

First and formost, I think the wide receiver situation needs to be addressed. Braylon Edwards is currently under a 1-year deal and it is unclear whether or not he would be interested in rejoining the team. Despite Michael Crabtree's 9-catch performance against the Detroit Lions, I don't believe he is a true number one receiver in this league. He lacks the explosiveness and downfield ability of a #1 wide out. One way or another, the wide receiving corps needs a spark, and I believe they find one in next year's draft.

San Francisco needs to acquire a wide out in the draft that is a 6'2"+ downfield threat who can make all the catches in traffic. I don't think it would be out of the question for the Niners to grab a receiver in the first or second round.

Prospects:

Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State), Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma), Dwight Jones (North Carolina), Nick Toon (Wisconsin), Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina), Michael Floyd (Notre Dame)

Defensive Line:

The San Francisco defensive front has been playing exceptional this season, however, it's not too early to start thinking ahead. The tought process I have is geared toward finding an heir apparent to 32-year-old Justin Smith. A big-bodied 3-4 defensive end that could learn from the veterans for a couple years until we part with Smith in the classiest of ways.

I also believe we should get coach Jim Tomsula a present for all his hard work because it's truly paid off. I'm keen on the idea of drafting an NCAA nose tackle and transitioning him to end in the 49ers 3-4 scheme.

Prospects: Jared Crick (Nebraska), Jerel Worthy (Michigan State), Brandon Thompson (Clemson), Billy Winn (Boise State)

Defensive Back:

As unexpectedly good as the Niners secondary has been playing this season, I believe there is room for improvement. The truth is, Shawntae Spencer makes me nervous whenever they throw around him. Carlos Rogers has been playing great but San Francisco needs another very good cornerback to play the teams with more than one good receiver (Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Green Bay).

I've been very impressed with Dashon Goldson this year, but he is also on a 1-year deal that might not get extended if he starts asking for the big bucks again. The 49ers might be smart to draft a defensive back that can play both cornerback and free safety.

Prospects: Morris Claiborne (LSU), Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama), Alfonzo Dennard (Nebraska), Chase Minnifield (Virginia), Janoris Jenkins (Florida)

Offensive Line:

The offensive line has had some really strong outings so far this season, especially after they made the change to start Adam Snyder over Chilo Rachal at right guard. That position can still improve, and there is one guy I have in mind: David DeCastro of Stanford. I think everything about this pick makes sense: smart offensive lineman from an Ivy league school a strong academic institution, the Harbaugh connection and filling a need.

Prospects: David DeCastro (Stanford)

By now you've probably noticed that "Quarterback" wasn't a listed area of need. The way I see it, San Francisco won't be in draft position to draft either Andrew Luck or Landry Jones with the way this season is going. I also believe Alex Smith is getting better; we've only seen him play six games since the Harbaugh tutelage began.

Also, not needing a quarterback affords San Francisco quite a bit of flexibility to trade around and get quality players in other areas of need. General Manager Trent Baalke also has shown us he can get value out of later round picks (NaVorro Bowman, Bruce Miller, Kendall Hunter, etc.). I think Smith has earned a 1-2 year contract extension while Colin Kaepernick continues to develop.

Who do you think San Francisco should pursue in the 2012 NFL Draft?


Follow me on Twitter: @DeSimone80

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