Just got off the phone with a scout (not with the 49ers) I talk to from time to time. He was just getting back from East-West Shrine Game practices before heading to Mobile, Ala. early next week for the Senior Bowl. He said that while the 2008 draft class might not have the star power previous classes have had, he thought that this year was good from top to bottom and really had a lot of depth at certain positions.
He cautioned, though, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Here’s an example: Last year, I did a story on Stanford linebacker Michael Okwo. While at the scouting combine, I asked three or four evaluators about Okwo, none of whom was all that impressed with him. They said they thought that Okwo was at best a second-day pick and that he might not get drafted at all. In the end, however, the Chicago Bears took with the 94th overall pick in the third round.
Here’s how the scout breaks out this year’s class:
Quarterbacks. The scout said, “It’s not a banner year but a solid year.” He said there were about a half dozen or so draftable players and that there were some decent players, San Diego’s Josh Johnson, e.g, that could be taken in the later rounds. The 49ers, who will coach the South squad, will have Louisville’s Brian Brohm, Hawaii’s Colt Brennan and Kentucky’s Andre Woodson on the roster
Running backs. The scout said there’s a lot of quality and a lot of quantity thanks to the cascade of junior running backs who declared earlier this week. Teams will go into the draft thinking they can find a decent running back in every round and perhaps a good one after the draft. The 49ers will coach Georgia Tech’s Tashard Choice, Tulane’s Matt Forte, LSU’s Jacob Hester, Arkansas’ Peyton Hillis and Kentucky’s Rafael Little.
Receivers. Another very deep position, although there are no marquee names like last season when Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson was widely considered the most talented player available. The scout said he was wary of drafting receivers in the first round because those drafted in rounds two through four tended to be just as productive. The 49ers will coach Houston’s Donnie Avery, Florida’s Andre Caldwell, LSU’s Early Doucet, Louisville’s Harry Douglas, Alabama’s DJ Hall and Texas’ Limas Sweed.
Tight ends. It’s doubtful that the 49ers will show much interest in tight ends considering how rarely Mike Martz uses them. If they do look at that position, they’ll find lots of pass-catching tight ends (glorified receivers) but few all-around tight ends. The 49ers will coach Tennessee’s Brad Cottam and Kentucky’s Jacob Tamme
Tackle. The scout said he thought this was a good year for tackles. He said he didn’t think there were any Joe Thomases or Jonathan Ogdens in the draft but that there was plenty of talent in Boston College’s Gosder Cherilus, Boise State’s Ryan Clady and Vanderbilt’s Chris Williams. The 49ers will coach Clemson’s Barry Richardson and Vandy’s Williams.
Guard. He said this was a fairly good year for guards and centers. He didn’t think there were any sure-fire first rounders at either position. The 49ers will coach UTEP’s Oniel Cousins, Arkansas’ Robert Felton, Wake Forest’s Steve Justice (center), Bowling Green’s Kory Lichtensteiger (center), Pitt’s Mike McGlynn and Texas A&M’s Cody Wallace (center).
Defensive end. Virginia’s Chris Long headlines this class. The scout said he thought Long would be best in a 3-4 scheme and that if a 3-4 team didn’t pick him early, Long could slip a little bit. The junior class, including Ohio State’s Vernon Gholston, Miami’s Calais Campbell, Florida’s Derrick Harvey and Clemson’s Phillip Merling, has really helped this position. The 49ers will coach Alabama’s Wallace Gilberry, Auburn’s Quentin Groves, Georgia Tech’s Darrell Robertson and Wake Forest’s Jeremy Thompson.
Defensive tackle. There are some good names at the top of the draft, LSU’s Glenn Dorsey and USC’s Sedrick Ellis, but overall this position is thin, according to the scout. The 49ers will coach Texas A&M’s Red Bryant, Florida’s Andre Fluellen, Arkansas’ Marcus Harrison and Maryland’s Dre Moore.
Linebackers. The scout said he thought there was decent depth at this position but probably more so for teams that run a 4-3 as opposed to a 3-4. Teams, like the 49ers, who are looking for a ‘tweener type (Auburn’s Groves, e.g.) who can rush the quarterback will have plenty of options but he said that is a very tough position to predict because it is based on projection. The 49ers will coach Mississippi State’s Titus Brown, Miami’s Tavares Gooden, LSU’s Ali Highsmith, South Florida’s Ben Moffitt, Georgia Tech’s Philip Wheeler and Kentucky’s Wesley Woodyard.
Cornerback. He said this would be a good year for cornerbacks and that lesser known players such as Tennessee State’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Troy’s Leodis McKelvin could continue to rise in value as teams become more familiar with them in the coming months.. The 49ers will coach LSU’s Chevis Jackson, Auburn’s Patrick Lee, Troy’s McKelvin, Tennessee State’s Rodgers-Cromartie
Safety. This is another thin position with most of the prospects being second-day selections. The 49ers will coach Alabama’s Simeon Castille, Texas’ Marcus Griffin, LSU’s Craig Steltz and Oklahoma’s D.J. Wolfe
The punter will be Georgia Tech’s Durant Brooks.
-- Matt Barrows