Its never to early to think about the draft right? With a relatively quiet week leading up to the Cards game, I figured it would be a good time to look into team needs and get an idea of which rounds certain positions may be targeted. Mock drafts are always fun, but in reality, they are rarely correct. This is a good way to break down positional need in relation to draft day value.
The 49ers are in a comfortable situation as they have decent depth and talent across most of the the board enabling them to use a balanced approach somewhere in between taking the best player available and drafting solely for need as we have had to do in years past. I will use a simple system which grades both the starting players as well as the depth at each position (grades reflect what I believe our team will look like after free agency). This will help give us an idea which positions should be targeted, and how early they should be considered. After the jump, the breakdown will begin...
Each position will have two grades, the first for starters, and the second for overall depth. A 10/10 is the best possible grade, and is reserved for truly elite players/depth. For example, the 49ers' MLB starters grade is the only 10/10 on the team. 1/10 is reserved for an absolutely horrible position, the Ram's cornerbacks overall depth could be considered for a 1/10 for example. In general 6/10 should be considered about average. Grades also take into account the age of a player, and how long they will continue to play at the level they are playing.
QB: Starter: 8/10; Depth: 8/10
Alex Smith is a very above average QB, and I consider him to be playing just a few steps below elite. Our depth is very good as we consider Kaepernick to be the future at the position.
I do not see the 49ers looking seriously at QBs come April, the only scenario I could see us taking a QB is if Harbaugh falls in love with a late round prospect and takes him on a flyer.
RB: Starter: 8/10; Depth: 8/10
Frank Gore is among the best overall backs in the league, but in reality, is probably at the peak of his career, if not just past it. Kendall Hunter is proving to be a good change-of-pace and could conceivably take over the starting position if needed. Hunter provides good depth as well. As much as I like Anthony Dixon's antics, I don't see him ever being a significant contributor.
The 49ers appear to be set for the immediate future at the RB position. It would not surprise me if they targeted a speedster or bruiser in the later rounds who could serve as a third back behind Hunter and Gore.
FB: Starter: 8/10; Depth: -
Bruce is a playing like a pro bowler right now, so one can only imagine how he will play after a full offseason to continue learning the position. Moran Norris will probably be released after the season as teams rarely carry multiple fullbacks. We should be set at this position for years to come.
TE: Starter: 9/10; Depth: 8/10
With all of the two tight end packages the niners run, I view both Vernon and Delanie as starters. They are among the top tight end tandems in the league, and with a decent blocker behind them with Justin Peele, things are looking good here.
WR: Starter: 7/10; Depth: 6/10
This was a tough position to grade. I am basing it off of having Crabtree, Morgan, Williams and Ginn Jr. as the receivers on our roster after everyone has been resigned. A lot depends on how Crabtree and Williams continue to develop.
Depending on how the coaching staff sees these guys, they could spend a first round pick on the position, or not draft a WR at all. I believe a WR will be selected within the first 4 rounds. Look for a guy who can stretch the field to take pressure off of Crabtree and our TE combo. Someone like Joe Adams could be found in the 2-4 round ranges. Kendall Wright out of Baylor could be targeted if we look for someone in round 1.
LT: Starter 7/10; Depth 4/10
Staley is playing decent, not great, but he is holding things down for the most part. He is the type of player that you can expect to go entire games without hearing is name. That means he is not making mistakes, but is not dominating his position. Behind him, Boone and Person are the definition of unproven. I am high on Person however, as I watched him dominate in high school and continue to do so at Montana State.
RT: Starter 5/10; Depth 4/10
Anthony Davis is another difficult case to decide on. He has the physical tools to be the best tackle out there, but he continues to make mistakes. It is easy to forget he is only 22. With another offseason to develop, he will either develop into a quality tackle, or be moved to the interior, possibly to play right guard. I think there is little doubt he can be an exceptional guard, but hopefully he can pull it together to succeed at tackle. Behind him is the same story as LT, two unproven guys who have some potential.
LG: Starter 8/10; Depth 5/10
Mike Iupati has taken a slight step back over the last few weeks, but overall is a quality player, who is going to continue to improve. I think he will be a pro bowl quality player for years to come. Behind him the story is the same as it has been for the rest of the offensive line, unproven players with some potential.
