As noted in an update yesterday, SB Nation's latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft has the 49ers making a rather unconventional move: selecting wide receiver A.J. Green. The first obstacle to this line of thought is the feasibility (or lack thereof) that Green will actually be available at the seventh pick. As noted yesterday, it's definitely possible if two quarterbacks are taken in the first five picks, but the major roadblock lies at the sixth pick, held by the Cleveland Browns, who would almost assuredly pick Green at that point, as second-year franchise quarterback Colt McCoy really could use a weapon or two.
San Francisco could use an upgrade at the wide receiver position, to be sure. Michael Crabtree may or may not pan out (this writer is thinking he will in the West Coast Offense) and Josh Morgan has been searching for his breakout season for a few years now. The thought is that they'll look to free agency or the later rounds in the draft, if they even choose this offseason to address it at all. One small caveat lies in the fact that they might not be able to afford to spend a first round pick on the position, not with the needs they currently have.
Quarterback, cornerback, outside linebacker and potentially a few more positions - the 49ers are not in the best of shape. The good thing in this scenario is the depth the 2011 draft possesses: it's considered one of the deepest for quarterbacks (while simultaneously being one of the least top-heavy) in some time, while starting cornerbacks can potentially be found throughout the second and third rounds. Outside linebackers are very hit or miss, so that is a definite question mark, but we'll address it either way.
Many are of the opinion that the 49ers would not be considering a quarterback in the first round at all, and it's a sentiment that this writer shares. Neither Blaine Gabbert nor Cam Newton are great options for San Francisco, while no other quarterbacks are really viable at the seventh pick. Someone like Ryan Mallett or Jake Locker could be options, but either prospect could honestly fall into the second round.
So that's one position out of the way, but what about a cornerback? Let's assume that Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara and Jimmy Smith are all gone, are the 49ers left with viable options in the second round? They certainly might, short of a big run of corners at the beginning of the second round, because it's not likely any other than the three listed are gone in the first.
Brandon Harris, Aaron Williams, Curtis Brown and Ras-I Dowling are the next top corners available, and I would consider them all to be players who would come in and take over a starting corner position. They all have potential to be superstars in the NFL, though Williams and Harris are clearly a cut above the rest. The only problem is that there are two-to-four teams with a need at the position picking ahead of the 49ers in the second round, with two especially catching my eye.
The Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans both could be after a cornerback. The Philadelphia Eagles could be after one in the first round, later on. This could leave the 49ers with even more limited options. Is "settling" for Curtis Brown or Dowling such a bad thing? No, but the team would definitely need to keep Nate Clements on board and pay him the piles of money he's due in 2011. One sleeper candidate I like for the 49ers to take in the second round is Davon House out of New Mexico State. He's a physical corner with big play ability, and the 49ers will have done well for themselves if they took him in the second round.
As far as outside linebacker is considered, the pool is not nearly as deep. The Niners could find themselves with five 3-4 OLBs taken before the first round is even over, and potentially more by the time they pick in the second round. There's not much else to say other than that they'd stand no chance of getting someone near the level of Von Miller, Robert Quinn or Aldon Smith. If he's available, I really do like the 49ers to take a long look at Brooks Reed. Failing to nab him, the elite or near-elite level pass-rushers abruptly end with Sam Acho. The good news is the latter two could possibly fall into the third round.
The 49ers wouldn't be in terrible shape need-wise when it comes to the second and third rounds of the NFL draft if they took A.J. Green, but they wouldn't be in great shape, either.