With the seventh pick in the third round Sunday, the Chicago Bears selected a receiver, Earl Bennett, out of Vanderbilt. The selection is significant because that slot belonged to the 49ers before Commissioner Roger Goodell made San Francisco swap third rounders with the Bears because of the Lance Briggs tampering flap. Bennett was the SEC’s all-time leader in receptions and was believed to be one of the best possession receivers in the draft. Would the 49ers have taken him if they still had their old draft spot?
“No,” said GM Scot McCloughan. “But he’s a good player. He will end up being a good football player.”
You gotta believe McCloughan. The Bears desperately needed a receiver after losing Bernard Berrian and Mushin Muhammad in the offseason. The 49ers, meanwhile, passed on several other Bennett-like receivers throughout the draft. The only ones they really appeared to contemplate were the big, physical receivers like Texas’ Limas Sweed and eventually Virginia Tech’s Josh Morgan, whom they selected in the sixth round.
The 49ers likely would have passed on most of the other players that were selected between their former third-round pick, No. 70 overall, and the one they got from the Bears, No. 75. They never thought that Chris Ellis, taken at pick No. 72, had the necessary athleticism to play outside linebacker. Jamaal Charles went at No. 73 and the 49ers would not have taken a running back. The 49ers never seemed all that interested in linebacker Dan Connor, who went at No. 74.
The one player who might have caught the 49ers’ eye would have been Miami linebacker Tavares Gooden, who was taken by the Ravens at pick No. 71. Gooden began his career at outside linebacker but really excelled when he moved inside. He finished with a career-high 119 tackles last season. Would he have been the 49ers’ new “ted” linebacker? We’ll never know. But given that he’s now wearing a Ravens uniform – wink, wink – there’s a good chance he’ll wind up playing for Mike Nolan at some point in his career. One might also say that a failed attempt to land one inside linebacker, Lance Briggs, cost the 49ers another inside linebacker in Gooden. Is that irony?
In the fifth round, meanwhile, again it was the Bears picking in the slot the 49ers had pre-tamperGate. They took Zackary Bowman, a defensive back out of Nebraska. The players who might have tempted the 49ers had they had a fifth rounder? How about QB Dennis Dixon or G Roy Schuening or LB Jonathan Goff? Or better yet, how about the guy who went third to last in the round, tackle Carl Nicks?! Oh, Carl, we hardly knew ya …
-- Matt Barrows