NFL evaluators usually have a pretty good idea if a draft is going to be a strong one or a weak one when the juniors declare themselves eligible in January. But they really donít know for sure until they start composing their draft boards and assigning grades Ė first round, second round, third round, etc. Ė to each of the players. The 49ers have just about completed that task and have been pleasantly surprised with what theyíve found.
As of now, the team has assigned first-round grades to 16 or 17 players and has not yet evaluated three position groups, including wide receiver. Last year, the 49ers gave first-round grades to 20 players and were able to snag two of them Ė Patrick Willis and Joe Staley. They likely will end up with at least 20 this April and the thinking is that a handful will still be on the board for the 49ersí selection at pick No. 29 and perhaps there will even be one or two left for their second-round selection at pick No. 39.
By the end of this week, the teamís draft board will be fairly concrete. The medical evaluations at the scouting combine Ė Feb. 20-26 Ė will trigger some reshuffling while the combine drills and pro day workouts will have a smaller impact. My irresponsible, shot-in-the-dark, way-too-premature prediction for whom the 49ers will pick in the first two rounds:
If Iím right, I will award myself a coveted Bee T-shirt, enlarge and laminate this entry and hang it (dated, of course) in my cubicle at work. If Iím wrong, I will simply delete this post and deny it ever happened.
-- Matt Barrows