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San Francisco 49ers

Stadium: Levi's Stadium | Coach: Jim Harbaugh
Team RankingOverallRushingPassing
Offense23rd131.3 (5th)191.6 (31st)
Defense5th100.9 (7th)215.5 (5th)

49ers report: Inside slant

The Sports Xchange
 
Inside slant · Notes, quotes · Strategy and personnel
 

The 49ers might have considered trying to trade up for the No. 2 overall pick in the draft to select running back Reggie Bush, but they did not place a phone call to the Saints with an offer.

Instead, the club remained at No. 6, where they gladly selected Maryland tight end Vernon Davis.

"We felt very good about where we were," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "We felt we would get a good player. There was good value at all those picks."

Davis (6-foot-3, 254 pounds) possesses uncommon speed at his position. He would have ranked as one of the fastest wideouts in the draft after running an extraordinary 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in February.

"One of the things that we're really excited about is that we felt we not only got the best tight end in the draft, but we got the best receiver in the draft," Nolan said. "I think that needs to be noted because a lot of people might say, 'Well, it's a tight end at No. 6.'"

It is unusual for tight ends to be selected so high in the draft. Cleveland took Kellen Winslow Jr. two years ago at No. 6. Riley Odoms, Denver's No. 5 pick overall in 1972, is the only tight end drafted earlier since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

"I see myself making an instant impact -- right away," Davis said.

In a lot of ways, the careers of Davis and quarterback Alex Smith, the No. 1 pick from last year, are now intertwined. Davis and Smith might only perform as well as each other.

"I think Alex is great," Davis said. "He's young, and it just took him some time to learn, but I think he is going to come a long way."

The 49ers would have been pleased with either Davis or A.J. Hawk, players who were ranked equally on the team's draft board. The Green Bay Packers made the 49ers' decision easy when they chose Hawk with the No. 5 pick.

With the addition of Davis, the 49ers have given Smith, the top overall pick last season, some support he did not have as a rookie. Eric Johnson, the projected starter at tight end last season, went on injured reserve after sustaining a foot injury in training camp.

The 49ers did not have a pass-catching threat at tight end, as four players at that position combined for 20 receptions and 158 yards.

Johnson, who has missed two of the past three seasons with injuries, is healthy and has not missed a day of the team's off-season conditioning program. Nolan said he expects to use Davis and Johnson together regularly in two-tight end formations.

Moments before the 49ers made the selection official, offensive coordinator Norv Turner called Davis to tell him the news. Davis broke into tears.

"I was just overwhelmed and excited," Davis said. "It was surprising to hear my name called out on television at the NFL draft and being picked No. 6. It was just all exciting." DRAFT REVIEW

The 49ers had a myriad of problems last season. Chief among them was their failure in the passing game.

They could not get much going with their own passing game and they certainly could not stop any of their opponents through the air. Opponents compiled a 94.2 passer rating against the 49ers, while the Niners managed a lowly 53.6 rating.

With their first two picks in the NFL draft, the 49ers did something to help those glaring areas of concern. With the No. 6 overall pick, the 49ers selected tight end Vernon Davis, a speedster that coach Mike Nolan called the best receiver in the draft.

With their second first-round pick, the 49ers tried to do something about their non-existent pass rush with the selection of North Carolina State's Manny Lawson, who can play defensive end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

Lawson might be the team's best pass rusher right now after linebackers Julian Peterson and Andre Carter left as free agents. Carter had 4 1/2 sacks last season, while Peterson added just three. Carter and Peterson signed lucrative free-agent contracts with Washington and Seattle, respectively.

Lawson recorded 10 1/2 sacks last season while playing on the right side, opposite No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams. Lawson was chosen as North Carolina State's most valuable defensive lineman. Lawson said he had a friendly competition with Williams, who had 14 1/2 sacks.

"Our competition was designed to see who would be the first one to the quarterback," Lawson said.

The 49ers filled some niches with many of their remaining picks. Wisconsin receiver Brandon Williams, a third-round selection, is likely to be used as a return specialist. He can also find playing time as a slot receiver or as the third wideout behind Antonio Bryant and Arnaz Battle. They took another WR/return man in the sixth round with Delanie Walker of Central Missouri State.

Running back Michael Robinson, who played quarterback his senior season at Penn State, was selected in the fourth round. He will compete for a job as the third-down back.

The 49ers selected a potential starter at OLB in the fifth round in Parys Haralson of Tennessee. With the selection of Haralson, it appears likely that the 49ers will employ a 3-4 defense this season. Nolan had said that the club entered the draft with versatility to go either way, depending on which players they were able to get in the draft.

The 49ers addressed their problems at free safety late in the draft, landing North Carolina State's Marcus Hudson in the sixth round and Arkansas' Vickiel Vaughn in the seventh. A closer look at the 49ers' picks:

Round 1/6 -- Vernon Davis, TE, 6-3, 254, Maryland

The 49ers would have selected LB A.J. Hawk, but when the Packers took Hawk, Davis was the easy choice. Davis has extraordinary speed and very good hands. He has the ability to be the 49ers' top target in the passing game.

Round 1/22 -- Manny Lawson, DE, 6-5, 240, North Carolina State

Lawson can play DE in a 4-3 or OLB in a 3-4. He is a pass-rush specialist who can help the 49ers compensate for the losses of Julian Peterson and Andre Carter in free agency. He immediately becomes the team's best pass rusher on the roster. Could also see some action on special teams.

Round 3/84 -- Brandon Williams, WR, 5-11, 175, Wisconsin

Should immediately step in to become the team's top return specialist. Sure-handed on punt returns, he represents an upgrade to one of the team's many weak spots from last season. Also has a chance to contribute as a slot receiver, and should battle for playing time behind starters Antonio Bryant and Arnaz Battle.

Round 4/100 -- Michael Robinson, RB, 6-1, 218, Penn State

A versatile athlete, Robinson can play a number of different roles for the 49ers. He can be the team's third-down back, as well as play receiver. He was a quarterback in college, but does not throw the ball well enough to succeed at this level. Might have the ability to play defensive back.

Round 5/140 -- Parys Haralson, OLB, 6-1, 253, Tennessee

Haralson is a high-intensity player that has a bit of a mean streak on the field. Would be an undersized DE, but appears to fit in nicely as an OLB in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme. Has a chance to start as a rookie or at least be a third-down specialist.

Round 6/175 -- Delanie Walker, WR, 6-1, 240, Central Missouri State

Naturally strong and physical, he is tough for defensive backs to bring down because of his thick body. Could help on special teams until he gets acclimated to a pro-style offense and the increased level of competition.

Round 6/192 -- Marcus Hudson, S, 6-1, 194, North Carolina State

Saw action in college at RCB and FS. Because of the 49ers' problems in the secondary, Hudson has a chance to compete for a starting spot at free safety. Has good size and uses it well. He also has enough range to play the deep half.

Round 6/197 -- Melvin Oliver, DE, 6-3, 276, Louisiana State

Oliver should add depth on the defensive line, where the 49ers do not have much behind their three starters. Oliver could figure into a role as a backup behind DEs Bryant Young and Marques Douglas.

Round 7/254 -- Vickiel Vaughn, S, 6-0, 208, Arkansas

The good thing for Vaughn is that he has a chance to contribute in his rookie season, even though he was the next-to-last selection in the entire draft. Because of the 49ers' weak play at safety, he figures to be in competition for a job. Winning a starting job is not completely out of the question.

Copyright (C) 2006 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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