McCloughan's Mailbag - March 13

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Check out our ninth round of questions for General Manager Scot McCloughan. If your question wasn't selected this round, please try again. Keep in mind that due to NFL rules, McCloughan cannot answer questions about any potential free agents and will refrain from giving detailed information on any draft-eligible players.

Please submit your questions to askmccloughan@niners.nfl.com  

Q: Are the 49ers planning on playing a 3-4 defense or a 4-3 defense now that Mike Singletary is the head coach? I always thought that Patrick Willis' skill set was best suited for the 4-3 defense, and the 49ers still lack that true nose tackle. – Geordie Hawkins
A: The unique thing with Patrick Willis is that he fits a 3-4 or a 4-3. He is a "Mike" linebacker in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. He's the type of guy you want to go sideline to sideline and make as many plays as possible. He's unique that way because a lot of the guys who are coming out of college are pinpointed as being better suited for a 3-4 or a 4-3. With his versatility and as good of a football player as he is, either one is fine. Just look at his first two seasons in the league in which he's been to two Pro Bowls, the guy is making plays. He's in the right position in our defense to make as many plays as possible. We're always looking for a nose tackle. We have two on the roster right now that we like. Every 3-4 team is looking for a great nose tackle because that position is vital. If you want to be as good of a defense as you can be, you must have a big-time nose tackle. They are few and far between and they're hard to find in the draft or in free agency. The good ones are locked up by their teams, but we feel like we have two that can do the job. I think that's been proven because we've had some success there, but we're always looking for a really good player at the nose.

Q: Hi Scot. How would you rate your 2008 draft picks? It would be very interesting to know how each performed against your original expectations and what their future looks like. Thanks and have a great 2009 season! - Michael Wagner
A: I'm excited about all of them. We lost one, Larry Grant, to St. Louis. Because of the numbers and where we were at on our roster at the time, we couldn't keep him. They put them on their 45-man roster and he was active when we played them late in the year. The thing with the guys you draft is that year one is very important. They need to get their feet wet and understand this is the NFL. It's a long season and this is your job now – there's no school, it's just football. The really good players step up in that first year, but the majority of good NFL players start to live up to their potential in year two and beyond. I'm excited about our guys. I think you're going to see tremendous strides made by all of them. You saw some good things from our sixth-round pick Josh Morgan and you saw some good things from Kentwan Balmer, our first-round pick. You see the flashes, but you need consistency which usually starts in year two and you will see that.

Q: Scot, I was wondering when putting together a team, do you think in terms of just winning games or trying to win championships year in and year out? - Michael L. Bowen
A: You want to build a roster that can compete to win the division every year. That means you get into the playoffs and that gives you the opportunity to win a World Championship. With the salary cap as it is now, you can't just think about year one. You have to think about year two, year four and six and that's hard sometimes, especially when you're not winning as many games as you want to. Do you just roll the dice and say "This year we're going to sign free agents and live for the moment?" You can't be that way. We all want to win and we all want to win right now. From a general manager's standpoint, know you want to win right now, but you also have to have a consistent roster that can win year in and year out.

Q: Now that Alex Smith's contract is restructured and he's going to remain with the team - is drafting a QB at 10 still a possibility? I myself am hoping for Brian Orakpo to be the next 49er, but with all the players in the draft and only being able to choose 1 in the first round I'm sure it's a tough decision to make. Good Luck with the pick and thanks. - Rich
A: It sure is. As people know, our philosophy is to take the best football player on the board. You can never have enough talent at the quarterback position. Even if you have a superstar, you have to have a good #2 and #3 guy. You also need a practice squad guy who has some upside. I learned that very well when I was in Green Bay and we had Brett Favre in the midst of his MVP seasons. We still drafted a Matt Hasselbeck and an Aaron Brooks. You always want to add youth and talent to that position just like any other position, but there is such a learning curve at the quarterback position. Is he going to be ready year one? Probably not. Year two? Maybe. Three? You might have a good player. You never pass on a good football player at any position, especially quarterback.

Q: Scot, it seems that the combination of Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis could be used to create unique match-up problems. Since they're too big for corners and too fast for safeties, it would seem that we could audible based on what a defense gives us. Have there been any discussions about using them in tandem as a staple of our offense? - Chris
A: There has and it has been something we've implemented every year. The thing that has held them and our offense back has been the changing of the coordinators. That's no one's fault, but they are two unique players at that position who can make plays. They have speed, size and run after catch ability. You don't see a lot of that around the league as teams may have one guy like that. We feel we have two that are really good. I'm really excited with Jimmy Raye this year knowing what he did with Tony Gonzales at Kansas City. I'm not saying Vernon and Tony are the same player, but he was able to put Tony in a position to be very successful. I'm excited that we can put Vernon and Delanie in a position to be as good as they can be. We feel good about our receiving core, but I consider our two tight ends receivers as well. Once they catch the ball, they can make a big play. For us to be a successful offense, they need to be a big part of it



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