49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

April 18, 2007
Rotating linebackers

Question: What’s the deal with Brandon Moore? Are the Niners planning on starting him next year? It seemed like he was a strong point in our defense; with Tully Banta Cain, Jeff Ulbrich, Derek Smith and Manny Lawson, where does he fit in?
-- Tabrez, Elk Grove

Answer: Let’s say the 49ers draft one linebacker in the first four rounds of the draft. That would give them eight linebackers vying for four starting spots: Lawson, Smith, Ulbrich, Moore, Banta Cain, Parys Haralson, Roderick Green and the new guy. It certainly hasn’t been settled yet, but my best guess is that there eventually will be a steady rotation of players at the position a la the New England Patriots. The only one virtually guaranteed a starting spot is Lawson, who will continue to play on the weak side. Moore, in my opinion, should be a starter at one of the two inside linebacker spots.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Going in there is always a set number of draft eligible players from the No. 1 selection to Mr. Irrelevant. What is the upcoming date teams can reach out to players not within that magic number and invite them to take a shot as a free agent?
-- Sammy Moore Jr., Sacramento

Answer: This is one of the most competitive parts of the draft. As soon as it is over, team officials get on the phone and start calling every undrafted player they think has a shot. A lot of them are guys, like offensive lineman Harvey Dahl, for instance, they feel they can develop on their practice squad and by sending them to Europe.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Do you think Coach Nolan will undertake a lot 'projects' (players playing different positions than they did in college) this draft? Like QB to RB, or DE to LB, or WR to TE?
-- Jim, Vacaville

Answer: Yes, because it’s something he’s done quite a few times in his two drafts with Rasheed Marshall (QB to WR), Manny Lawson (DE to LB) Michael Robinson (QB to RB) and Delanie Walker (WR to TE). New defensive coordinator Greg Manusky had a lot of success converting defensive ends to rush linebackers in San Diego, and I expect the 49ers to select a smallish college defensive end - someone like Michigan’s LaMarr Woodley - in the upcoming draft.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: I think everyone would agree that the 49ers could use more competition at WR this year. This is a two part question: If the 49ers stand pat in the second round, what WRs do you realistically think they would draft (I've seen lots of "analysts" say Jason Hill and Steve Smith are good fits)? Since we have Arnaz Battle and Ashley Lelie, what kind of WR do we actually need? Someone similar to Dwayne Jarret, or someone similar to Teddy Ginn? Burner vs. possession, etc.
-- Dario, Foster City

Answer: It’s a good question, Dario. Battle has become a very reliable possession receiver and has developed a nice rapport with Alex Smith. Lelie, meanwhile, is more of a home run threat. I think the 49ers would rather have a bigger, possession type because guys like that are more of an asset in the running game. However, big guys are useless if they can’t create separation. (See: Woods, Rashaun). There are a few guys in the draft who are a little of both. Jason Hill, one of the players you mentioned, is more than 200 pounds but certainly is also a downfield threat. And I think guys like Steve Smith, Craig Davis, Jacoby Jones and Paul Williams fit a similar mold.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: I know a good amount about football. For some reason, however, I have no idea what OTA stands for and it is driving me nuts. Could you end my misery with this? Thanks and great blog!
-- Jacob, Elk Grove

Answer: Ah, you’re referring to organized team activities. Officially, they are voluntary (except you really don’t want to miss them) practices in which the players wear helmets but not pads and the sessions can’t be longer than two hours. They’re a tad bit controversial because there’s not supposed to be any contact, either. But how can you get 75 or so huge, aggressive men competing for each other’s job on one field and then tell them not to hit each other?
-- Matt Barrows

Question: I had a question on Alan Branch. All this hype for a kid who registered 25 tackles last year? I'll admit, I never saw him play but you'd think with all the hype, he would have put up better numbers. To me he seems like a future bust. Please enlighten me on the situation. Is size everything?
-- Scott, Elk Grove

Answer: NFL talent evaluators are asking the same question. They think that someone with Branch’s combination of size, quickness and smarts should have been more productive against the Indianas and Minnesotas of the world. In my opinion, though, that’s one of the reasons a guy like Bryant Young is so valuable. He would be the ideal role model for an underachiever like Branch and would help the 49ers squeeze as much potential as possible out of the guy.
-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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