A Report- 12/07/99
I would like to thank Brad for this report. If you have any comments about what he has said please feel free to e-mail him.
Here’s my 49ers assessment and what the 49ers need to do in 2000.
QB Stenstom is a joke—immobile, bad reads, indecisive. He’s a fine third-string guy, period.
I want to pull for Garica, I really do. For being thrust into the situation he's in (which I wouldn't wish upon anybody), he's done well. He's starting to show less confidence lately, but with the 49er legacy hanging over his head, a mediocre offensive line, and WR's who can't get open, who can blame the guy? However, he is a backup, NOT the QB of the future.
The 49ers might end up finishing bad enough to have a shot at draftng or trading up for Purdue’s Drew Brees (though Brees has indicated he will stay for his Senior season), Chad Pennington (Marshall) or Chris Redman (Louisville). If he does come out, Brees (6’1’’ 200, 4.85 in the 40 yard dash) looks like the man—makes great reads, very mobile, cool in the pocket, a leader, full of scrap…I love the guy. Tee Martin has the athletic ability the 49ers covet, but is too far behind the top three in terms of pure passing ability to be a viable option in the complex West Coast offense. Quincy Carter is the most exciting of the bunch, but is raw and young (only a Sophmore).
I've heard that Walsh is also looking at Rick Mirer, possibly Rob Johnson in Buffalo, which would open up the draft for DL, OL, and possibly CB. But Mirer was just benched by the 2-6 Jets, and the Bills have no intention of trading the young Johnson with Doug Flutie in his mid-thirties. And I have a feeling that Walsh will look for a draft pick here. However, it would not be surprising to see Walsh use a lower pick (Montana was a 3rd rounder).
RB Thankfully, no problems here. Hearst hopefully will be full speed in 2000. If Hearst is done, it's not a big step down to settle on Garner. He's not a guy you can pound inside all day like Hearst, and he's not as duarble, but he's shown a lot this season, especially with the big play. He’ll play until the 49ers have the luxury of finding a franchise back. If the 49ers have both, then Garner can be the 3rd down/change-of-pace back Chuck Levy never was. And how good has FB Fred Beasley looked lately? He’s not only blocking great, he’s running like a horse. He is really starting to show promise at FB, and looked great vs the Packers.
WR Nowhere near as good as people make them out to be. To compare Rice/Owens/Stokes to Moss/Carter/Reed is ridiculous.
Owens is solid, but not a star in the Moss/Harrison/Glenn mold. Stokes is a big guy who is somehow not physical, struggles with drops, and is a notch above a TE in speed. Harris has the best hands of the bunch. The problem with this group is speed: none of them have it. Even Owens, as explosive as he's capable of being, has difficulty getting separation from CB's. Stokes couldn't lose a blind sloth, and Harris is not fast either. The result: CB's around the league know that they can play the 49er WR's tight and not get beat deep. This is a prime reason we haven't seen the big play this year—those five yard slants don’t turn into 50 yarders if the WR can’t get a cushion off the cornerback.
The 49ers might want to look at picking up a speed reciever. Sixth-round pick Tai Streets—who is practicing again and might play soon—has excellent stopwatch speed (4.45) and might be the answer. But Streets has as more deceptive speed than explosive speed. If Streets works out, his numbers won't necessarily be the issue; a speedy receiver opposite Owens would open up the field for the passing game. Rice must retire (or be let go) for production/cap reasons. I'm for dumping Stokes as well, although he's so overpaid he'll be impossible to trade. Streets and Harris should be worked into the lineup, and if Streets doesn’t pan out, the 49ers should keep an eye out for a speeds receiver. With so many other problems, though, the WR situation will probably be on the backburner for the 2000 season.
TE Not a problem. Clark is young, a good reciever, and a great blocker. Fann looks good as a backup.
Walsh must spend some draft picks on OL. I don't know enough about blocking technique to hit the nail on the head, here, but this line appears to be pretty good at run blocking but struggles at pass blocking. Why? Deese is the best of the bunch, and Newberry is a promising player who needs some slack (he's really a rookie, since he sat out last season). But the rest of line needs to be looked at. Ray Brown has been in the league since I was NINE, and Fiore got off to a slow start after a promising 1998 season (though he’s playing better lately).
Tackle Chris Samuels of Alabama is the MAN: 49ers size (290), tall (6'6'') and athletic enough for the 49ers traps, screens, and pulls (runs an awesome 4.95 in the 40 yard dash). If Samuels is gone, Arizona State junior Marvel Smith (6’6’’ 320) is a great pass blocker who could protect the QB’s blind side (with Young gone, remember, we’re back to a right-handed QB). Hawaii’s athletic Kaulana Noa (6'3'', 310) looks strong at T as a sleeper.
