49ers Blog and Q&A

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

April 26, 2008
49ers' draft-day blog

5:38 p.m. Just got out of the press conference with Mike Nolan. It seems that the run on offensive tackles in the first round was key to both of their first-day picks. That run allowed Kentwan Balmer to slip to them at pick 29 and the lack of tackles forced them to take the best remaining offensive lineman, Chilo Rachal, 10 picks later. "He was the highest guy (on our board)," Nolan said. "Scot and I both were a little surprised."

Nolan said he thought that Balmer would play either nose tackle or left defensive end. Right now, Isaac Sopoaga is penciled in as the starter at left defensive end and Nolan said he'd like Sopoaga to stick to one spot this season. Reading between the lines, it seems like the 49ers would love for Balmer to come in and displace Aubrayo Franklin on the nose. What impressed the 49ers most about Balmer was is athleticism and tenacity, Nolan said. Asked about Balmer not living up to his potential until his senior season, Nolan responded, "Honestly, I'm surprised by the question. Because he is a high-motor, play-every-snap (player)."

As for Rachal, Nolan said that McCloughan decribed him as a "poor man's Larry Allen," which I'm sure Rachal would find a nice compliment considering that Allen is his favorite NFL player. Nolan said he'd heard some talk of Rachal possibly playing right tackle, but the 49ers see him as a guard.

Nolan said the team never really considered a wide receiver in the first round. In fact, he said DeSean Jackson's second-round selection was about where the 49ers envisioned him. Nolan didn't come out and say it, but it seems like Balmer, Phillip Merling and linebacker Curtis Lofton were the three guys the 49ers were considering with the No. 29 pick.

4:29 p.m. I'm starting to see why the 49ers tapped Rachal at pick no. 39. We just got off a conference call with him and he seemed like a very vivacious and likeable guy. Rachal said he very much wanted to return to USC for his senior season but decided to enter the draft as a junior because of his mother, who is dealing with a tumor in her stomach and who has no medical insurance. Rachal has not had an easy upbringing. He lost two step brothers, ages 18 and 23, to street violence when he was a child.

Rachal was walking down the sgtreet near his mother's home in Compton when we spoke with him. The 315 pounder said he thought he might be selected in the second round but thought it probably would be toward the end of the second. He said he had 22 interviews with NFL teams, but not one of them were the 49ers.

4:05 p.m. The pick is in. The 49ers select a guard from USC, Chilo Rachal, a 6-5, 306 pounder. I imagine that Rachal will see a lot of time at right guard in the team's upcoming minicamp given David Baas' injury. But my initial thought is that the move is a bit puzzling considering the team's need at offensive tackle. Does this mean Adam Snyder is the top back-up at tackle?

4 p.m. The 49ers are back on the clock after the Seahawks take John Carlson, the TE out of Notre Dame. Groves? Offensive tackle? Or maybe a receiver?

3:54 p.m. Just got off a conference call with Balmer, who had been watching the draft from the Tar Heels football stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. To say that Balmer was excited to be a 49er would be an understatement. He said his father, Charles, was a huge 49ers fan beginning in the early 1990s. In fact, while we were talking with him, he said that his dad was wearing a 49ers cap and weeping tears of joy.

Quizzed on the 49ers' defense, Balmer said he knew they had a good outside linebacker in Manny Lawson, whom Balmer knew from Lawson's days at N.C. State, and a great young middle linebacker in Patrick Willis. He said he also knew that Bryant Young had announced his retirement.
Asked what it would be like to step into the position, left defensive end, that Young plaayed last season, Balmer said, "That's a Hall-of-fame player. I'm not expecting to come in and replace him. It's going to be a lot of work."

Balmer is the third UNC guy taken by the 49ers in the first round. Harris Barton and Ken Willard, a fullback who was with the 49ers from 1965-73.

3:19 p.m. Goodell is approaching the podium. The pick is ... Kentwan Balmer, the defensive tackle from North Carolina. I figure the 49ers will plug him in at left defensive end but we won't know for sure until we talk with Mike Nolan after their second-round pick. Balmer is the guy I picked in The Sporting News Draft.

3:16 p.m. The Seahawks, after a trade with the Cowboys, take Lawrence Jackson, the fourth Trojan taken. The long wait is over (hopefully) ... The Niners are on the clock.

3:09 p.m. Schefter saying the Chargers take cornerback Antoine Cason. Schefter is never wrong.

3:05 p.m. After trading with the Ravens, the Texans select Duane Brown, the offensive tackle from Virginia Tech. The deep pool of offensive tackles suddenly is drying up.

3:03 p.m. With a number of potential first-round fits still on the board, what are the chances the 49ers trade down? Pretty good, IMO.

3 p.m. The Seahawks, who I thought would take Merling, instead trade with the Cowboys, who take Mike Jenkins, the cornerback from South Florida. Groves, Balmer and Merling are still on the board.

2:51 p.m. The Titans select Chris Johnson, the speedy running back from East Carolina. Groves, Balmer and Merling still on the board.

2:44 p.m. It's Mendenhall. That means Groves, Kentwan Balmer and Phillip Merling all are available for the 49ers.

2:41 p.m. The Steelers are next. Could this be Mendenhall? Or will it be Quentin Groves?

