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49ers Post Draft Report
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Well folks, it took a little bit longer to get this report done, mainly because I had a three hour exam this morning, but now that I have some time on my hands, or rather, now that I am procrastinating before I _have_ to get back to studying for my exam on Wednesday I figured I would write my annual post draft report. Before I go any further I will throw in the standard disclaimer that we do not really know anything about these players in the NFL. Booms, busts, who really knows? Not even the general manager. But if I waited two years to do my post-draft report, it just would not be nearly as fun, I would not look nearly as foolish in the future, and some of these players may not even be in the league. Low and behold, Ladies and Gentelman, Boys and Girls, Children of All Ages (which when you think about it, is really just saying Boys and Girls again), allow me to present to you, the 49ers 2004 Draft Class [Applause Please].

To the right is the traditional picture of the 49ers top two draftees holding the number one and two jerseys. I do not know why, but I love this picture, and every year I end up fighting to find it. This year, there it was sitting on the 49ers main page. Yay! Anyway, on to more pressing matters.

The 49ers needs heading into this years draft the 49ers needs were quite obvious. The loss of key contributors at receiver, cornerback, defensive tackle and punter highlighted the 49ers need list. In addition I felt it the team needed a defensive end, linebacker, further depth on the offensive line (despite the free agent signings) and possibly some help at tight end and running back. Most of the fans, and the organization appeared to agree with this assessment.

Day one of the NFL draft kicked off with the 49ers sitting at the 16th pick. Talk had gone on for weeks about how the 49ers wanted to move down, to accumulate picks, and they nearly did make a trade with Philadelphia that would have landed them a good offensive lineman in Welbourn and a lower pick. Terry Donahue held out though, and in retrospect, seeing Welbourn’s contract demands, and an attitude akin to that of Terrell Owens, it turned out to be a good move. As the top 15 picks got pulled off the board, it became clear that the 49ers had a chance to get a real stud defensive player.

I was salivating at the thought of bringing in defensive tackle Vince Wolfork, defensive end Kenechi Udeze, and even linebacker DJ Williams. I figured, no way could this team pass on Wolfork the mammoth man in the middle. I had been hoping the team would have a shot at Wolfork or Udeze dropping, but to have the option of either, I was beside myself. The cool hand of Terry Donahue decided that true to his word, the team would try and trade down. Striking a deal with Philadelphia that gave the 49ers a second round pick, after swapping first round picks, the 49ers had fallen all the way down to number 28.

I was sunk, hope began to dwindle as at pick 17, Williams was taken, and at 20 and 21, Udeze and Wilfork respectively. There was but one man left that I had wanted in the first round, a receiver who I would have been content with picking at 16, if none of those defenders were still available, even if it was reaching at least 4 spots. Rashaun Woods was that receiver. As picks 21-27 dropped off the clock with no receiver taken I let out a sigh of relief as the 49ers were on the clock. Surely they would take Woods I thought. He is great value at 28, and fills an obvious hole in the team. And then, the team did the unthinkable. They traded back to spot 31 with Carolina accumulating a fourth round pick. What are they doing I thought. A look down the draft board showed Indianapolis who is not in need of a receiver and Kansas City, who was indeed in need of a receiver, and Carolina too, who could also have used a receiver now stood between Woods and the 49ers. Carolina chose a defensive back, and then Indianapolis traded down with Atlanta who were in dire need of getting Michael Vick a weapon. Woods was gone for sure I though, and just then, they drafted Michael Jenkins another receiver. Detroit traded into Kansas City’s spot, and I knew Woods would be safe, with Detroit having selected receiver Roy Williams with the 7th overall selection.

Alas the 49ers pick came, and the team let my heart rest by indeed taking Rashaun Woods. The draft was well on it way.

Player: Rashaun Woods
Vitals: Receiver, Oklahoma State, 6’2” 202 lbs
What I like: Woods had an extremely productive college career putting up big numbers. He has good size, speed, and strength but is not exceptional in any of these areas. Where he excels is in his mechanics, and with excellent hands. He is quick in and out of breaks, knows exactly where he needs to be on the football field, and rarely drops a pass. Woods is recognized as one of the top two most polished and ready to contribute receivers in the draft. He has an amazing learning etiquette, good instincts, and has the ‘character’ that the 49ers have been looking for in recent years.
What I do not like: I would like to see Woods add some muscle, if not by this season, then by next season in order to be sure he can get off the line against press coverage. It is not likely he will get much faster, nor does he have this amazing upside, but his production should be consistent. They key for him will be whether or not he can create the separation by getting off the line of scrimmage effectively.
Where the player fits in with the 49ers: Woods will immediately challenge for a starting spot at receiver with the 49ers. The 49ers lost both their starting receivers and are looking to have viable threats for first year starting QB Tim Rattay to throw too. Woods should be able to start from day one, and would be a great compliment to Brandon Lloyd. Woods is a long time Jerry Rice fan, and looking to restore honour to the 49ers receiving position took the number 81 (Terrell Owens former number) to make his own.

