Former 49ers linebacker Gary Plummer still keeps up with the game he loves by providing analysis and color commentary to the KNBR game day broadcast. All season long, Plummer provided an online column related to each game. He's continued to share his thoughts this off-season and in this latest entry, Plummer talks Draft.**
First of all, I definitely believe that the 49ers will stick with their draft philosophy and take the best player available on the board at 29. I think the only position you can really rule out when it comes to the 49ers first overall pick is probably tight end, running back and quarterback.
I'd say the positions that do come to mind right off the bat are offensive line, wide receiver and getting someone who can help in the pass rush. You can never have enough pass rushers, so I think outside linebacker is an area they could address early on, and I think that's why so many mock drafts have Quentin Groves slotted for the 49ers. He would be a good fit for the 3-4 and would definitely bring that pass rush ability.
I was concerned about the defensive line heading into this off-season with the retirement of Bryant Young and the loss of Marques Douglas to free agency, but I don't think that is as glaring as it was. I think it was addressed with the acquisition of Justin Smith and also the re-signing of Isaac Sopoaga. I can remember talking about some of the plays last year where Isaac looked like an absolute beast, a man tossing around a bunch of boys. I think having an entire off-season and training camp under his belt at defensive end could be a huge boost for him. I still wouldn't mind seeing another big guy added to the mix at the nose, but I think this area isn't the most pressing.
There are so many quality offensive linemen in this draft and I think that definitely is a position of need for the 49ers. They could use their first pick to grab one, or they could wait and still get some great players at that posiiton later on in the draft.
It's amazing to think about how many tackles alone are being projected as first rounders. Jake Long already went to Miami, but then there is Ryan Clady out of Boise State, Cherilus Gosder out of Boston College, Jeff Otah out of Pitt, Brandon Albert from Virginia, and Vanderbilt's Chris Williams. So there should be plenty of options for Scot McCloughan to choose from this weekend.
I think wide receiver is also still a need for the 49ers, and there are some good receivers in this draft. I think Mike Martz can take a wide receiver who might be too small for another system and make them an exceptional receiver. A few guys who could fit that bill in this draft include DeSean Jackson, Early Doucet, and UCLA's Brandon Breazell, who ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. I just see a bunch of those smaller, slot receivers who could thrive in this offensive system the 49ers are going to employ this year.
Being a Cal guy, I'd love to see DeSean Jackson in a 49ers uniform. I just see so much potential for a guy like that in Martz' offense. When I watch him I see speed, speed and more speed, with amazing quickness. There's always talk about how important size is and obviously you have big body receivers who are very successful and powerful in this league, but you need only to look at what Wes Welker did last year in New England to realize that there's a place for guys like Jackson at the next level. So, there's so many different ways to go at 29, but that would be my first choice out of sentimental reasons.
I also wouldn't be surprised to see a trade occur for the 49ers. If the guys who McCloughan has targeted at 29 aren't there or don't look to be there still, I would imagine he'll pull the trigger and either move up to get who he wants or move back and pick up more value.
That's the fun of the draft these days, really trying to sort through all of the subterfuge to figure out what teams are going to actually do. I think teams do a good job of purposely sending mixed messages so that they don't show their real hand. I can guarantee that Scot McCloughan is not even telling his wife who he's drafting!
I think one thing that will certainly play into McCloughan's decisions is character. Knowing what's happened with Roger Goodell handing out these strict penalties, it is even more important to draft high character players. If there are two players to choose from, they are going to go for the one that is safe and who they feel very sure about. When a guy fails a urine test at the Combine, where they KNOW they are going to be tested, that's not a drug test, that's a stupidity test. I don't imagine the 49ers will roll the dice on guys with those types of issues.
I will be at the facility this weekend to emcee the 49ers small Draft Day Party for season ticket holders. It's always an enjoyable party as this has really turned into such a huge fan-based event. Way back when, the Draft was held in a dark room in New York and then they started televising it and it has just become bigger and bigger every year. I think it's fitting because the Draft is really an opportunity for teams to become Super Bowl contenders. The teams that draft well year after year are the ones that end up being successful. You can't build your team just through free agency anymore. It's just not a way to sustain your roster. I think the 49ers have had some great drafts in recent years and if they keep that going again this year, the sky is the limit for this team.