If Thaddeus Gibson had been acquired in April, the 49ers message boards would be overheating. After all, Gibson was a talented pass rusher at a big school, Ohio State, last year, and he turned in an impressive performance at the scouting combine in February. He put up 32 repetitions in the bench press. His three-cone time - 6.84 seconds - was the best of any college defensive lineman this year and would have been Top 3 for his NFL position, outside linebacker.
The 49ers claimed Gibson off of waivers last week after he had been released by the Steelers. Pittsburgh drafted him in the fourth round in April but cut him when injuries to Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel forced the team to add a defensive lineman to the active roster. That in itself is notable. The Steelers always have a well-stocked arsenal of outside linebackers because they draft the position very well. The team also selected Jason Worilds from Virginia Tech in the second round this year. (The Eagles, another team with a deputation for drafting short, smallish defensive ends, also put in a claim for Gibson).
I asked Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout about Gibson. Rang said he had him rated as a third- or early fourth-round pick. He said that Gibson had great quickness and was very good at going up field toward the quarterback. "He's not so good dropping back," Rang said. "He's a little stiff. So you're probably better off just sending off the edge at least early in his career."
Gibson entered the draft as a junior, which surprised Rang and other evaluators who thought that he could have used another year at Ohio State to hone his craft. Gibson decided to enter the draft because his mother, Gwendolyn, was dealing with a heart condition and the family needed the financial stability.
The 49ers, meanwhile, may need outside linebackers in 2011. Gibson is unlikely to see playing time this season barring injuries, but the 49ers want to see whether he should be thrown into the mix next season. Both Manny Lawson and Travis LaBoy are playing in the final year of their respective deals. The team could also use someone with pass-rush skills, something Gibson has. Just ask former teammate Alex Boone.
"I played against him in high school. I played against him in college every day," Boone said. "I freakin' hated him because he is a shifty boy, I'll tell you right now. He's like a smaller version of ... who's that guy who got in trouble with that hit?"
"Yeah, he's like a little James Harrison," Boone said. "I mean, he is strong."
-- Matt Barrows