Round two was underway way sooner for the 49ers then it would have been had they stayed at spot 16, and with two picks to fill, the team was bound to be busy.

Player: Justin Smiley
Vitals: Guard, Alabama, 6’3” 301 lbs
What I like: Smiley is a big guard who is incredibly strong. Really a very powerful man. Well balanced, and has a great foundation, but has the agility to pull and get outside as a lead blocker for running backs. He is a natural guard, but does play well in space, so he may have the versatility to eventually contribute at tackle.
What I do not like: Smiley has the tendency to give up on leverage. This can create problems and will be something Smiley will have to focus on improving.
Where the player fits in with the 49ers: To say that I love the trenches is a real under statement, not surprisingly I was thrilled that the 49ers decided to use their second high pick in as many years to draft an offensive lineman. Smiley in the second round is a no brainer. Smiley will immediately add depth to an offensive line that is shaping up to be stronger than last year. It was a huge area of need last year and after the release of two starters became an even bigger priority. The team brought in free agents Scott Rhenberg and Greg Randall to help the offensive line, so I was a little worried they would look past it in the draft. Luckily they did not. Smiley will compete, with Rhenberg, Randall, Heitmann and Kosier for a starting spot on the line, and could very will win it by the start of the season. He will wear number 61.

With two big areas addressed early I figured the 49ers had to go defensive tackle and cornerback with the next two picks. I was partially correct when the team decided to take Shawntae Spencer, a corner who rose drastically on draft boards after holding private work outs for teams. Spencer, was not invited to the combine, but his speed and height, combined with changes to the NFL rules on defensive back helped him rise into the sights of NFL teams. The late second round pick might have been a slight reach for Spencer, but some reports did have him going as early as the end of the first round.

Player: Shawntae Spencer
Vitals: Cornerback, Pittsburgh, 6’0” 176 lbs
What I like: Spencer has the frame, speed, instincts, and skills to be a good corner in the NFL. He is known for having good mechanics and skills and is typically in position to make the right play. Not a highly penalized player, and he has good agility and vertical.
What I do not like: Spencer is also known to shy away from contact. He is a little timid in run support, and will arm tackle. This quite simply will not get the job done in the NFL. Spencer will have to work on these areas if he wants to become an every down player at this level. I am also a little put off that Spencer was not invited to the combine. Clearly he was over looked or he made huge jumps prior to the draft. I am always a little hesitant at players who rise in draft stock primarily because of the combine or individual workouts because I focus first and foremost on production.
Where the player fits in with the 49ers: With loss of Jason Webster the 49ers are looking for a nickel cornerback. Dwaine Carpenter is pencilled in to start at free safety, meaning the primary competition for the nickel spot will be between Spencer and Jimmy Williams. The 49ers continue to express their like for Williams, but really need to solidify this spot given the problems they have had on third downs, and the receiving threats in their division. Spencer will wear number 36.

Having taken a receiver, guard, and cornerback, I figured the 49ers would finish off day one by selecting the defensive tackle they so badly need. Surprise, the team did not. Choosing not to put all their eggs in one basket the team selected another receiver, Derrick Hamilton, who was excellent value at this pick.

Player: Derrick Hamilton
Vitals: Receiver, Clemson, 6’3” 203 lbs
What I like: Derrick is fast and a very shifty receiver. A great open field runner who can return punts and kicks. He has good size, though could add some muscle, but his speed is not at all questionable, and so he should not have a problem getting off the line and creating separation. He is also a pretty good downfield blocker.
What I do not like: Not very precise in his routes and is not as quick through his cuts as his straight ahead time would indicate.
Where the player fits in with the 49ers: I like that the 49ers chose two receivers on day one despite not taking a defensive tackle. Hamilton is a real solid player who was very good value at this point in the draft. He brings the speed to the 49ers receiver position that is pretty much unmatched, and he will command playing time. He will compete very heavily with Arnaz Battle and the rest of this group, and will most likely become the team’s primary return man. He is also a different type of receiver than Woods which I think is important when taking two first day receivers. Hamilton will wear number 89.

