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

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As hard as the 49ers may have tried, they were unable to keep their intentions for this years draft a secret. Everyone felt the team would go defense, and with an offensive heavy top ten, the 49ers really had their pick of several players they were said to be targeting. The team chose Willis over DE Adam Carriker, CB Leon Hall, DE Jarvin Moss, and DT Alan Branch. The choice was not much of a surprise as the team became very enamored with Willis at the Senior Bowl earlier this offseason.

Willis is expected to be a key contributor on third down this season, and the 49ers are hoping he materializes into an every down player quite soon. He will compete with Jeff Ulbrich and Derek Smith for an interior linebacking spot in the 3-4 defense. His speed will make him and fellow speedster Manny Lawson (who was drafted in the first round last year) a very dynamic combination. The two have already spoken on a live interview after the selection, and appeared to get along.

A character player, Willis reminds many of Frank Gore as the two have shared similar levels of adversity in the past. Willis has managed to channel that adversity into productivity. Willis excelled in academics as well as on the field where he became the SEC defensive player of the year. Many regarded Willis as “the defense” for his team in college, but as he looks to step up to the next level he will have to make adjustments to 3-4 defensive scheme that the 49ers plan to run as their primary defense this season. He will have the benefit of working with Mike Singeltary one of the leagues best linebacker coaches, and a Hall Of Fame linebacker himself to make that adjustment.

The 49ers have made a concrete effort to improve their defense this offseason. The free agent additions of Tully Banta-Cain, Colby Bockwoldt, Nate Clements, Aubrayo Franklin, and Michael Lewis started the momentum this offseason. The drafting of Patrick Willis will not be the last move this team makes this draft, let alone this offseason to improve the defense.

 
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