Heading into the 2013 NFL Draft, I expected the San Francisco 49ers to do some wheeling and dealing, and cut down on the total number of draft picks they had. They did make some moves, packaging picks to move up several times, while also adding a 2014 pick from the Tennessee Titans. However, they still managed to end up with a bigger draft class than I expected, drafting eleven players over the three days.
On Tuesday, I put together my first projection of the 49ers 53-man roster. Over the coming months, we'll break down every position in greater detail, looking at the potential depth chart and bubble watch. However, before we get into that nitty-gritty, I wanted to take a look at the implications of the draft on various positions. The 49ers made draft picks to fill various needs. However, they also elected not to make draft picks because they were happy with areas we thought might need to be further addressed.
Today, we'll start at nose tackle. Yesterday, someone put together a brief FanPost opening up the question of who would replace Isaac Sopoaga. Last season, the 49ers ran their base 3-4 defense approximately 35% of the time. Sopoaga was strictly a nose tackle, while backup Ricky Jean Francois could play every position on the defensive line in both the 3-4 and the more frequently used nickel.
Earlier this offseason, the 49ers signed nose tackle Ian Williams to a two-year contract extension, and then signed defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey to a two-year contract. Last weekend, the 49ers used a fifth round pick to select Alabama defensive tackle Quinton Dial in the fifth, and came to terms with undrafted free agent Mike Purcell, a defensive tackle out of Wyoming.
There was a lot of chatter that the 49ers should consider big defensive tackles like Jesse Williams, Johnathan Hankins and John Jenkins. The counter argument is those guys might be better focusing on the nose tackle role, and with the 49ers frequent use of four-man fronts, the team needs more versatility.
The team is in the midst of "football school" in their offseason workout program, which means the newcomer veterans are getting a chance to really break down the playbook and get some coaching. Dial will join the team next week for rookie minicamp, so for now, Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey are getting the bulk of the instruction.
The 49ers' draft would indicate the team is prepared to have Dorsey and Williams compete for that starting nose tackle spot. Given Dorsey's versatility, I could see him filling more of the Ricky Jean Francois utility role, while Williams is in the Isaac Sopoaga role. For now that is really no more than an educated guess given that both players are coming in having been relatively under the radar before this season (for Dorsey, under the radar since seeming to flame out as a top pick).
Dial will get his opportunities, but I expect to see him start the season deep down the depth chart behind Dorsey and Williams.