Mel Kiper's fourth 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: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Kiper's give: I picked Peterson to fall to this point in my previous mock draft, and I still do. And consider the history of top athletes falling: In 1987, I had Rod Woodson rated similarly, and he fell to No. 10 overall. In 1989, Deion Sanders was far and away the best athlete on the board, yet he fell to No. 5. I had Champ Bailey as the best athlete and the top corner available in the 1999 draft, yet he fell to No. 7.
Sando's take: The 49ers haven't invested a high draft choice in a cornerback since selecting Shawntae Spencer in the second round (58th overall) of the 2004 draft. They used a 2008 third-rounder on Reggie Smith, but he moved to safety. The team has not used a first-rounder on a cornerback since taking Mike Rumph 27th overall in 2002 and Ahmed Plummer 24th overall in 2000. Peterson is in a different class. Selecting him would fill an immediate need on defense while providing potential value in the return game. The 49ers' new defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, was with Houston in 2004 when the Texans tried to build around a pass-rusher (Jason Babin) and a cover corner (Dunta Robinson), selecting both in the first round. The highest-rated pass-rusher in the 2011 draft (Von Miller) was no available at No. 7 in Kiper's mock, making cornerback a more logical choice.