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Draft 2007 Day 1 Wrapup - By Bryan Hersh April 28/29 2007

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If you want to play for the 49ers, the Senior Bowl would be a good place to start. In what was officially the longest first day in the NFL draft in history, the 49ers made trades, dealt picks, and selected four players who they had become familiar with while coaching the Senior Bowl earlier this offseason. In so doing, Mike Nolan is hoping his club is more accurate through their selection process then other teams as he, and his staff are already familiar with the players they are drafting. Of course this type of anchoring also comes with the risk of missing out on a better talent.

In identifying Patrick Willis, Joe Staley, Jason Hill, and Ray McDonald, Nolan also took value from his assistant coaches. Each of whom was identified for their character as well as their play. As in the past few drafts, each player posses a combination of attributes of: quick learner, strong personality, leadership, overcame adversity, and extreme confidence. These traits combined with their physical attributes lead to their selections.

Patrick Willis will immediately compete for an inside linebacker position. Brandon Moore is expected to occupy one of those slots, and Willis will have to beat out incumbent Derek Smith who is coming off an injury plagued season. Willis is a tackling machine, but also has the desire to get to the quarterback. The 49ers will likely make good use of him paired with Manny Lawson as they both posses great speed, especially for men their size. It should allow the defensive staff to be a little more creative in the game planning for next season. Willis has the ability to be an every down player, but will have to improve some of the technical aspects of his game. His versatility is something the 49ers covet in their defensive players, and should again make for more creative game planning.

Joe Staley was selected at the bottom of the first round after the 49ers sent the Patriots their #110 this year, and first round pick in 2008 to the Patriots. The team later recouped most of this status by trading their second round pick, #42 overall to the Colts in exchange for the Colts 1st round pick in 2008 and fourth round #126 overall in this years draft. Staley is capable of playing both tackle positions but will likely see most of his initial action on the right side. With Jonas Jennings still recovering from injury Staley will likely see quite a bit of action early in mini camp. Drafted mainly for the future, Staley will provide depth on the offensive line, and gives the 49ers some flexibility to make some trades with others at the position.

Jason Hill did not play for the 49ers coaching staff at the Senior Bowl but still managed to make an impression during game preparations. Hill is a good value pick in the third round. He posted a sub 4.4, 40 time at the combine, but many scouting reports suggest his speed on the field is not that quick – which may hinder his ability to go deep. Hill of course contends that those allegations are not true. Although Hill lacks the size and strength of some of the other receivers in this year’s draft, he does two things really welll which should serve him well in the NFL. He has good hands, and uses his body effectively to shield defenders from the ball. Hill could make a play for a top three spot in the receivers, and will certainly push the competition at the spot. This selection appears to have significantly more value than the selection of receiver Brandon Williams did last year.

The 49ers closed day one with the selection of defensive end Ray McDonald. There are a few things I like about “The Golden Arches” mainly; his frame should be able to add more bulk, his quickness, and his reaction time are all very good. He tends to be around the football, and is a very versatile player. There are a few things that worry me about him too though, such as: he lacks technical moves and may be more of a speed rusher, he has a rough injury history (two knee surgeries), and initial reports suggest his knees may require further work. This pick is one of those “boom or bust” picks but it booms it will fill a gaping hole on the 49ers defensive line. Ray’s versatility will help him play end in the 3-4.

The fourth round will have an interesting caveat to it, as the 49ers are in talks with the Seahawks to acquire receiver Darrell Jackson for a fourth round pick. Jackson is in Santa Clara and passed his physical with the team today. His injury history does raise red flags, but he also has the potential to take the 49ers receiving core to the next level. Jackson has big play ability, and can be a real threat in the redzone, something the team struggled with last season.

As the 49ers look forward to Day 2, there are a several players the team would still likely to get a hold of. With 6 picks remaining in the draft, Nolan and staff will try and improve the competition across the roster to improve the overall talent level on the roster. The team could still use defensive help in the defensive backfield, and more depth at almost every other position. The team will not be able to trade any of its compensatory selections.

 
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