Mel Kiper's first mock draft for 2011 serves as a good conversation starter for NFC West fans looking forward to April.
I'll continue with a look at his plans for the San Francisco 49ers, who hold the No. 7 overall choice.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Kiper's give: It's an understatement to say that Quinn will be fresh. After sitting out his entire junior year at Chapel Hill, it's a testament to Quinn's talent that he's this high on the draft board. And make no mistake -- scouts think extremely highly of Quinn. If his preparations for the draft process are up to par, at this spot he offers the Niners a pure pass-rusher at defensive end that can only be matched by Bowers.
Sando's take: Quinn is listed at 6-foot-4 and 254 pounds, so he's an outside linebacker type in a 3-4 scheme. The 49ers ranked 14th in sacks per pass attempt in 2010. They would have ranked higher if their offense had put their defense in more favorable situations. The 49ers were solid at outside linebacker with Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson, Travis LaBoy and Ahmad Brooks. Drafting another pass-rusher could still make sense. Lawson is eligible for free agency. LaBoy finished the season on injured reserve after missing the 2009 season entirely. Brooks remains best suited for a situational role. Cornerback is another position for the 49ers to consider, but adding pass-rush help upgrades the secondary as well. Kiper's mock has only one quarterback, Blaine Gabbert of Missouri, off the board at this point. The 49ers obviously need one.