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Draft 2007 How Staley Fits - By Bryan Hersh April 28/29 2007

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Since Mike Nolan took over as 49ers head coach, the team has made a concrete effort to improve the offensive line. Whether it was through the draft with players like Adam Snyder, David Baas, Patrick Estes or through free agency with Larry Allen and Jonas Jennings, the need to protect Alex Smith has been on NolanÕs radar from the get go. Joe Staley, was another offensive lineman the 49ers had on their radar Š and so when he fell to the number 28 spot in the first round, the 49ers elected to trade up and select the tackle.

Staley has played on both the right and left side of the lines and is comfortable in both spots. Initially, the team expects him to add depth to the offensive line and compete to be a starting tackle. He could be slated to start as early as next year with both Jennings and Allen aging, and other potential shifts on the offensive line.

There have been rumors that the 49ers are interested in trading one or both of Kwame Harris or Justin Smiley. Although nothing seems imminent at the moment, and Nolan has once again spoken out in favour of these two players, the drafting of Staley does give the team a little more flexibility to act in this way should they wish.

Staley may practice at left tackle in the teamÕs mini camp next week as Jonas Jennings is still recovering from shoulder surgery. Staley though, who spoke to offensive line coach George Warhop on the phone, is expected to play more on the right side of the line initially. Staley worked very closely with Warhop and the rest of the 49ers staff at the Senior Bowl. It appears that the 49ers definitely have a preference for taking players that they have worked with at the Senior Bowl as Patrick Willis made his impression on the team then too.

 
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