Somewhat under the radar with the NFL lockout, NBA/NHL playoffs and baseball on our minds, Jim Harbaugh's first NFL Draft will tell us more about the 49ers' new coach than any interview every could.
Did you guys know the NFL Draft is starting on Thursday? No, really! Besides a lively 4-month Twitter conversation between the Niners Nation guys on Twitter and occasional glimpses of Jon Gruden raising his future head coaching salary with that oddly addictive TV segment he does with draft-eligible quarterbacks on a certain cable network, I've barely heard anything about the draft. But unless you're one of those pessimistic souls who actually believes all those old rich white guys are going to let their multi-billion dollar baby rest for an entire season, you know they're going to play football eventually. And for the 49ers and Jim Harbaugh, this is the first chance to show the fans and current players what kinds of players are going to fill out the roster for the next 2-10 years.
The Raiders were the better team last year (except for one week, anyway), but they don't have a first round pick and they have the same guy choosing players as they've had for the past 113 years. The Raiders already made most of their off-season moves before the players union had a chance to decertify with Al Davis spending more money on extensions for current players than a Real Housewife of Orange Country spends on plastic surgery before it's official her house is going into foreclosure.
The 49ers' draft, led supposedly by Trent Baalke even though there's absolutely no way he has the final say on anything, could go in any number of directions. Some of you may have heard they could use a quarterback; nobody on their wide receiving corps was exactly a highlight addition for many fantasy teams last year; their starting running back is coming off hip surgery and several years of being the primary back in an era where most franchises are looking at the position and saying, "Man, this is just too brutal for one guy to handle."
However, the 2011 NFL Draft, at least in the early stages, it's much stronger defensively. The 49ers could end up with a potential superstar pass rusher or receiver coverer (yes, that's the technical term), and anyone who's watched the team over the past 15 years knows that would be a welcome change from the norm.
We know what Mike Singletary drafts looked like; he was the type of guy who'd trade up two spaces to get Anthony Davis even though he probably would have been available for another hour or two, before choosing a better offensive lineman five picks later in Mike Iupati, in the process starting a run of four All-Rookie offensive linemen (Maurkice Pouncey at 16, Bryan Bulaga 23rd and Rodger Saffold 33rd) in a span of 17 picks. And just a hunch, but I doubt Harbaugh would have chosen Taylor Mays in the second round for many reasons. This week's draft is going to be different, that's for sure. We just don't know how.
Without knowing what a Harbaugh draft looks like, a typical Harbaugh draft would seem to be a couple stud defenders in the first few rounds, a diamond-in-the-turf quarterback, multiple running backs and tight ends, and maybe a versatile, Owen Marecic-type on Day 3. Like Owen Marecic!
Nobody expects Harbaugh to force Baalke to pick up the phone and trade up to draft Cam Newton, but here's the thing: we don't know anything about what Harbaugh thinks about the current 49ers roster. Or what he feels -- if anything -- is different when it comes to building an NFL team compared to recruiting a college squad in a conference where almost every team can score 40 points on any given Sunday. Whatever he does, it'll be fascinating to see the direction he takes in the beginning of the most glorious honeymoon period any 49ers coach has ever enjoyed (even George Seifert had to deal with the whole "not being Bill Walsh" thing). With all that equity Harbaugh's built up by doing so well at Stanford and not being Singletary, perhaps he'll feel comfortable enough to surprise us by selecting players we could never imagine seeing play for Stanford. That wouldn't appear likely, but it's almost worth tolerating Mel Kiper's voice for 30 hours to find out.
San Jose Sharks Rule In Overtime
- The Sharks won their first game 3-2 in OT. Two games later, they made their best comeback in franchise history, winning 6-5 in OT. Last night they avoided having to play a Game 7, finishing off the Kings in L.A. in -- you guessed it -- OT. And they ended the first round with Joe Thornton as a newly-minted playoff hero, and the Sharks didn't have to permanently bench a wildly inconsistent Antti Niemi in the process. Not bad.
- It sounds like I'm repeating myself, but the Giants and A's seem like they're doing all they can to have mirror image seasons. At press time (press ... that's always funny to say when you're writing a blog post), both teams are a game under .500. The A's pitching is slightly better, the Giants hitting is slightly better, and neither team can field.
- Brandon Belt got sent back to Fresno, where he'll remake his 2011 identity in the form of a most-of-the-time outfielder practicing to take the spot of Pat Burrell or Cody Ross, depending on which of the two ends up gets injured first or stops hitting. After Belt's teary reaction to getting promoted to the Giants was in many ways the highlight of The Franchise, you can't blame Showtime for wanting similar access to Bruce Bochy's office when Belt got word (on his birthday) that he'd be a Grizzly for a while. The Giants, on the other hand...
- All this playoff success for the Sharks, along with one of the most compelling first rounds of the NBA Playoffs in a long time (ever?) are leading Warriors fans to get frustrated. Who can blame them? Marco Belinelli is playing all kinds of important minutes, and the guys announcing the Hornets/Lakers series aren't openly wondering why ... most of the time. What's next, Jamal Crawford contributing to a winner? Oh, right.
- Bright side alert! Even though the Warriors season is over, the music will always live on. Monta Ellis dropped his debut with Bun B, who for those who aren't really into rap is actually a very talented, extremely well respected rapper -- one half of UGK and owner of some of the better cameos over the past decade. Monta's cameo? Well ... let's just say if Bun wrote Monta's rhymes, it better have been for free. My favorite verse: "I grabbed the ball, the hoop became my best friend." A cynic might say it's typical that once he picks up the ball, his best friend couldn't possibly be a teammate.