Sunday, February 10, 2008

Team Needs: San Francisco 49ers

1. Wide Receiver
Darrell Jackson looked worse in San Francisco than he ever did in Seattle (and he had some tough times in the Emerald City). Arnaz Battle can be described, at best, as steady. Ashley Lelie barely resembled a pro wide out last year, and while I can see Mike Martz's arrival rejuvenating Lelie's career, that's not something the 49ers can afford to count on. It's not uncommon for a receiver to take a few years to adjust to the NFL, but 2007 third-rounder Jason Hill only managed one reception on a team where he should have been able to accomplish more than that.

2. Defensive End
San Francisco's base 3-4 takes a big hit with the retirement of Bryant Young and the free agency of Marques Douglas. The 49ers might have to be content to let Ronald Fields and Ray McDonald battle each other for one of the starting spots; at the very least, they need to find one new quality starter.

3. Guard
Larry Allen is retiring and Justin Smiley who finished the year on IR will be a free agent. David Baas should retain his starting spot at right guard, but the 49ers will have to bring in somebody new to fill the hole in the roster on the left side.

4. Cornerback
Walt Harris turns 34 this summer and even if the 49ers can squeeze one more decent year out of him, there's no one on the roster who can be a quality starter when he's done. In fact, there's no one on the roster who the 49ers should be content to have as their nickel corner entering next season.

5. Inside Linebacker
Defensive rookie of the year Patrick Willis holds down one spot, but it's time to replace 33-year-old Derek Smith at the other. Former starter Brandon Moore could be the starter again, but an upgrade would be nice, and at the very least depth is needed.

6. Outside Linebacker
This should be a stronger unit in 2008 with both 2006 first-rounder Manny Lawson and 2007 fourth-rounder Jay Moore coming back from injuries. But Lawson has had trouble staying healthy as a pro, so insurance is called for. 2007 free-agent signing Tully Banta-Cain had only 3.5 sacks with one of them coming late in the season against a Bucs team that was resting many of its starters.

7. Fullback
Moran Norris is a one-dimensional, blocking fullback who, if last year was any indication, is no longer adequate at that one dimension. I would rate this as more of a need if Mike Martz weren't coming to town.

8. Running Back
Frank Gore is a top-ten back, but Maurice Hicks is a free agent and Michael Robinson appears to be strictly a situational guy. In a draft that's as deep as ever at the running back spot, the 49ers should use a mid-to-late round pick on a young back who can come in and take some of the load off of Gore. I would rate this as more of a need if Mike Martz weren't coming to town (déjà vu).

No comments: