A cornerback at pick No. 7? Charley Casserly knows a thing or two about that scenario.
In 1999 Casserly was the general manager of the Washington Redskins, who took Champ Bailey with the seventh overall pick. I talked to Casserly this afternoon, and he said the Redskins ranked Bailey as the top player in the draft that year. "And we weren't the only ones," Casserly said. "A lot of teams had Champ rated No. 1."
There's a nice parallel this year. Not only do most prognosticators see LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson as the top player in the upcoming draft, many have No. 7 landing with the 49ers at - you guessed it - pick No. 7. The question to Casserly then is this: If 21-year-old Champ Bailey was in the 2011 draft, who would he take first, Bailey or Peterson?
Casserly prefers the young Bailey. He said he had better, more fluid hips than Peterson coming out of college, changed directions better and was better when the ball was in the air. Bailey, as some of you will recall, played both ways at Georgia and led the Bulldogs in receiving his senior season. (He averaged 16.3 yards a catch and had six touchdowns).
"He had great hands and an ability to focus on the ball," Casserly said. "There are times that I think Peterson should make more plays on the ball than he does. That's something that I'd spend some time looking into if I was thinking of drafting him. ... That's no slight on Peterson. Champ has been to 10 Pro Bowls."
Casserly, however, likes Peterson more than the player who was drafted seventh overall a year ago, Joe Haden, who was taken by the Browns. He said that Peterson was faster and more effective in deep coverage than Haden was coming out of Florida.
Peterson, of course, would satisfy a big need for the 49ers, who ranked 24th in passing defense a year ago, who allowed opposing quarterbacks a 90 passer rating against them and who may part ways with Nate Clements this year. Will Peterson drop to No. 7? Casserly said that if a team sees Peterson as the top player in the draft, it should draft him at the top spot.
"Look at Darrelle Revis," Casserly said. "He changes the game. He changes your coverages. He changes your blitz packages. He changes everything."
-- Matt Barrows