Facebook friend Matt asks: Mr. Sando, I'm going nuts without any Niners news! Throw me a nibble! The easy way to go in the draft this year is offensive tackle and then safety, but there are a few things I'm curious about:
Should we be concerned about C.J. Spiller going to the Seahawks and make a defensive play for him?
Will Tony Pashos return to function adequately as our tackle, freeing up draft options?
The teams in the NFC that went deep into the postseason all seem to have that electrifying player that the 49ers really lack -- Reggie Bush, Percy Harvin/Adrian Peterson, DeSean Jackson, Felix Jones. I feel like Spiller is the real ticket, but Dexter McCluster is the next Darren Sproles.
Assuming the gradual cohesion of the offensive unit, are we desperate for that building block, or will the team make a statement that they are only a couple key players away from a run?
Love your stuff. Representing the Faithful from SoCal.
Mike Sando: OK, let's knock these out one by one. Smith is a converted cornerback. I'm a little skeptical about him transitioning into a starting-caliber safety anytime soon. The 49ers can try to develop him along those lines, but they probably should not count on him. That means they should address strong safety this offseason. Michael Lewis had three concussions. Even without those concussions, he was getting to the point in his career where the 49ers needed to address the future of the position.
On Spiller, there's no way the 49ers should draft him as a defensive move. That is not how good teams draft. The 49ers need to worry about their own draft priorities. I wouldn't have a problem with them drafting a dynamic change-of-pace running back. They already brought in Glen Coffee as a direct backup to Frank Gore. Their styles were not dissimilar enough for the 49ers to justify putting Coffee on the field much as a running back when Gore was healthy. Spiller would get on the field two ways. One, he would qualify as a change-of-pace back, providing value on offense (sort of the way Arizona worked in LaRod Stephens-Howling during the 2009 regular season). Two, Spiller has shown a tremendous knack as a return specialist. He could potentially win a game in that capacity, based on what he has shown in college. Taking him in the first round would qualify as a bit of a luxury pick, but the team does have two first-round choices.
At linebacker, how wise is it to use first-round picks for inside linebackers? It's pretty wise if you're getting Brian Urlacher or Patrick Willis, but it's harder to justify investing so much in that position without getting a dynamic athlete in return. Perhaps McClain is that type of guy. I do not know. But the 49ers have indeed gotten more from Takeo Spikes than they might have reasonable expected. Getting some young help for Willis inside would be a wise move. As much as the 49ers were happy to add Scott McKillop in the draft last year, he is not a dynamic athlete by NFL standards.
On the Peppers/Porter front, I could see adding Porter if the price were reasonable. Why not add to the depth? If he doesn't look like a good fit, cut him before the season. Peppers is in another category. A 3-4 team such as the 49ers would have to really do its diligence before committing huge money for a player who has previously been effective as a 4-3 defensive end. I'm not yet convinced that would be the wisest use of the 49ers' resources, although it would sure look good on paper.
At offensive tackle, I think the 49ers need to view Barry Sims and Tony Pashos as depth. They should not bank on those players as starters. In other words, they should not automatically remove offensive tackle from first-round consideration just because Pashos could be one option.
Your observation about playmakers in the playoffs has some merit, I think, but those teams you referenced also had Pro Bowl quarterbacks. I would rather have a Pro Bowl quarterback than Bush, Harvin/Peterson, Jackson or Jones.
As for making a statement about being only one or two players away, I can't stand that sort of thinking. The Browns tried that a few years ago. They traded away picks and tried to make that final push after finishing 10-6 and out of the playoffs. Everyone got fired.