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Another Week, Another Loss - By Bryan Hersh Nov 8 2005

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2006 Draft Day 1 Breakdown The 2006 NFL draft started off on a different foot than most expected with the Texans selecting Mario Williams, DE instead of Reggie Bush RB. The move shook up the top of the draft, but when it was the 49ers turn to draft the man they had been coveting Ė Tight End, Vernon Davis was sitting there waiting for them, and the jumped at the chance to draft him. Davis was so happy to be drafted by the 49ers that he cried openly while on receiving the news from offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who Davis has tremendous respect for.

The 49ers are very confident Davis can instantly improve their offense, and even though Davis has yet to take a snap in the NFL the team seems even more upbeat about his selection than they did last year with the selection of quarterback Alex Smith. In Davis the 49ers have acquired what they believe is not only the best tight end in the daft, but best receiver too. Heís big and fast, with great hands. The 49ers also believe that he will be a fine blocker as he learns to play in the NFL.

Davis gives the 49ers a real threat on offense, and should match well with receivers Antonio Bryant and Arnaz Battle. The 49ers are hoping Davis can be a safety blanket for Smith but still be a big play maker on the offense. His selection could make him the most powerful receiver on the team, and possibly the fastest player on the team. The 49ers are hoping that Davis will be a Tony Gonzalez type player who other teams will have to absolutely have to scheme around. Davis is expected to wear #85, Brandon Lloydís old number.

Currently, the teamís starting tight end is Eric Johnson who has been faced with a rash of injuries throughout his career. Although Johnson is healthy and working out very strongly, Davis should be able to beat him out at tight end, if for no other reason that Davis has the size and speed Johnson does not. Alternatively, the 49ers may rely heavily on a two tight end set, where Davis plays a quasi tight end / receiver role. If Johnson is healthy this may be the best way to get the best talent on the field at the same time. Finally, do not be surprised if Davis at times lines up in the backfield. If his blocking can improve, or if the 49ers feel they can create miss matches by putting him in the backfield the team will exploit that opportunity.

With the 49ers second pick in the first round the team selected LB Manny Lawson. Switching to the defensive side of the ball, where the 49ers are arguable in worse shape than they are offensively, the 49ers hope to have filled an immediate need left open by the departure of both Andre Carter and Julian Peterson. Lawson was rated quite highly coming into the draft, and one of a few players the 49ers figured to be targeting at the 22 spot.

Lawson was often overshadowed by Mario Williams in college. With the 49ers that will be a non issue as he learns to play with the likes of Derek Smith and Jeff Ulbrich. Certainly he should be able to push Brandon Moore for a starting position. The set out two get two starters with their first two picks, and if Lawson and Davis can live up to their potential, than the 49ers will certainly have succeeded in doing just that. Lawson will wear #99.

Some may find the selection of receiver Brandon Williams in the third round peculiar, especially considering the 49ers relative depth at the position and needs elsewhere, but in Williams, the 49ers will likely have found a player who can impact the game, even from a bench position. Williams excels in kick and punt return duties, an area the 49ers have struggled with in recent years. The team hopes Williams can step in and be a change of game type player at this position.

The 49ers are also looking to upgrade the depth at their receiver position, and Williams will instantly be able to compete with Derek Hamilton, Bryan Gilmore, PJ Fleck and the rest of the squad. Although a little short, Williams is an aggressive receiver with very consistent hands. He also can jump well, and attacks the ball at the right point. This should make him a capable third receiver for a team that last season was starting players off the street at the position. Although Arnaz Battle and newcomer Antonio Bryant should be holding down the starting position, the drafting of Williams will undoubtedly heighten the competition at the position.

While following the draft it became very apparent that the 49ers knew what they wanted to do on draft day. Whether or not the team knew what they were doing we wonít know for a couple of years, but certainly there was clarity in the process. The team wasted no time getting their picks in which shows that they were thoroughly prepared and anticipated the draft board very well. Hats off to Scott Mcloughan for his work on this. Hopefully it will continue into day two.

Two other interesting points that came out of the draft was that the photo taken with Vernon Davis was with a white jersey, despite the teamís home jersey being red. I just found this a little peculiar. Also, the team will feature a 60th anniversary patch on its jersey this year. The 49ers 2006 draft hat is already available in the 49ers Paradise Store, and 60th anniversary merchandise is expected to be available shortly.

Looking ahead two the second day of the draft, the 49ers have 7 remaining picks. I was a little surprised that the team did not try and trade back into round 2, or up into round 3 at all, and so I am anticipating that the team move up a little with its remaining picks, and perhaps make a strong push in rounds four and five. Of course, that is based purely on speculation. I also speculate that the team will address more defensive needs and look to improve its depth along the offensive line.

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