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Niners Nation #Channel49 Twitter Q&A Mailbag, Vol. 4

In Vol. 4, we discuss what new wrinkles there could be in the read option, which 49er should be signed long term next, draft related information and other 49ers topics.

Roman and Harbaugh with their game faces on during pre game warm ups
Roman and Harbaugh with their game faces on during pre game warm ups

We had another fun-filled Twitter Q&A session Friday afternoon. Aaron Malone and I picked the best questions and present you our extended responses. Be sure to be part of the discussion at 2 p.m. PT every Friday on Twitter, and use the hashtag #Channel49. If you participate, you have a chance at being in the mailbag. Thanks to everyone for their support. We have even had participants who have never been on Niners Nation, and now they are frequent visitors.

Malone's Answers:

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Greg Roman has been referred to as a mad scientist. Inventiveness and unpredictability are trademarks of the49ers' offense in the Harbaugh-Roman era. When Roman says he's just getting started with the pistol and the read-option, it's simply the maturation of a formation and system they have employed at times since Colin Kaepernick took over at quarterback for Alex Smith. With a full offseason of preparation, planning and practice, Roman plans to incorporate every play known to mankind into the pistol formation and employ the read-option from every formation imaginable. They would have had a limited set of plays designed and practiced when Kaep took over and would have incorporated as many as possible during the remainder of the season. They might have added more had the fumbled pitch to Ted Ginn in the Rams game not set offensive football back five years. Seriously, I think it gave them the yips in regards to aggressively expanding the playbook midyear.

Personally, I would like to see LaMichael James getting the ball in space from the pistol. Pass, run, triple reverse once he goes in motion ... I don't care. James' pattern was to gain either 0-2 yards or 15 yards on every run. He's not getting the five yard gains in the power running game we've learned to expect from Frank Gore, so let's get creative and find ways to get him the ball where he doesn't have to pick and choose a hole, fight off defensive linemen or break two tackles at once. I'd love to see him with Anquan Boldin or Michael Crabtree blocking on the outside with a man or two to beat. It just didn't happen last year once he came on. I'm thinking more home runs from people not named Kaepernick.

A lot of talk this offseason has centered around the 49ers' 2015 class of free agents. Anthony Davis was unsuspectingly extended during the week, removing one of the key names from that list. Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati and Aldon Smith, along with Kaepernick still remain. The 2014 class features Tarell Brown and Justin Smith, among others.

Aldon Smith is the most valuable player on the list of people to lock up until eternity. Someone had a great point on Twitter and unfortunately I can't find the Tweet, so I can't give due credit. Elite pass rushers are the second most sought after commodity in football behind franchise quarterbacks. Once you have one, you can't let him go.

Alas, there's no telling who gets the next extension. Aldon and Kaepernick's stock can't really get much higher, so the team could/should wait to see if either has an off year or regression before taking the plunge. With that in mind, you're just as likely to see Chris Culliver or Alex Boone extended before they go All-Pro as you are to see Aldon Smith, who's already there and can command maximum dollars.

This is a question that I don't have an answer to. I wanted it included because the idea of losing Roman is a scary one and a real possibility. If defensive coordinator Vic Fangio were to get a job as a head coach, Ed Donatell, who's already received inquiries from teams seeking a DC, makes a likely in-house replacement. The team doesn't necessarily have a logical option on the offensive staff who's received as much attention as Donatell has.

That said, Trevor identified Geep Chryst as a possible choice. He's been with the team for two years as the quarterback coach, despite having played linebacker in college. Princeton-educated and familiar with the offense, he'll have a leg up on the competition. Plus, his son is the next big thing at quarterback.

This question comes up frequently and often generates heated discussion. Drafting since Harbaugh became head coach leads me to believe that, yes, they will turn to a more pass-heavy attack and will look to air it out more. Kaepernick's cannon arm and speed at the skill positions in A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James will be used as exhibits A, B and C. Frank Gore has to slow down at some point. When he does, a change in philosophy may follow.

But, I'm always surprised by my team. With the dominant run blocking of our offensive line and Kaepernick's skill set, we could draft a Gore clone and stay the course. The 2013 draft will tell us a lot more. If the 49ers continue to draft quick and explosive players at the skill positions, I'll feel a lot more confident in my opinion. Or perhaps those previously alluded to picks were made to diversify from the power running game we already excelled at. Hmm ...

Woods' Answers:

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I do not expect anything out of the ordinary in the draft early on, but there is a position that has no depth behind two stars as of now. That position is inside linebacker. Larry Grant was not retained, and neither was Tavares Gooden; The 49ers will have to pick up at least one ILB up in the draft. The 49ers did sign former Cincinnati Bengal ILB Dan Skuta, but he was signed to be a contributor on special teams. I do expect the 49ers to find an ILB that could potentially fill in (at a high level) for Navorro Bowman or Patrick Willis if they happen to suffer an injury. Depth is important, and depth is lacking right now.

The draft is not deep with inside linebacker talent this year, but a couple names could be options in the mid to late rounds. The prospect to keep an eye on is Iowa State product A.J. Klein. Klein amassed 117 tackles last season and has shown he is a good coverage linebacker, returning four interceptions for touchdowns in his career. Klein ran a 4.66 forty at the combine, a better time than many of the linebackers with a draft grade ahead of him. I find him to be a bit underrated, and he could end up being a bargain in the fifth round.

I take Datone Jones. I would consider him the better player available of the two at pick No. 31, and probably the best player available as well. I feel Jones possesses a combination of power and speed that isn't always seen in a defensive lineman; His 4.75 forty time at 283 pounds is impressive. Cyprien is considered a legitimate cover safety that is also a hard hitter with run-stopping ability. He is a good prospect that could end up having a fine NFL career, so I really don't think you could go wrong either way here if both are available. However, I would take Jones if it were up to me. Datone would immediately be a player who could come on the field and give Ray McDonald or Justin Smith a breather, without losing too much production on the field from the position.

I am a firm believer that it only takes one jerk to ruin a party, and that it only takes one team to gamble on a player and draft them earlier than expected. Tyrann Mathieu and South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore are candidates to be drafted earlier than their draft grades may indicate. Lattimore has suffered some nasty injuries in college, but if he regains full health and ability, he will be a force to be reckoned with in the NFL. It only takes one team to take a chance on him, and I believe his value is in the third round. Tyrann Mathieu smoked some pot and got kicked off the LSU football team, but a team is going to select him because of his ability and not worry about what some may deem to be "character concerns". By the time the second round is over, Mathieu will be off the board and a team will have found a bargain. The two teams I see targeting Mathieu are the 49ers and the New England Patriots. The 49ers and Patriots have both scheduled meetings with Mathieu. This may come down to who is willing to trade up to get the Honey Badger between the two teams if they both want him.

I do not see the 49ers drafting a cornerback with their first two picks, and I don't think they would trade up for a player such as Xavier Rhodes. They could consider Washington CB Desmond Trufant if he fell all the way to pick No. 31, but I don't expect that to happen. I see the 49ers selecting a cornerback with the 61st pick at the earliest. I wrote an article earlier this week on the draft implications of the Nnamdi signing, and you can check that out here.