When trying to really get down to it and get in the mind of Scot McCloughan, there's one underlying phrase that continues to come up, "It's a big man's game." It might have been one of the first things I ever heard him say as personnel man of the 49ers. He brings it up again every offseason. McCloughan has continuously practiced what he preaches through both free agency and the draft.
"The one thing about the NFL that is not going to change is, it's a big man's game. Over a 16-game schedule, the bigger team, the more physical team is going to pan out most of the time, especially in the cold-weather games."
-Scot McCloughan, 2006
"The “big back” would be someone who, if Frank were to get hurt, could come in and carry the load for two, four or six weeks. I don’t see a smaller back being that type of guy. We’re going to be a good team this year because we’re able to establish the run and come downhill between the tackles. With a smaller back, that is tough to do, especially for a longer period of time. We always look for good football players and that’s what we’ll continue to do, but you have to understand that this is a big man’s game. The big backs are going to survive in this league."
-Scot McCloughan, 2009
It's not that McCloughan has completely avoided assets like speed, as we've seen with players such as Vernon Davis, Manny Lawson, Patrick Willis, Josh Morgan, and Nate Clements. Size, however, did acompany speed in those cases. On the other hand, Kentwan Balmer, Chilo Rachal, Reggie Smith, Michael Lewis, Justin Smith and Tully Banta-Cain were never considered among the best athletes at their positions. What the later group did posses is, you guessed it, size. When Scot McCloughan must spend resources on a player, you can bet he'll err on the side of the big man.
Off the top of my head it's hard to come up many names drafted during the McCloughan era who did not matchup closely with the positional size prototype. Frank Gore was short, but certainly not undersized with his powerful frame. Brandon Williams, a 3rd round wide reciever out of Wisconsin in 2006, was listed as 5-11, 183. And there's my list. Yet I spent hours last April wondering how the 49ers could pass on DeSean Jackson, not once, but twice in favor of big uglies. I won't make that mistake again.
So, that should narrow down the shopping list a bit. You can throw away that mock with Jeremy Maclin or Percy Harvin penciled in. Who does that leave us with?
Big Man Mock Draft:
1. BJ Raji, DT (6-1, 337) ... Andre Smith, OT (6-4, 332) or Brian Orakpo, OLB (6-3, 263)
2. Sean Smith, CB (6-4, 214) ... Ron Brace, DT (6-3, 330) or Phil Loadholt, OT (6-8, 332)
3. Ramses Barden, WR (6-6, 229) ... Andre Brown, RB (6-0, 224) or Rashad Jennings, RB (6-1, 231)
4. Fenuki Tupou, OT (6-6, 314) ... Jasper Brinkley, MLB (6-2, 252) or Sebastian Vollmer, OT (6-8, 312)
5. Matt Shaughnessy, OLB (6-5, 266) ... Patrick Turner, WR (6-5, 223) or Jason Watkins, OT (6-6, 318)
6. Arian Foster, RB (6-1, 226) ... Alex Boone, OT (6-7, 328) or Javarris Williams, RB (5-10, 223)
7. Jamarko Simmons, WR (6-2, 231) ... Gartrell Johnson, RB (5-10, 219) or Marko Mitchell, WR (6-4, 218)
And that doesn't even include the future 1st rounder traded away to get Kansas State QB Josh Freeman (6-6, 248).