I was certainly surprised that the 49ers went the entire first day without taking a defensive tackle. But when I looked at who was still left and saw Isaac Sopoaga’s name I knew he had to be our man. I had that Sopoaga would go in the third round, and he was quite fittingly still there. Then I heard that Terry Donahue was considering a trade up on day two, and I just knew Sopoaga was going to be the man.

Player: Isaac Sopoaga
Vitals: Defensive Tackle, Hawaii, 6’3” 321 lbs
What I like: Sopoaga is the strongest man in this year’s draft. To say his training regimen included lifting tree trunks when he was younger is no exaggeration. He is a warrior and excels at stopping the run. His size is perfect for the 49ers middle and hey is big enough to play nose tackle in the 3-4 too. I think of him in line with Vince Wilfork, but not nearly as polished. Is a capable pass rusher but that is not his strength. He can collapse a pocket.
What I do not like: Men this big always have to watch their weight, but Sopoaga appears determined to stay in shape. Needs to improve in getting leverage against offensive linemen, and could improve his overall balance.
Where the player fits in with the 49ers: The 49ers were manhandled by two teams last year running up the middle. In addition third down defense has suffered for two seasons partially because the 49ers can not control the line of scrimmage. Sopoaga will have to battle if he wants a starting position because Bryant Young is a Pro Bowl veteran and Anthony Adams he was capable last year. Sopoaga will however see time in the rotation to keep the defensive tackles fresh, will be active in goal line, third down and running situations, and is projected as a future starter as Bryant Young is aging. Former 49ers draft pick Josh Shaw has also returned to the team, weighing in at 325 lbs. Shaw was a player the 49ers really liked prior to an injury, but was not with the team last season. Shaw will provide steady competition for Sopoaga. I love that the 49ers got their defensive tackle, a man I am a big fan of, and I love that he is a big presence who can collapse a pocket. This will be essential as Andre Carter could use some pocket collapsing from the middle in order to get to the quarterback. He will wear number 90.

At the time of the draft I was very impressed with the first five selections. The team had quickly shored up its biggest areas of need. It was time to add depth.

Player: Richard Seigler
Vitals: Linebacker, Oregon State, 6’2” 238 lbs
What I like: A tenacious player and leader. He hits hard, and snuffs out the run quite well. Has a good relationship with Dennis Erickson who originally recruited him to the team. Plays well on special teams and is willing to help out wherever he can.
What I do not like: Not the greatest pass coverage linebacker out there, and has the tendency to over-pursue. He will have to learn to hold containment at the NFL level. He reacts correctly but needs to make his reads quicker. He is coming off a knee injury that may have slowed him up in workouts.
Where the player fits in with the 49ers: The 49ers are at a cross road at the linebacker position. Julian Peterson is an exclusive franchise free agent, meaning he is with the team on a year-to-year basis. His agents are very hard to deal with, and he is demanding lots of money. At this point, Peterson’s future with the team has yet to be determined. Jamie Winborn has been injured every year since he has been with the team. He is a playmaker, but the 49ers need a player they can depend on for an entire season. Winborn is coming of neck surgery and the team is not sure if he will be able to play at as high a level as in the past. Saleem Rasheed has yet to make an impact on the team despite his great speed. Rasheed is also often injured, and just has not lived up to his draft status as of yet. Derrick Smith is a solid linebacker who does a great job setting things up for the other linebackers. Smith is getting older though. Hence the need for Seigler who will come in and compete for playing time primarily with Brandon Moore and Saleem Rasheed. He may also be very useful on special teams. He will wear number 54.

Having traded their fifth round pick away it was onto the sixth round, and not surprisingly the team dealt down again in order to pick up an extra pick having used one to move up in the fourth.

Player: Andy Lee
Vitals: Punter, Pittsburgh, 6’0” 206 lbs
What I like: He has a good strong leg and is accurate. He is also a holder on field goals, and has good hands when receiving the snap.
What I do not like: Reportedly struggles in bad weather and high winds.
Where the player fits in with the 49ers: Many fans complain about taking a kicker in the draft of any sort, so the selection of punter Andy Lee is not welcome to the average fan. However the 49ers punting has struggled the past two seasons with Bill LaFleur, and having traded down in the sixth round, this was not too high a pick to take a kicker. In addition because of the swirly Candelstick wind, many kickers will not sign with the 49ers as free agents, so I do not oppose this kick. Lee was one of the better punters in this year’s draft, but I am worried about reports of problems kicking in bad weather. I do not think any kicker excels at kicking in bad weather, but when it is listed specifically as a negative of a player it does disappoint – especially considering the rarity of perfect conditions on the 49ers field. He will wear number 4.

The compensation pick the 49ers received for the loss of Chike Okeafor was used to continue to add depth to the defense.

