Setting Priorities 3/11/00
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The NFL's free agency has already started and the Draft is not too far away either. It is thus important for the 49ers to get their priorities strait so that they can firmly establish within the organization what areas the team will be looking to first. It is also important that the team keep the league guessing, to allow for the most maneuverability come draft day.

It is crucial that the 49ers realize that they need defensive players more than offensive players. While a fair argument can be made to draft a running back with their first selection; given that it would help Garcia out to have a star in the backfield, the team can't overlook the fact that they don't have enough linebackers to put a regular NFL squad together not to mention the dire need for a pass rush.

The 49ers need to draft linebackers, they will need at least two more to be able to field three, and have some depth at the position. Meanwhile the team needs a pass rush to stimulate its first line of defense. While signing Brenston Buckner will help in this area, the team could really use a star at the defensive end position.

The pass rush is ever so important, as it disrupts the timing of plays, and thus makes it easier for linebackers, and defensive backs to make plays. The team needs a pass rush, and with a top-notch pick at linebacker or defensive end, they will get just that. If a linebacker is chosen, the team can opt to move last season's number one pick Julian Peterson to defensive end on passing downs, something the team couldn't do otherwise. Peterson will be the most veteran player of the linebackers in only his second NFL season. With no other star quality at linebacker, the 49ers wont be able to move him away from his position. A defensive end that could generate a pass rush would allow Peterson the freedom of playing in one position only, and thus solidifying that area.

It's obvious that the 49ers need a top-notch linebacker and defensive end for this season. In all likelihood, they will only be able to get one of those players this draft and should hope at least one more of last season's draft picks really develops. However, if the team does not make defense a priority, it will have a very hard time even fielding a squad this coming season.

Defensive players need more time to gel than offensive players do. An offensive player can come in, for example a running back, and simply learn how the offensive line functions and make an impact. A defensive player must know where all of his team mates are on the field at the same time, in order to asses how he will attack an offensive player. It is thus more important to get a good defense together, and then build an offense than the reverse.

The 49ers need to get their priorities straight and defense should rank number one. The team has plenty of running backs, who may or may not have star potential, but at least the team has enough of them to put together a squad. The same cannot be said about linebackers, and the need for a strong pass rush is huge. Whether the team chooses to go with a linebacker first or a defensive end, will depend vastly on how confident it feels in last years draft choices: DE John Milem, and LB Jeff Ulbrich, both of whom were limited in action last season. The team should not rule out drafting a running back, but at the number nine position is to high for them to do so.

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