This weekend the 49ers had what I would describe as a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust kind of draft. It was a solid, blue-collar, very Nolanesque haul. It was the Ford F-150 of drafts. From the moment Mike Nolan and Scot McCloughan arrived on the scene in 2005, they said they wanted to build a power-running team with big linemen and big skill players. And by golly, they’re sticking to that theme.
But therein lies the rub. This draft seemed a lot like the one they had in 2005 when they took two interior linemen (they had already earmarked Adam Snyder as a guard) in the first three rounds. This year, they took two interior linemen in the first four rounds and one of them, Chilo Rachal, probably will replace one of the 2005 linemen in the starting lineup. It’s not a bad draft. It just seems like the same old draft. You might call this a Groundhog Day draft.
You don’t want to be a team like the Redskins or the Raiders that only seems to be interested in flashy players. McCloughan’s philosophy is a sound one – build the team from the inside of the offensive and defensive line. But at some point the 49ers have to stop working on the inside and look after the outside. This is a team that finished with just 31 sacks last year and still has no reliable edge pass rushers. This is a team that finished last in the league in passing offense that still has no dominant wideout. This is a team that has one of the fastest tight ends in the league but uses him as if he were a guard.
You can argue that the 49ers addressed those needs in free agency. But Justin Smith never had any more than 8 1/2 sacks in his career. Receiver Isaac Bruce is 35 and Bryant Johnson only has a one-year deal. They are not long-term answers to the 49ers’ 2007 problems.
You can also argue that the 49ers received all the offensive sizzle they needed when they hired Mike Martz who, it’s true, has done an amazing job of turning water into wine in the past. But it seems like the 49ers are putting an awfully large amount of eggs in Martz’s basket. As far as the 49ers’ roster, Martz won’t be charged with turning water into wine. He has to try to turn meat and potatoes into sirloin croquettes and potatoes au gratin. Bon Appetit, coach ...
Other observations from the 49ers’ draft:
· The 49ers’ have a well-documented love of Senior Bowl participants. But only one of their picks, center Cody Wallace, was a Senior Bowl alum. Kentwan Balmer was invited to the SB but did not participate due to a lingering hamstring issue. On the Thursday before the draft, Mike Nolan acknowledged that the talent pool at this year’s SB wasn’t as good as in recent years. What’s also noteworthy is that two out of the six picks were juniors and the 49ers usually are wary of juniors.
· There were 35 SEC selections throughout the draft but none taken by the 49ers. Instead, the 49ers tapped two ACC players (but, alas, none from UVA), two Big 12 players , a Pac 10 player and a Big 10 player.
· The last time the 49ers took a DT in the first round? 1994 when they selected some guy named Bryant Young 7th overall. ***correction*** The 49ers drafted Reggie McGrew in the first in 1999. Maybe I was repressing the memory.
· And finally, it’s time to face the music, pay the piper, step in front of the judge. I didn’t do so well in my mock. Maiocco and I had the same number of players who went in the first round – 25 – but his picks put the players closer to the spot where they were actually taken. I tallied the following by calculating the difference between the player’s predicted draft position and his actual position. For example, Branden Albert went in the No. 15 slot but I had him going No. 9. So I wound up with a six for Albert. Naturally, the lower your score, the better you did. Maiocco got a 145; Barrows a 162.
Now let’s throw in the experts. Mel Kiper Jr. had an impressive 118 in the proximity tally. Ah, but he only predicted 23 of the 31 first rounders. Todd McShay predicted 24 but got a 153 in proximity, which is practically Barrows’ territory. Mike Mayock did the best, but I suspect this was due more to good reporting by co-worker Adam Schefter (who, it should be noted, sucked all the suspense from the draft) than by his skills of prognostication. He finished with a 102 in proximity and had 24 of the 31 first rounders.
-- Matt Barrows