49ers Blog and Q&A

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

December 8, 2007
Anyone else feel a draft?

Question: I know it's WAAYYY too early to speculate, but do you know of any good wide receiver prospects in the draft that could fall to the 49ers at the end of round 1?

Justin, Manteca

Answer: Justin, it's never too early to start talking about the draft. That being said, I'll know way more about the subject in two months. I do know there are no Calvin Johnson-type talents this year, but there seem to be a lot of Bernard Berrian-type guys that could fall to the 49ers somewhere on the first day. We've talked about Mario Manningham, who is just a junior but who probably will enter the draft. He and Texas' Limas Sweed should be two of the better prospects. There's also Josh Morgan from Virginia Tech and Harry Douglas from Louisville, although the latter might be too small for the 49ers' liking.

- Matt

Question: What position should the Niners draft w/ 32nd pick of next season?

Harsh, Berkeley

Answer: Well, it probably will be slightly better than pick No. 32 but suffice to say it will be at the end of the round. If the 49ers stick with the "best possible player" approach, it could be a guard. I'd say that, receiver and a 'tweener defensive end who could be moved to outside linebacker would be the best bets.

- Matt

Question: Nice rookie analysis, Matt. Usually, a silver lining to a disastrous season is the promise of a high draft choice. However, being the eternal optimist that I am (at least, in all things relating to the 49ers), I am holding out hope that the '9er's staff (or what's left of it) will be invited to coach the Senior Bowl. Coaching the Senior Bowl is one scenario where having a HC/GM is beneficial and seems to have paid dividends the past couple of drafts. What are the odds that Nolan & Co. are invited back to Mobile?

Terry, Davis

Answer: The odds are pretty good, Terry. In fact, the team already has inquired about it. The 49ers have two things going for them in regards to Mobile. First, the job usually is offered to the two worst teams in the conference, and the 49ers are setting themselves up nicely to be among the NFC's worst. Second, a lot of other coach's reject the offer because they want to give their staffs some time off. Nolan, however, always leaps at the opportunity. I would guess that Bobby Petrino and the Falcons would be the 49ers' biggest competition.

- Matt

Question: Hey Matt. I was just reading some of your posts from last year and you indicated that part of the plan to build the offense was building a strong offensive line. Now it appears that line is in semi-disarray. So what's your take, specifically: Is Staley at left tackle, is it Baas and Snyder at the gaurds, or is Smiley still in the picture. Is Heitmann's leg fully healed, and what about right tackle? Maybe Sam Baker will continue to drop, before the draft, because of the injury, I think that might be a pair of bookends for the future.

Tom, Sacramento

Answer: If I had to guess how the offensive line would be composed on Sept. 10, 2008, I would go with this: LT Joe Staley, LG Adam Snyder, C Eric Heitmann, RG David Baas, RT Jonas Jennings. I don't expect any of the FA's - Smiley, Kwame Harris and Larry Allen - to be back. I think they'll be offered more on the FA market than the 49ers are willing to pay. I think Allen will retire. By the way, I asked Allen this week what his plans were for next year. He said he hasn't thought that far in advance.

- Matt

Question: I thought I heard that the 49ers have the option year on Alex Smith's contract for 2008. Is that true? I also know that the 49ers are in the top 10 for payroll for 2007. Do you know how the team will be "capwise" for 2008? You also do a good job covering the team. Thank you.

Jack, Elk Grove

Answer: I think you can count on Alex Smith being around next season. The 49ers have too much invested in him and it's too soon to give up on him. His injury made this season a wash. As far as cap space, I don't have an exact figure, but the 49ers should be fine. Remember, if Larry Allen and/or BY retire, that ought to free up quite a bit of space.

- Matt Barrows

Question: My question is pretty simple: If a head coach's main responsibilities are 1) preparing his team to play on Sunday, 2) making game-time decisions to win football games, and 3) assembling a competitive team from top to bottom, how can Nolan have any chance of coaching this team next year? He's failed at all three. Thanks for being able to write insightful and compelling pieces on what has been terrible football.

Brian, Sacramento

Answer: Very nicely and succinctly put, Brian. I think the Yorks would argue that your third point, assembling a football team, has been Nolan's strength. I believe there's an understanding from the ownership that the 49ers were in the dark ages as far as talent when Nolan took over. I think they're willing to give him one more year to rebuild it.

- Matt

Question: Who is most responsible for the gross overestimation of this squad's talent-or lack thereof?! If Nolan keeps his job do you feel they NEED to bring in a G.M. who is better at player evaluation than Nolan and McCloughan. The failure of many of the draft picks and signings are too frequent. Also did anyone notice that Banta- Cain had 0 tackles or assists in the Cardinal game. A starting linebacker in on no tackles. He has been the bust of busts. Thanks.

Rod, Elk Grove

Answer: I've argued this before - I think the 49ers have far more draft-day hits than they do misses. And while you mentioned Banta-Cain as a free-agent bust, you didn't mention Nate Clements or Michael Lewis, both of whom have been very, very good this season. No, this team's issue is not the personnel department. This team's issue is offense. The 49ers must catch up with the rest of the league. Look at the top teams in both conferences - NE, Indy, GB and Dallas -- and you'll realize that this is no longer a running league. This is very much a passing league. Successful teams pass the ball a lot and they do it well. If there's a criticism of Mike Nolan's personnel decisions, it's this: He's building a team for a league that no longer exists.

