It's no secret that the 49ers need help in at least three areas: quarterback, cornerback and outside linebacker. In their 3-4 alignment, San Francisco depends on a defensive line to occupy blockers and an outside linebacker to get past the rest to put opposing quarterbacks flat on their butts. This need will be even bigger now that Vic Fangio is taking over as defensive coordinator, as his scheme is absolutely predicated on two things: movement and aggression. An outside linebacker somewhere in the first three rounds or free agency is an absolute must for San Francisco.
Previously, we took a look at what it would take for Patrick Peterson, the consensus best cornerback in the draft, to fall to the 49ers at pick number seven. If Peterson doesn't fall, that means there's one more opportunity for the Niners to land the consensus top 3-4 outside linebacker, Von Miller out of Texas A&M. The 49ers currently roster players like Ahmad Brooks, Manny Lawson (free agent) and Parys Haralson, all players who have pieces of a great 3-4 OLB, but none who have th complete set.
Von Miller would immediately come in and start, probably on the right side if the 49ers brought Lawson back, and on the left side if they don't. He has all the speed and athleticism to be a 3-4 OLB, and he definitely has that oh-so-important first step that they all need. Miller is just a tad undersized, but you can give up some size in a 3-4. He's got a ton of different rush moves, and a fantastic motor. This all says that he will be the best 3-4 OLB in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Unlike Peterson, Miller stands to be taken by only two teams by my count. The first obstacle would be the Buffalo Bills at the third overall pick. The good thing for the 49ers in this scenario is that the top quarterback will still probably be on the board and they sorely need one. Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton could go to the Bills at that point, in my mind I have them taking one of the two, probably the latter Newton out of Auburn. They have a big need, and they need to get the fanbase excited.
Another possibility is the aforementioned Patrick Peterson. If he's available, then the Bills may just take him. It's possible they let him go, but he is one of the best talents (if not the best) in this draft and could get priority over Miller. Providing the Bills take one of the two mentioned, the 49ers would stand a much better chance at getting him. Unfortunately for San Francisco, the first two picks could be Newton and Peterson, respectively. But then someone like Nick Fairley would be available and there's a lot to look at once that happens ...
The second team would be the Arizona Cardinals at pick number five. I see the Cardinals going for Miller more than I see them doing anything else. There's a couple directions they could go. They could always bring in a quarterback, as one of the top two is very likely to still be available, but it's still not all that likely of an option. They'll likely be looking to free agency or the trade market to bring in a veteran to be their signal caller in 2011.
Another option is, once again, Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals have invested a high pick in a corner recently, but Peterson really is a definitive "top five pick," and his abilities may be too much to pass up. One thing going against this line of thought is the fact that the NFC West as a whole generally does not have a strong passing game. The demand for a top corner is not as high within the division, and they might go for some help up front.
The good thing with that is there might just be two more options up front. Defensive end Cameron Jordan could still be available, and he'll fill a need in their 3-4 defense. Aside from Jordan, there's actually one more: Robert Quinn, a fellow outside linebacker (or defensive end.) It simply is possible that the Cardinals like what Quinn brings more than Miller.
If the Cardinals pass up on Von Miller, then he will certainly make it past the Browns at the sixth pick and he'll be sitting in the lap of the 49ers. The question is: if he's sitting there at seven, do they take him?