At G, how about Arizona's Manuia Saveu (6'2'', 301)? A little raw, but has all the skills and is familiar with the area (spent 2 years at SF Community College). Colorado’s Ryan Johanningmeier (6’5’’ 315, 5.08 in the 40) is a quick G who combines sliding well in pass protection and good run blocking. Tennesee’s Cosey Coleman (6'4'', 325) looks awesome…if he comes out.
T Ruben Brown of the Bills is easily the best free agent available at the position this year, and he’s young (he’ll be 28 on opening day 2000). But he does have a reputation of being lazy in some scouts’ eyes. After the Jamie Brown disaster, the 49ers will be hesitant to sign any player who isn’t a decent self-starter. At G, Tennesee’s Jon Runyan is awesome, especially at drive-blocking for the run. However, the Titans will do everything they can to re-sign him, I hear. Not a promising crop as a whole.
This position should be addressed in the draft. OL are almost never selected with the first few picks; the best picks should fall to the 49ers. If they pass on a QB, and no impact DL are available, they should address this need with a high pick. Finally.
DL As bad as the corners have been, they’d be a lot better with something resembling a pass rush, and that responsibility falls here. The 49ers have two great players (DTs Bryant Young and Junior Bryant) one capable player (DE Gabe Wilkens) and not much else. DT Reggie McGrew is an X-factor; we have no idea how good he'll be. If he works, the starting lineup will be set (Bryant is playing out of position at DT this year), but will have no true pass rusher (Young, Bryant, and McGrew are run-stoppers; Wilkens is an average rusher) and no depth. Rookie Chike Okeafor has the speed, but his precarious lack of playing time on a D-line with no depth anyway is NOT a good sign. The need here is a speed DE, another DT if McGrew turns out to be a putz, and depth.
If the 49ers don't use their first pick on a QB, there are plenty of DE options. The cream of the crop are stud Courtney Brown (Penn State, 6'5'' 270, 4.8 in the 40, awesome pass rusher), Florida State juniors Roland Seymor (6'4'' 275) and Jamal Reynolds (6’3’’ 252, lightening-quick 4.5 in the 40), and Virginia Tech’s John Engelberger (6’4’’ 270, 4.75 in the 40), who is more of a Pro-style player than his more heralded teammate, DE Corey Moore. All are fine rushers who would start for 49ers immediately.
After those three, the speedy Adalius Thomas of Southern Miss (6’2’’ 256, 4.55 in the 40) is undersized and his production is down (12 ½ sacks as junior, only 2 in 1999) but would be a fine passing-down player for the 49ers to nab in the 2nd round, where he might now fall. I also like Michigan St DE Robaire Smith. He's a great athlete for DE (6'5'', 265, running a 4.8 40) and has six sacks for the Spatens.
There are a slew of young players who will be free agents in 2000. Given the cap problems, a high-price free agent is unlikely…but the 49ers might want to spring for a DE here for two reasons. One, they might need to use their first-rounder on a QB, thus denying them an impact player, and Two, these free agents are all young. Tie any one of the following DL to a long-term deal and the 49ers pass rush will be a lot better for the future.
Jacksonville’s DE Tony Brackens (only 25, 48 tackles, 9 sacks) is the best of the bunch. Listen to this line from last Sunday’s win over Baltimore: 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT returned for a TD, 3 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. That’s more than the 49ers DL has accomplished this season combined. There’s also 26-year-old DE Simeon Rice of Arizona. Rice leads the league with 12 sacks, yet it is unlikely Arizona will re-sign him because they are already dishing out big bucks for DE Andre Wadsworth, CB Aeneus Williams, and DT Eric Swann. Rice will command around $6 million a year, however, so the 49ers might be better off using free agency to add depth.
Just a thought: San Diego’s DT Norman Hand will also be a free agent. DT is not a need area, but the 49ers love a tough run stopper, and Hand is a big part of San Diego’s fine run defense, and might be the most underrated and underappreciated DT in the league. Hand would allow the 49ers to present a formidable run defense with B. Young and move J. Bryant back to DE. They do have Reggie McGrew, but we don’t know how good he’ll be. Just a thought.
