49ers Blog and Q&A

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

March 27, 2012
The 49ers' post-free agency draft needs

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The 49ers may have a few more items to cross off their free-agent shopping list, but for the most part they are finished. They addressed their two biggest goals, which were 1.) bringing back the 2011 starting defense intact and 2.) adding bodies to a thin wide receiver corps by signing Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and re-signing Ted Ginn.

The question now is how free agency impacts the team's draft needs. Here's how I would rank them and why.

1. Wide receiver. The 49ers now have seven wideouts signed for 2012, but there is no long-term depth at the position. One potential starter, Moss, is 35 and signed a one-year deal that the 49ers easily could get out of if the Moss experiment doesn't work out just as Braylon Edwards didn't work out last year. Ginn is on a one-year deal while Manningham signed a two-year deal.

That is, the team must continue to build for the future at the position. I still think the 30th pick in the draft is most likely to be a wide receiver, although it's not as imperative as it was before free agency. Last year the 49ers went into the season with five receivers on the active roster, which proved to be too few. Look for them to go into 2012 with six.

2. Running back. Jim Harbaugh last month said the notion that Frank Gore slowed down toward the end of the season is incorrect. But don't listen to what the team says - this is the lying season, after all - watch what it does. The 49ers have been interested in running backs both in free agency and in the run up to the draft. It would not be a surprise if the team used its 30th pick on this position considering how critical it is to the team's offense.

3. Safety. The 49ers are comfortable with their top three safeties, Dashon Goldson, Donte Whitner and C.J. Spillman. But there's no one else who plays the position - Colin Jones is a special teamer and perhaps a quasi wide receiver - and Goldson could be on a one-year contract after signing his franchise tender. The 49ers perhaps see the ultra aggressive Spillman as Goldson's heir, but he has no real experience at the position. The 49ers might use a mid-round pick on a young safety as a hedge for the future. Besides, this position typically makes for very good special teamers. Neither Reggie Smith nor Madieu Williams have received much attention in free agency, which means that either (but not both) could be back.

Others:

* Outside linebacker -- The team has Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks locked in long term but could use depth. Unfortunately this is not a deep position in the draft.

* Defensive line - The 49ers have excellent starters and plenty of youngsters backing them up. But this is a deep position in the draft this year and it might be wise to grab a lineman now if you don't think there will be good ones in later drafts.

• Cornerback -- The 49ers appear to have good depth here with the addition of Perrish Cox and with Curtis Holcomb returning from a ruptured Achilles tendon. But in the modern NFL, you never can have too many cornerbacks and the 49ers are bound to add at least one.

• Guard - The 49ers still are likely to add a veteran in free agency, perhaps Leonard Davis. But the heir apparent to the right guard spot is Daniel Kilgore. And don't forget about last year's seventh-round pick, Mike Person. The 49ers drafted him to play on the interior of the offensive line even though he mostly was a tackle in last year's training camp.

**********************
Restricted free agent Larry Grant had a cryptic Tweet last night that implied he was signing his tender with the 49ers and re-joining them for the 2012 season. I checked with his agent, and that has not happened. It's status quo for Grant, who is dealing with the double whammy of a soft free-agent market for inside linebackers and the fact that he is an RFA. Grant has until April 20 to sign the 49ers' tender.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW 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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