An extended lock out would immediately effect our 49ers, probably more than any other team in the NFL. With an entirely new coaching staff, a new offensive scheme and possibly a new QB; San Francisco needs the most time possible to build continuity. If the lock out lasts past the draft and further into the off-season, it wil not be good for our 49ers. Accordingly, San Francisco would probably have to alter their draft plans.
The 49ers have areas the need to upgrade at multiple positions. Among them are QB, FB, G, DE, OLB and CB. Without a new CBA, and the ability to sign other teams free Agents, our 49ers are going to find it necessary to adapt to the changed landscape. All things equal one would assume that CB and QB are the 49ers two greatest needs, however, this may change a bit without a real off-season.
No QB in the 2011 draft is going to be ready to start on week 1, or at all during the 2011 season, so drafting one in the 1st round would be foolish because the 49ers would need to find immediate impact players in the first couple of round. For example, Blaine Gabbert may be the best player available at #7, but would it make sense for the 49ers to go after him? Or, should they go after a player that can make an immediate impact like Prince Amukamara? Without the possibility of upgrading at other positions the need to find a starter at the cornerback, outside linebacker and defensive end positions is even more important. Another fact is that 49er free agents would remain with the club if a new CBA isn't signed and free agency is cancelled. Players like Alex Smith, Ray McDonald, Takeo Spikes, Manny Lawson and Dashon Goldson would remain under contract. If San Francisco believes that this is going to happen, it would also change their draft plans. Ray McDonald and Manny Lawson would be pencilled in at the DE and OLB positions and Alex Smith would be brought back to compete for the starting QB position. This would also change the 49ers draft strategy to some extent. They would have starters at their top three positions of need, and may look elsewhere in the draft to upgrade at another position. Is this where the possibility of A.J. Green comes into play?
If we were going strictly by 49er needs this is what I believe would happen in the 2011 draft
But, that would change without a new CBA in place by the draft. San Francisco would probably be forced to go corner 1st, even if Patrick Peterson is not available. Additionally, the QB position wouldn't be addressed until the mid-rounds with players like Colin Kaepernick or Andly Dalton. On the surface this would seem to make sense because I am under the opinion that none of the top QBs in the draft are worth the #7 pick. Additionally, there are multiple defensive players that the 49ers could select there. Robert Quinn, Cameron Jordan, Von Miller, Prince Amukamara and Peterson come to mind.
Alex Smith can come in and learn the new playbook better than any QB in the draft. This is where his intelligence comes into play, Smith should have a quick turnaround in receiving and learning the playbook. The same thing cannot be said for Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Cameron Newton or Ryan Mallett. It would make more sense to draft a "project" that will sit behind Smith in 2011, and go from there.
In any draft it would be foolhardy to expect a rookie QB to come in and start from day one. Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and to some extent Mark Sanchez, are the only ones to have succeeded in that situation over the last few seasons. Additionally, without OTA's and mini-camp, the learning curve would be that much greater. One could expect a defensive standout to come in and have some level of success without an extended opportunity to work in the scheme. This is a foreign situation for pretty much everyone involved, however, San Francisco is at a dis-advantage because of the turnaround in regards to the coaching staff and scheme.