Not a need area. Lee Woodall is a solid, sixth-year player who should be part of the 49ers long-term plan. Winfred Tubbs is overpaid and looks lost out there way too often (how about that coverge on Tyrone Davis in the Packers game? Way to go, Winfred…). Still, Tubbs is a good enough player to hold onto, for now. Ken Norton, however, should defineatly be on his way out after this season. Mariucci has always liked Anthony Peterson; he would probably step in. A draft pick to replace Norton would be a low one, considering the teams other problems. Free agency would be tough, too, for cap reasons.
Although this is the most publicly maligned area of the team, it is nowhere near as bad as the DL situation. Hear me out.
The 49ers are covered (no pun intended) at safety. Schulters is fabulous: smart, aggresive, a big play guy, always around the ball (leads the league with 6 interceptions)...and he's still learning. McDonald, as great as he has been, must be released (or retire) for cap reasons. Zack Bronson looks ready (from what I saw Sunday vs the Steelers, he certainly can hit).
At corner, the 49ers have some youngsters (McQuarters, Prioleau, Parker, Ramos McDonald, and Monty Montgomery) who should all be kept, at least for now. Darnell Walker and Newsome are not working out and need to go. Yes, they all get burnt now, but they are young and have an upside, something we can't say about our OL and DL. The draft should be steered toward those two areas and QB, so this CB bunch will have to do for now (scary as that may sound).
McQuarters has not developed much, but he still needs a little more time. He's been getting beaten pretty consistently, though (when Walker is not on the field, the balls tend to be thrown in his direction) and needs to start showing SOMETHING. Prioleau played pretty well for his first start at corner; I think that he'll get more playing time. Parker looked to be the best of the bunch, but his preseason knee injury meant that we won't know until 2000. Montgomery played a decent game against the Packers, but he played the whole game 13 yards off the reciever (Boomer Esiason pointed it out repeatedly during the telecast in disbelief). Any good QB can complete a pass when the corner is giving the reciever THAT big a cusion. Ramos McDonald looks good.
There are plenty of tall, athletic corners available in college, but the QB, OL, and DL concerns demand most of the attention for the 2000 draft. NC State’s Lloyd Harrison (5’10’’ 193, 4.38 40) could be a sleeper for the 49ers in the third round, and has the size and speed the secondary now lacks.
UPPER MANAGEMENT While I think Walsh and Donahue are great people to have on board, the 49ers are dogmeat if the organization doesn't start assessing talent better and drafting more effectively. There are a combined three players on the roster from the 1995, 1996, and 1997 drafts COMBINED (lame-duck Stokes, Clark, and Owens). The 1999 draft could be the biggest bust of them all if McGrew and Parker don't show something next season.
Want proof? Look at the DL's drafted after McGrew: Patrick Kearny isn't starting with Atlanta's fine front four, but he's contributing every game (1 1/2 sacks).
You want second round picks? How about the next four after Kearny: Carolina's Mike Rucker (18 tackles, 2 sacks), Los Angeles' Tony Bryant (16 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks) Chicago's Russel Davis (started 9 games, 17 tackles, 2 sacks), and Tennesee's John Thorton (2 starts, 11 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks). In other words, the next five DL selected after McGrew (with the exception of fruit-loop Underwood) have been solid, contributing player at the very least.
As for CB...Fernando Bryant (picked 26th overall by Jacksonville) and CB Mike McKenzie (picked in the 3rd round) were there for the 49ers in the 1999 draft. Fernando Bryant is a flat-out star, and McKenzie is starting and playing great for the Packers. It’s possible the 49ers didn’t even draft the best CB from Weber State last year: Scott Shields has played all 11 games (1 start) for the Steelers and picked off 3 passes.
And it’s not just the draft. Indianapolis' CB Tony Blevins, whom the 49ers cut from the PRACTICE SQUAD, has played all 11 games for the Colts, with 33 tackles, a sack, and a game-clinching 74 yard interception return off Doug Fluite in week 1. There’s just no excuse for this.
In conclusion, the 49ers need to cut loose aging and pricey veterans, find a future QB, and look for OL and DL help in the next draft. I would love to see the 49ers sign a DE and OL high, a QB of the future in the second or third round, sign DT Norman Hand, a veteran QB, and some depth on the DL.
In response to your article Brad, I would just like to say that you raised some interesting points. As most of you already know by now I am outraged at the lack of positionaly analysis the 49ers have been subject to over the years. I am also optimistic however for the future. I think we have some solid players and some good front office personell who can get this team back on top. I agree with most of your draft pick propositions, but don't forget about Joe Hamilton at QB, he has a very large upside too. It will be quite interesting to see how this situations pans out. Thank you for contributing to 49ers Paradise.