It’s been awhile. This time of year is one of the deadest times in terms of NFL news and yet there is still quite a bit of news to address. Such is the world of the NFL.
Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News brings you up-to-date on the Niners’ stadium issue in Santa Clara.
Again, Pro Football Weekly’s Whispers column is a valuable source for information. The latest column notes that Bryant Young is having second thoughts about his retirement and has been spending quality time around the Niners’ training facility.
Also noted is that Niners coaches may be putting too much emphasis on developing linebacker Manny Lawson, thus restricting the development of others at his position.
In a quick synopsis on the Niners’ offseason, ESPN.com’s Doug Kretz says guard Larry Allen is the team’s biggest question. Will he play or won’t he? With Justin Smiley having left for the greener pastures of South Beach, Allen could retain some stability along the inside of the line. Allen is still considered a powerful drive blocker, but he is just a shell of his former self. He was much better last season than in ’06, but what does he have left? I don’t think it’s as big a concern for the team as the development of some of the young players.
Mike Sando of ESPN.com had another quick synopsis on the Niners, explaining the Alex Smith-Mike Nolan relationship.
Draft Room (my comments in bold)
Here is an article outlining some of the draft prospects who will visit with the Niners before the draft.
PFW is projecting Oklahoma inside linebacker Curtis Lofton at No. 29 to the Niners. Here is their reasoning for the projection: “Pairing Lofton with Patrick Willis could secure the middle of the Niners’ defense and give them one of the best LB groups in the NFL at a position that could not be more important in a 3-4 front.”
I’ve watched plenty of OU games the past few years, but I hadn’t noticed Lofton. Have you? I do like the logic behind the pick; strengthening the linebacker unit is a great idea since it makes the Niners’ most effective player – Willis – that much more effective if he can play without feeling as though he has to make a big play every down.
NFLDraftCountdown.com has Cal wide receiver DeSean Jackson projected for the Niners: “It’s a kick in the teeth to be picking this low after such an awful season but at least Joe Staley looks like he’s going to be a good left tackle for them. The Niners could go in a number of different directions with this choice but even though they brought in Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson this offseason their greatest need is still at wide receiver, where they lack a difference maker. DeSean Jackson isn’t very big but he is arguably the most dynamic playmaker in this draft and can be a dangerous weapon on both offense as well as special teams. He may never be a true #1 wideout in the pros but put him in the slot and you could really have something. The 49’ers could also use some help along the offensive line, a pass rusher at outside linebacker and a defensive end. However, this is the year that is either going to make or break Alex Smith so it only makes sense to give him and new offensive coordinator Mike Martz some weapons to work with and the local product Jackson is probably too good for them to take a pass on this late in the first round.”
I’m not crazy about the long-term effectiveness of Jackson. He just seems to be a gimmick receiver, one who excels at trick plays, but can’t effectively run a simple curl, out or slant. His lack of bulk is a concern, as well. Randy Moss and Marvin Harrison have been great despite their slim frames, but they have highly unusual characteristics (Moss and his freakish athleticism coupled with a 6’4″ frame; Harrison and his unrelenting work ethic). Again, what do you think?
NFLDraftBlitz.com has a new desired position for the Niners: safety. They are picking Miami’s Kenny Phillips at No. 29: “The 49ers have a big need at WR but, there are WR’s to be had high in round 2. Phillips also fills a need at safety. With all the knocks on Phillips being overrated, and rightfully so, one thing he can do is cover lots of ground. That’s a must, because SS Michael Lewis is not the best in coverage.”
Phillips has been labeled a first-round pick – though he might not actually be a first-round-type player – since he is the best of the weak crop of safeties.
ESPN.com’s Todd McShay goes for Texas wide receiver Limas Sweed as the Niners’ selection: “Wide receiver is not as much of a need with Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson both on the roster, but there simply isn’t a right tackle worth reaching for at this point. The team recently cut veteran WR Darrell Jackson, and it still needs weapons to help stretch the field. Sweed could emerge as a steal late in the first round if his wrist fully heals as expected.”
“I liked Sweed at Texas, but I always felt like he should have been better, or more productive, than what he was. Not to say that he didn’t showcase his talent or didn’t produce well, but I expected him to dominate with his high school pedigree, size and athleticism.
Back with more this week. Stay tuned.