Mel Kiper's fifth mock draft for 2011 serves as the foundation for discussing how NFC West teams might proceed this offseason.
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: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Kiper's give: I picked Patrick Peterson to fall to this point in my previous mock draft, but I don't think he gets there this time around. He offers too much trade leverage. This time, I think Gabbert lands here. While Jim Harbaugh has taken the dignified route and stated how much he wants to work with Alex Smith, I think it's pretty fair to assume the Niners will be looking for a long-term solution for their new coach.
Sando's take: What a fun selection this would be in the NFC West. For this to happen, the division-rival Arizona Cardinals would have to pass on Gabbert. That part of the equation seems plausible; there's no sense that Arizona is smitten with the top-rated quarterbacks this year. The 49ers do think coach Jim Harbaugh can get the most from quarterbacks. That thinking lends credence to taking a quarterback later and allowing Harbaugh to develop him over time. In this case, Kiper thinks Harbaugh's expertise would allow the 49ers to get the most from Gabbert, whose background in a spread offense could require an adjustment period. Again, this would have enduring ramifications within the division. The Cardinals would face two games each season against the quarterback they decided against taking in the face of an obvious need. Peterson, A.J. Green and Von Miller were gone when Kiper made the Gabbert projection for the 49ers at No. 7. Prince Amukamara, Nick Fairley, Cameron Jordan and Robert Quinn were among those still available.