49ers & The NFL Draft

by Ken Hurst, May 5, 2011

The way I saw the NFL draft coming down for the SF 49ers was drafting Blaine Gabbert out of Missouri at #7 spot in the first round because Coach Jim Harbaugh has said he was going to install a pure West Coast offense. The West Coast offense quarterback’s skill requirement is accuracy with short to medium passes. Gabbert reminded me of past 49ers great quarterback Joe Montana in hitting his receivers in stride.

If they were going to draft for defense first, they could have drafted Nick Fairley the impressive defensive tackle out of Auburn. Fairley was considered the next big thing to enter the NFL until it was discovered by NFL draftniks that Fairley was “only” 290+ pounds instead of his college listed poundage of 300 plus pounds, but he played great!

Or they could have drafted Clemson’s terrific Da’Quan Bowers, a great sack master in the second round. Bowers slid to the second round (and taken by Tampa Bay) because he might require a knee operation.

But the 49ers could have drafted Blaine Gabbert in the first round with the #7 pick overall and Da’Quan Bowers in the second round without having to give up any draft choices to move up in the draft to get their guy. Then they could have used the draft choices they actually did give up to draft a potentially good cornerback and a good receiver.

But, in the real draft world, the 49ers did draft defensive end Aldon Smith in the first round out of Missouri. Smith came out early after a great freshman season of quarterback sacks, and a sophomore season in which his play didn’t sparkle but his heart and toughness came into focus because he played a portion of the season with a broken fibula in his leg. He is not particularly fast (4.72 in the 40-yard dash) but he is quick and strong and has good balance. He appears to be a sincere, humble young man who will always give his best effort.

In the second round, 49er General Manager Baalke and most importantly Coach Jim Harbaugh gave up some draft choices to move up in the draft to grab Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback out of Nevada. He is 6’4”, sleek and a hard 230 pounds with a strong arm, plus he’s a fast, rugged runner. He has all the natural tools to become a fine NFL pro quarterback But, is he a good fit to run the classic West Coast offense?

It’s possible to view the choice of Kaepernick over Gabbert as desiring a huge Steve Young type (Kaepernick) over a modern Joe Montana (Gabbert). Plus, I believe Baalke still has his vision of the great outside linebacker Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers consistently and constantly rushing the Steelers quarterback all game long in the Packers win over Pittsburgh in the last Super Bowl. I don’t know any other outside linebacker who has the great motor that Matthews has to keep him keeping on coming — hard, every down of the whole game.

But, I do give Harbaugh this: he saw the film, he did the interviews, he knows the quarterback position, he’s in the game. He’s probably right. It’s also possible that Coach Harbaugh knows something about Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer’s threatened retirement that we don’t. Or, he might have information about quarterback Donavan McNabb’s uncomfortable position with the Washington Redskins.

As, I said a few years ago, Coach Mike Shanahan was a great offensive coordinator for the 49ers in the Steve Young reign and then coaching with the Denver Broncos. But, he has been inefficient coaching since he brought his son (an offensive coordinator) in to join him as a coach. His son doesn’t think Donovan McNabb is a starting quarterback any more. He thinks the Redskins starting quarterback should be Rex Grossman!? To be kind, Grossman is erratic. Mike Shanahan will never realize that he has been wealthy long enough to sire a decadent unintentionally subversive son.

Anyway, Coach Harbaugh may harness quarterback Alex Smith to teach Kaepernick to play, or entice Palmer or McNabb to become a 49er so Kaepernick can learn the pro game rather than “going on record” immediately. I am running with the thought that he can restore confidence to Alex Smith, and he will become a competent starter while Kaepernick learns the game.

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