Let the 2011 mock drafts begin, yeah? The season is coming to an end, and while the San Francisco 49ers are still mathematically in the hunt for the NFC West title and a playoff berth at 7-9, it's time to start the murky business of analyzing their needs. Can they take a head coach in the draft? Offensive coordinator? Thought it might be worth asking. After watching the game against the Chargers, a few things become immediately clear.
The 49ers quarterback, wide receiver, and offensive line positions are somewhat inept on offense. The secondary is inept on defense. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's take a look at the defensive position that would be most feasible to address early on in the 2011 NFL Draft, and taking the Chargers game into account, it was definitely the secondary that put up the sorriest performance.
Nate Clements and Shawntae Spencer are the starting cornerbacks for the 49ers. Clements is the number one guy, but he moves around a lot and Spencer has the challenge of guarding the number one receiver more often than most number two corners do. Both are solid options, but neither can be depended on as much as they are. Clements is due to earn more than $40M throughout the remainder of his contract while Spencer is just losing a step. They addressed the safety position in the second round of this past draft, grabbing Taylor Mays, so right now we can focus on cornerback.
Clements and Spencer were both abused on Thursday. The first score was just San Diego's Vincent Jackson being bigger and better than Clements. Nate tackled well throughout the game, but he surrendered reception after reception, Spencer gave up big play after big play. Rivers threw for three touchdowns and Jackson caught all three of 'em, with 112 yards. On only five receptions.
A good secondary wasn't far away - the 49ers defense need only to look up while sitting on the bench. San Diego's secondary implemented a gameplan tailor-made to stall the 49ers. Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis were taken away by deep safeties and the corners beat their guys one-on-one to limit the 49ers to only 165 passing yards with no touchdown receptions. Why not the 49ers?
Cornerback is a position that needs to be addressed in the first or second rounds. Patrick Peterson in the first would be the ideal candidate, he's playing amazingly and is a top ten talent. Perhaps even top five, if the season were to end today the 49ers are picking eighth and there's a chance he'd be there. Then again, there's a chance the top three corners would already be off the board. If the 49ers fail to win their final two games (and miss the playoffs as a result), they'd probably move up one or two spots to increase their chances of grabbing him.
If they can't get Peterson and they still are looking for CB help in the first (which they should be) Prince Amukamara of Nebraska and Brandon Harris down in Miami would hold solid value, though the latter is more of a mid-first round pick. If they needed to wait until the second round, Aaron Williams could be a sleeper pick. Curtis Brown is a fitting player as well, if the 49ers were looking for a younger, faster Nate Clements-esque kind of player. Both of those Texas products could be valuable in the second or third rounds.
Corner is one of the 49ers top two needs in the draft. These are all solid options for San Francisco, who desperately need the help in their aging secondary. Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the offense against the Chargers and what positions the 49ers will need to address in the 2011 NFL Draft on that front.