Player: Keith Lewis
Vitals: Safety, Oregon, 6’0” 202 lbs
What I like: A pretty good coverage safety, and is a smart football player. He is quick in his reads and reacts quickly. Has a good vertical, and finds the ball in the air quite well.
What I do not like: Lewis is particularly fast or quick, but not many 6th round players are. He is immature according to reports and can be a disturbance in the locker room. He does not excel in run support and is not that physical. This really surprises me, as the 49ers typically pick late round safeties who are quite physical ever since Jamal Anderson ran over Merton Hanks in the playoffs.
Where the player fits in with the 49ers: The 49ers may need depth at safety if they let Zack Bronson go. The team will carry several defensive backs, but quite honestly I will be surprised if Lewis makes the team. Ronnie Heard is a veteran and solid backup at both safeties spots, and I anticipate John Keith will contend for a spot again. The starting safety spots are already solidified whether Bronson is there or not, and the team is more likely to retain an extra cornerback than safety. He will wear number 45.

The seventh round is known for irrelevant picks, but in the last few years the 49ers have had some success.

Player: Cody Pickett
Vitals: Quarterback, Washington, 6’3” 227
What I like: A strong arm and reasonably mobile. He is confident and typically makes good decisions. Has quite a bit of experience at the college level, and has football running through his veins. He excels in the short to medium ranged passes and does a pretty good job of leading his receivers, and knowing where they will be. Does have the accuracy on deeper passes, but due to the offense he played in, in college did not harness this skill too often.
What I do not like: He can improve his accuracy and needs to improve his tendency to fumble. Has been known to move before the snap. He is coming off a pretty poor season, after having a great one two seasons ago. He is recovering from a torn pectoral muscle that has affected his throwing.
Where the player fits in with the 49ers: The 49ers took a chance on Pickett after Dennis Erickson saw him in a private workout. The felt they could get good value from him by drafting him in the seventh round. Pickett will compete with Brandon Doman for the third quarterback position, but could end up on the practise squad which has been expanded this year. It is never a bad pick to select a quarterback, but the 49ers likely could have avoided doing so this year. He will wear number 10.

The team’s final pick of the draft, was another defensive lineman.

Player: Christian Ferrera
Vitals: Defensive Tackle, Syracuse, 6’3” 294
What I like: Has good size and plays quite well against the run. He is very aggressive and can get to the quarterback. Plays with good leverage and is very physical.
What I do not like: Needs to be quicker in his recognition and reaction. Ferrera needs to work on using his hands to fend of blockers. Not very agile and needs to add strength.
Where the player fits in with the 49ers: The 49ers continued to look for depth on the defensive line and may have found a depth player in Ferrera who’s stock was rising heading into the draft. He’s a good player that can be built into a real contributor, but is not seen as an impact player off the start. He will compete for a job on the defensive line. He will wear number 72.

My wish list heading into the draft was that the team get Wilfork or Udeze and if not Woods. I was really hoping the team would get Smiley but thought he would be long gone before our second pick, and I was hoping that the 49ers draft Sopoaga. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the team would get Woods, Smiley, and Sopoaga. I really like these three players in particular, and not just because Sopoaga’s name is fun to say.

Two areas the 49ers did not fill that were somewhat needs are tight end and running back. The team could use a blocking tight end having lost Jed Weaver to free agency, though they do like Aaron Walker and Eric Johnson (returning from injury). At running back the team is confident in Kevan Barlow, but has added undrafted free agent, Jason Wright to compete with Jamal Robertson at running back.

I am quite pleased overall with how this draft went, but again I really do want to see these guys play before I really affirm my opinions on them. I do have a renewed faith in Terry Donahue who ran this draft extremely well. Bill Walsh remained involved, and has already been invited back for next season, so I am still not totally certain of what Donahue can do without Walsh on draft day, but he ran the draft this year with great success (at least on paper) and there I no longer doubt whether he can run an effective draft with Walsh as his subordinate. Had he done this draft completely with Walsh on the sidelines, rather than manning the phones and offering his input, I would have complete confidence that he could run an effective draft on his own too. My confidence in that ability has risen, but again until he actually does it, I will not be convinced. All that being said, I would rather not find out if Donahue can do it with Walsh, as I like the way they work together, and believe that having Walsh involved is always an advantage.

I also think Donahue deserves some credit for challenging the team to step up this season. Coaches and players alike both in general and specifically were challenged by Donahue not to accept mediocrity. I have been urging Donahue to take on this type of attitude and command for quite some time in my writings and am happy to see he took a real step in the right direction this weekend.

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