2:38 p.m. The Cowboys select running back Felix Jones, the other running back from Arkansas. I had the Cowboys taking Rashard Mendenhall. Damn.

2:27 p.m. The Redskins trade with the Falcons, who select Sam Baker, the USC tackle. Looks like the Falcons really wanted to protect Matt Ryan. The only o-lineman I can see the 49ers taking now is Duane Brown.

2:20 p.m. The Buccaneers select Aqib Talib, the cornerback from Kansas. I wonder if the Redskins will take Devin Thomas next ....

2:09 p.m. The Eagles trade with Carolina, who take Jeff Otah. I nailed this pick ... except I thought the Panthers would take Otah at No. 13. Looks like the 49ers won't get an o-lineman in the first round unless they are in love with Duane Brown.

2:04 p.m. The Ravens missed out on Matt Ryan earlier. So now they trade with Houston to get Delaware QB Joe Flacco at pick No. 18. Suddenly, the 49ers chances of trading back get a little slimmer.

2 p.m. Were two hours in and have had 17 picks. That's not a bad pace ....

1:57 p.m. Wow. the Lions went with OT Gosder Cherilus, whom most observers would be picked after Jeff Otah. Otah seems like the last hope as far as the 49ers picking an offensive linemen in the first round.

1:53 p.m. The Cardinals select the one-kidneyed cornerback, Dominique Rodgers Cromartie. Barrows begins his comeback ...

1:43 p.m. Detroit trades with Kansas City, who picks Branden Albert. I had him going ninth. The Chiefs address two big needs already but I wonder if they have enough ammo now to trade up and grab a quarterback.

1:37 p.m. The hated Bears pick 14th, and they select Chris Williams. The good news is that nailed this pick. The bad news is that so did Maiocco.

1:27 p.m. Panthers pick Jonathan Stewart. Maiocco gets two in a row. Barrows seethes.

1:25 p.m. Broncos go with Clady. The good news is that I nailed this pick. The bad news is that so did Maiocco.

1:19 p.m. Bills go with cornerback Leodis McKelvin.

1:13 p.m. Patriots select Jerod Mayo, a guy that many people said the 49ers would snatch up at pick No. 29. I had him going at pick No. 31. Ooops. This guy really can give a defensive clinic ... a Mayo clinic, if you will. ... Hello ... Hello ... is this thing on? ... crickets chirping .... Hello?

1:08 p.m. Bengals select Keith Rivers. Will Patriots tap Branden Albert or Leodis McKelvin or DRC?

1 p.m. Jags barter with Ravens and pick Derrick Harvey who played just down the road. ... More than an hour in and we've had eight picks. Lord, i don't ask for much ... The Jags get a pass-rushing defensive end, making it more likely that Quention Groves will be available to the 49ers.

12:52 p.m. Saints take Sedrick Ellis with what would have been the 49ers' pick. Ellis was the very best player at the Senior Bowl this year, and don't think the 49ers didn't notice. This helps Barrows' mock ever so slightly since I had Ellis going to the Chiefs at No. 5.

12:50 p.m. Patriots trade with Saints. Sedrick Ellis?

12:48 p.m. Maiocco is kicking my arse. I need to make up some ground in the last half of the first round. Lord, I don't ask you for much ....

12:44 p.m. The Jets pick Vernon Gholston and the notoriously cranky Jets fans are .... happy?

12:35 p.m. Chiefs take Glenn Dorsey, who will be responsible for stopping Darren McFadden twice a year. I predict Dorsey will hear some version of the question, "Any extra motivation facing the Raiders?" at least 200 times this year.

12:28 p.m. Al goes with Run DMc. For lots of comment, tap into Jason Jones' blog.

12:23 p.m. Ok, so now Atlanta has their QB of the future. But the Jets, Chiefs, Ravens and Dolphins are still in need of one. I expect one of these teams to trade back into the first round to get either Joe Flacco or Chad Henne. The 49ers have pick No. 29 but you have to wonder whether that's good enough to spark a trade.

12:18 p.m. Matt Ryan to the Falcons. This sets up a very intersting situation with the fourth pick. The Raiders want to trade down. The Saints want to trade up. Will they strike a deal or will Al want to go with Darren McFadden? Am contemplating erasing my mock and blaming it on a computer virus.

12:11 p.m. Chris Long to the Rams. I wonder whether Joe Staley is watching this. Long played a lot on the left side in UVA's 3-4 sceheme, but I assume he'll play right defensive end in St. Louis. That means that Staley will be squaring off against Howie's boy twice a year for, oh, the next decade. I'm already batting .500 in my mock.

11:45 a.m. Mike Nolan and his 49ers' assistants will be holding a coaching clinic on May 9 (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and May 10 (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.). The sessions are designed for high school and college coaches. In addition to coaching advice, participants get two tickets to a preseason game, a 49ers t-shirt and a gift bag. Cost is $49. Location is 49ers headquarters, 4949 Centennial Blvd., Santa Clara.

11:40 a.m. It's now t-minus 20 minutes (or so) until the Rams go on the clock. Check back here for my snarky comments and astute observations. I'll also be lamenting my mock draft (composed yesterday), which already seems to be falling apart at the seams. Still sticking with my Quentin Groves-or-trade-down prediction for the Niners ....


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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