49ers Blog and Q&A

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

April 26, 2008
How to grade the 49ers' draft

I have to give the 49ers' first day of the draft a grade. I always cringe at this assignment because -- let's be honest -- no one will know whether it was a boom or a bust for several years. In 2006, the Texans were idiots for passing on Reggie Bush. In 2007, Mario Williams made them look like geniuses.

So what grade will appear in tomorrow's Bee? Well, a B. Day 1 certainly wasn't flashy. But I thought the Balmer pick was a good one for all the reasons the 49ers put forth today. (He was the guy I took in The Sporting News correspondents' mock). Of all their defensive linemen, Balmer at 6-5 and around 300 pounds, seems like the only one who is really a prototypical 3-4 lineman. He seems to have just the right dimensions as a defensive end in the scheme. If he plays left defensive end, it will allow Isaac Sopoaga, who seemingly has the right dimensions to play nose tackle, to slide over to that position.

A defensive lineman like Balmer also acts as a bodyguard of sorts for Patrick Willis, the player whom Mike Nolan today said was "arguably the best defensive player in the league." Will Balmer get a lot of sacks? No, he'd probably be lucky to ever finish a season with more than five sacks. But the thought is that he will occupy enough blockers that the players behind him, whether it be Tully Banta-Cain or Parys Haralson or Manny Lawson, will have an easier path to the quarterback.

The second-round pick likely raised a lot of eyebrows among the 49ers faithful. That's partly because Chilo Rachal isn't a household name (in fact, the first question we asked him was, 'How do you say your name?') and partly because guard was not a big position of need for the 49ers. I have to admit that I was underwhelmed for the same reasons.

But his presence gives the 49ers a bit more wiggle room on the offensive line. I'm sure Adam Snyder doesn't want to hear this, but if either Joe Staley or Jonas Jennings got hurt, Snyder could fill in and Rachal could take over at left guard. And don't foget, the 49ers still have four more picks and there are plenty of tackles -- Carl Nicks, Anthony Collins, Tony Hills -- still available. Other notable names still on the board: Receivers Early Doucet and Andre Caldwell, and linebackers Dan Connor and Tavares Gooden.

So which current 49er is bumming the hardest today? I'm sure Snyder isn't ecstatic, but at least he has a long-term deal in place. The team's other starting guard, David Baas, does not. And he'll be recovering from a torn pec in training camp. Not a good week for No. 64. The team's defensive linemen can't feel too secure either. The 49ers kept A LOT of defensive linemen on the roster last year, more than a 3-4 team usually keeps. Sopoaga, Justin Smith, Ronald Fields and Ray McDonald are safe. But Aubrayo Franklin, Atiyyah Ellison, Melvin Oliver and Joe Cohen probably aren't resting peacefully tonight.

-- 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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