I count myself among those who had puzzled looks on my face at various times following 49ers draft selections this past weekend. Chris Culliver in the third round?? Who is Colin Jones for heaven's sake?!? Why didn't we take Powe (NT)? Couldn't we find a guy who actually played FB rather than a DE who we plan to convert?!?
Now a few days removed, I've had time to slow down a bit and let the high emotions of the draft leave my body. Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh were visibly excited about this draft-haul. They must have seen something in these players they really liked...so what was it?
Did Ed Donatell see something in Culliver, Jones, etc. that he's identified in the past...something that makes a great defensive back? Was there some inside info on some of the other more well-known prospects that made the 49ers shy away from guys that draftniks valued higher?
Maybe, but I think it might have been more simple than that. Let's dive-in, after the jump.
Today I was looking around the internet for videos, interviews, etc. of the new draft prospects...trying to get amped about the new additions the 49ers have at their disposal going forward. Ronald Johnson was a guy I liked from what I could find, but then some started to mention how he was a very good route runner, slot receiver, etc. This caused some talk about which WR's would make the roster in 2011.
After thinking about that and fleshing it out with a few others, it seemed clear that Ted Ginn could likely be the weakest WR in the group in 2011. Ginn isn't very physical and isn't known for being reliable catching the football. These things are kind of paramount to the WCO and also, to a Harbaugh-coached team.
Two of the other players, Kyle Williams and Ronald Johnson ("RoJo") seemed like good propects for the slot, being smaller guys, running good routes, going across the middle, making tough catches, etc. The only thing I could think of that Ginn brought to the table was his return abilities...which are pretty good.
Then I started thinking about how I remembered hearing that Culliver did some return duties at South Carolina. RonJon also handled some kicks in his time at USC and both were pretty adept at it. Hmmm, maybe this was a factor in the selctions, to a degree?
Other guys we picked were known for being "mean and nasty" or were even referred to by Harbaugh as someone he'd like to see "flying down the field with his speed and mentality" (Colin Jones, paraphrased). Overall the class was made up of high-character guys who love to play football and have high upside.
Read: Special teams players, good locker-room guys, guys who will help set the tone and get coaches' vision across.
Now, a few of these guys are also great football players who could see the field right away on offense or defense too. But I think Harbaugh sees a pretty good roster right now and knew he needed to just inject a little bit of "his type of guys" into the mix, maybe clean out some more of the Kentwan Balmer and Michael Lewis'es of the world.
Lord knows our special teams weren't all that "special" in 2010 (something Ninjames could go on and on about...and usually does)...we got rid of some key pieces from the previous year and look to potentially lose more this year. It happens every year, unfortunately, and so that's why you need to replace these guys.
Bottom line is just because a guy isn't the last pick of the draft, doesn't mean he has to be an immediate starter on either side of the ball. We had a lot of late-round picks in this draft and those role-players help win and lose games too. Harbaugh went out and got some quality attitudes, work ethics, etc. who will help him and his coaches build the team his way.