April 01, 2001
By Jay Glazer
SportsLine.com Senior Writer
The 49ers are a model of how to beat salary cap hell through the draft. Their salary-cap purge was expected to plunge them into the abyss for years and years. Instead, they are just one or two players away from becoming beasts.
But though there is physical on-field strength, there is no off-field structure or harmony by the Bay. Who would have thought the Raiders would be the Bay-area team with the more solid structure? Terrell Owens and Bill Walsh vs. Steve Mariucci could be an After School Special.
The team's biggest need is harmony. Unfortunately, they can't find this with a draft pick.
Needs: OT, CB, DT, WR, LB, TE.
There is no need glaring enough for the Niners to feel pressured to fill it in Round 1. Instead, they will adopt the best available player theory and pick up the best remaining big man.
Florida's Mike Pearson might be available, as will a few lower-tiered tackles who are sprinkled into the first round on some team's boards. Every year there are a few of these guys most prognosticators project as second- and sometimes third-rounders who are taken in Round 1.
If a solid pass rusher can be had, he would also warrant serious consideration. John Engleberger, the team's second-rounder two years ago, is a question mark, while Andre Carter has shown signs of being a bona fide stud. If they can add a player such as UAB's Bryan Thomas or Georgia's Grant (who probably won't fall this far) both would have to be considered. The Niners also need youth at DT behind Bryant Young and Dana Stubblefield. Reggie McGrew never panned out, and there is little depth behind the two aging starters. But DT is not a pressing need for the team to succeed this year.
At receiver, even though the Pro Bowl wideout had a meeting with his coach near Atlanta last week to "clear the air," there are no guarantees Owens and Mooch will be able to stand each other for another full season. J.J. Stokes needs to prove he can get it done (and needs to reduce his $3.75 million price tag and might oblige as early as this week) and Tai Streets is still a question mark. A solid prospect who could fill in if any of the three cannot answer their own questions would be a good idea. If they sign Willie Jackson as insurance, this need will be eliminated.
Former first-rounder Ahmed Plummer has developed nicely at cornerback, and Jason Webster should be solid again, but the Niners would be wise to get some insurance and depth.
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