- Matt

Question: Matt- Just read your comment about Brandon Moore being on the field more. Why hasn't he been used this year? My biggest gripe with Nolan is that for defensive expert he has failed to make the defense much better. He hasn't been able to switch to 3-4 because he has failed to get the right players. Why doesn't he run the 4-3, especially since his personnel is better suited for that scheme? Just another reason why he should be fired.

John, San Francisco

Answer: I hear you, John. I will say that the Nolan defense is operating much better than it had in previous seasons. The problem is that there is no pass rush from the position - outside linebacker - designed to rush the passer. If the 49ers stick with the 3-4, they need to find a pass-rushing linebacker. If they go back to a 4-3, they need pass-rushing defensive ends.

- Matt

Question: Why don't the defensive coaches have the 49ers blitz more often like they did on the last play with the Cardinals, which won the game for them? All season I have watched the opposing teams quarterback have way too much time to pass and make plays when a blitz might have caused a fumble or dropped the QB at a loss.

Keith, Rocklin

Answer: The Umbrella of Caution pertains to the defense, too, Keith

- Matt

Question: Hello Matt, my question is why don't the 49ers bench Darrell Jackson and give Jason Hill and Ashley Lelie more playing time. I have been so disgusted in his poor play. His dropped passes have occurred far too often. Is this another sign of Nolan being way to stubborn?

Wayne, Atlanta

Answer: Jackson doesn't lead the league in dropped passes (officially, he only has seven) but I'll bet when you factor in drops vs. number of balls thrown his way, he'd be at the top. Why hasn't he been replaced? Well, Hill has been injured at various points this season while the coaching staff is in the process of breaking Ashley Lelie down and building him back up into what they hope is a better all-around receiver. Lelie has shown a couple of flashes late this season. It'll be interesting to see whether he makes any sort of splash in these last four games.

- Matt

Question: "In San Francisco? Nothing. And that's a big reason why Mike Nolan probably will be back next year. He's still in control. "Why do you think this is a good thing? To fans, it looks like the players just don't care.

Bob, Sacramento

Answer: That's a great point, Bob. The counter-argument to "Well, at least Nolan has control of the locker room" is that perhaps Nolan has assembled a bunch of controllable players. It's one thing to have a locker room that's free of troublemakers, another to have a locker room that's void of passion. If you asked me if the 49ers have a player who can rally the locker room, I'd have a hard time coming up with an answer. Trent Dilfer? That would be my best guess, but I wouldn't say it with a whole lot of conviction.

- Matt

Question: Matt - I keep reading about how the Yorks will keep Nolan around because they like the structure he has in place? C'mon, seriously? Make Nolan the President of Structure, and bring in someone who can coach and develop players. Structure and coaching are two different things. Do the Yorks seriously think Nolan and his staff can develop and coach a team to a Super Bowl victory? What a pipe dream - I can't believe we will have to live thru this fiasco another year!

Lebowski, L.A.

Answer: Well, look at it this way. If Nolan gets another year, I think he'll be forced to break free of his cautious shell. Maybe they'll even - dare I dream this? - throw the ball at the goal line.

- Matt

Question: Why can't I get in to vote for the Patrick Willis nickname challenge? Every time I try to vote, the link takes me to the main Sacbee sports webpage. Hope you can fix this glitch on time. Would really like to vote for the nickname.

H.E., Newark, NJ.

Answer: The vote has been put on hold. I'm still getting solid entries and, of course, the election twice has been sabotaged. I'm considering moving away from a democracy (way too messy) and to a monarchy. As far as this blog goes, I am king. Maybe I should pick the winner myself. His Majesty hasn't decided.

- Matt

Question: Hey Barrows, I still can't vote for Patrick Willis' nickname on your blog, which I think should be either "The Second Samurai" or "The Little Samurai", due to the tutelage he's receiving from the Original Samurai himself, Singletary. Also, I would like to rename D-Jack (Darrell Jackson) "Butterfingers".

Zeb, Sacramento

Answer: Second Samurai is not bad at all. Definitely Top 10 at this point.

- Matt

Question: Bee-rows...P Willie should be called "Dead End." Ya know, running into him is like hitting a dead end. Posted this on your nemesis, Matt M's, Blog. Anyway, that's my suggestion.

Mike, Sacramento

Answer: It's been tainted by being on MM's blog. Sorry.

- Matt

Question: Looks to me Crumpacker beat you to the punch re Willis. Humble Hammer it is. What say thee?

Pat, San Francisco

Answer: Yes, I was a witness to HH when Crumpacker came up with it in the press trailer. Another Top 10 selection. However, I wonder if it's wise to indulge Crumpacker's T-shirt fetish. The man has an entire room devoted to his T-shirt collection.

- Matt

Question: What do you all think about the nickname Patrick "Silent Assassin" Willis? I think his modest and humble approach in the game fits this nickname perfectly. By the way I think we really found a diamond in the draft with Willis and Staley.

Jerry, Harlingen, Texas

Answer: Isn't it redundant? That is, have you ever heard of a noisy assassin?

- Matt


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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