RG: Starter 6/10; Depth 4/10
Snyder is holding things down, but I think we know exactly what we have with him. He is a capable player, but seems to have peaked and ideally would be a great backup who can play multiple positions along the line. Chilo Rachel? Lets not talk about him, maybe that will keep him off of the field.
C: Starter 7/10; Depth 5/10
Goodwin is playing very well for the most part, how long he can continue to do so remains a question. He can probably anchor the middle for another year or two before his quality of play begins to suffer.
Our offensive line has by far the lowest average ranking among all of the positions. That doesn't necesarrily mean we should target a Guard or a Tackle with our first pick. I believe we can find a quality player in the 2nd or 3rd round. A trending idea on NinersNation is the possibility of taking a Tackle and converting him to Guard. This seems to be the most likely scenario, unless Harbaugh and co. decides to convert Anthony Davis to Guard, and then drafting a Tackle to take over the vacated position. Regardless of what is decided, at some point, preferably sooner rather than later, an o-lineman should be targeted. In an ideal world, Snyder will not be starting opening week of '12.
DE: Starter 9/10; Depth 6/10
Justin Smith and Ray McDonald are beasts. That is really all there is to say. Behind them, Dobbs has proven to not be a liability in his limited playing time. Luckily, as previously mentioned, Smith and McDonald are beasts.
DT: Starter 8/10; Depth 6/10
Sopoaga has been great player this season, arguably playing even better than Franklin did the previous few years. He is aging, and behind him, Ricky Jean as played well, but will probably never be an every down starter.
I am beginning to get more and more excited about the 49ers taking a DE/DT hybrid within the first three rounds. With as good as they have been now, imagine having a guy like Kheeston Randall out of Texas. He could play any position along the time, wrecking havoc and giving our studs some rest. Justin Smith and Sopoaga are not getting any younger, someone like Randall could have a few years to develop, then emerge as a top starter in the league.
Another guy to watch out for is Billy Winn out of Boise St. He weighs in at 300+ pounds and plays regularly at the 3 and 5 technique. He frequently lines up outside of the tackle in order to edge rush. Imagine the schemes Fangio could think up with Winn, Aldon and Justin all out there rushing the passer.
OLB: Starter: 8/10; Depth 8/10
ILB: Starter 10/10; Depth 8/10
Not much to discuss here, Willis and Bowman may be the two best inside backers in the league. Both are young with unlimited upside. Larry Grant seems to give quality depth, but we will find out much more about him this weekend against the Cardinals.
I don't see us taking a linebacker early, although in the mid to later rounds another linebacker who could play both inside and outside wouldn't be a bad idea. Similar to my thinking with taking a D-lineman, our studs need some rest every now and then as the season progresses.
CB: Starter 7/10; Depth 7/10
Carlos Rogers is playing as well as any DB in the league right now short of Revis. Behind him, we are lacking a legit #2 corner. It is looking for and more like Culliver will be ready to take over that position by next season. In an ideal world, Brown would play nickel with Brock stepping in when needed.
This is another position I could see us using a high draft pick on. Getting a guy like Janoris Jenkins if he falls to us could be a steal. We have the talent currently on our roster to allow a high potential guy to develop for a season if need be.
SS: Starter 8/10; Depth 7/10
Donte has been a welcome addition to the team this year, and although he rarely makes the big play, he also rarely gives up the big play. Behind him is Reggie Smith, a player with starting experience, who is a very serviceable backup.
FS: Starter 8/10; Depth 6/10
I think Dashon Goldson is primed to become a household name next year. He took a step back last year, but has picked it back up this year. It seems like every game he lays at least one hit that makes you wonder if the offensive player will even remember what day it is. His interceptions have also increased as the season has progressed.
The safety positions are fairly solid. I could see us taking someone in the mid to late rounds if they appeared to be a perfect fit.
Now I want to hear your thoughts. What players should we be watching out for?
Which position should the 49ers target in the 1st round
Wide Receiver (70 votes)
Defensive Line (37 votes)
Offensive Line (73 votes)
Cornerback (105 votes)
Outside Linebacker (3 votes)
Runningback (4 votes)
Quarterback (16 votes)
308 total votes