49ers Blog and Q&A

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

February 2, 2010
Niners draft targets coming into focus, part deux

Continuing the conversation from yesterday about possible mid first-round draft targets for the 49ers:

Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama. 6-4, 256.
Why he'd fit: McClain is very much in the mold of Patrick Willis in that he's instinctual, aggressive and makes plays all over the field. McClain not only played at a big school, he came up big in the Tide's biggest games this year. Despite having Willis, the 49ers have looked hard at drafting another ILB in the past, including Curtis Lofton in 2008 and Rey Maualuga in 2009.
Why he wouldn't: First, there's a very good chance that McClain will be gone when the 49ers pick. The 49ers also might decide that his skill set is so comparable to Willis' that they might not fit. The 49ers' "Ted" linebacker has to be good at taking on blocks and playing in traffic. McClain plays best in space, and he was protected by 370-pound nose tackle Terrence Cody. As it stands now, the 49ers' "Ted" linebacker comes off the field in passing situations. The 49ers would have to alter that approach if they drafted another inside linebacker in the middle of the first round. The 49ers saw both Lofton and Maualuga as late first- or early second-round picks. That might be as high as they'd go for a "Ted" linebacker.

C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson. 5-11, 195.
Why he'd fit: Spiller is another guy whose buzz is bound to grow later this month when he runs his 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. Spiller would provide the 49ers with the return-man threat they desperately need. He has experience both as a punt and kick returner. Perhaps more importantly, he would give their staid offense some zest. In the hands of a creative offensive coordinator, Spiller would be like Percy Harvin or Reggie Bush - someone who keeps defenses on their toes when he's on the field.
Why he wouldn't: The 49ers will not drastically change their offense, and that offense still revolves around Frank Gore. It would be hard to justify a first-round pick for someone who plays only a handful of offensive snaps. The 49ers invested a third-round draft pick in Glen Coffee last year and may feel he's the heir apparent to Frank Gore.

Earl Thomas, S, Texas. 5-10, 195.
Why he'd fit: In 2009, the 49ers allowed seven different quarterbacks to throw for more than 300 yards. They were particularly susceptible to speedy receivers and need a defensive back with good range. Thomas, meanwhile, led the nation with 24 pass defenses and his eight interceptions tied for second. He's smart, good in run support and, paired with Dashon Goldson, would give the 49ers the ability to cover more of the field. There are all sorts of questions about Michael Lewis' future at strong safety and the 49ers soon may need another starter.
Why he wouldn't: Thomas has plenty of speed but he lacks size. The 49ers, who place a heavy emphasis on stopping the run, may decide that 195 pounds is too small for a starting safety. The 49ers also like to draft seniors. Thomas is a red-shirt sophomore, although he played three seasons at Texas. Finally, GM Scot McCloughan likes 2008 draft pick Reggie Smith, who showed flashes last preseason but who has not been able to stay healthy. The 49ers could decide that their future safeties are Goldson and Smith.

Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee. 6-2, 329.
Why he'd fit: Good nose tackles are available once in a blue moon, and in this year's draft the moon definitely is blue. As far as interior defensive linemen go, the draft is as deep as it's been in decades and two of them, Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, may be the first two players drafted. Williams is a cut below but he has excellent size and played well in the Senior Bowl. The 49ers likely will retain Aubrayo Franklin with the franchise tag this season, but at some point they'll have to either sign him to a long-term deal or let him hit the free-agent market.
Why he wouldn't: Williams only had one stand-out season at Tennessee and the 49ers might decide that's too risky for a first-round draft pick. He's also more of a traditional nose tackle in that he's a large man who is hard to knock off the line of scrimmage. Franklin also is quick and is able to occupy blockers up and down the line of scrimmage. The 49ers may feel they can snag a player in that mold - Texas' LaMarr Houston, for example -- later in the draft.

Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma. 6-5, 318.
Why he'd fit: The 49ers will target an offensive lineman in the first round and Williams will be part of that conversation. He's perhaps the best run blocker of the three listed in this space, and running the football is paramount in the 49ers' offense.
Why he wouldn't: Williams could be gone when the 49ers are picking. Or they could decide they want a more nimble player at the position like Iowa's Bryan Bulaga.

Tomorrow: The six players I left off the list - hint: one of them rhymes with "gazebo" - and why.

-- 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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