Pro Football Weekly - Team Needs

March. 29, 2002 

Quarterbacks: Jeff Garcia has Joe Montana-like games and two straight Pro Bowl, 30-TD pass campaigns in a row since becoming the full-time starter. Tim Rattay is a smart but unproven No. 2, and Rick Mirer is Rick Mirer. 

Running backs: The 49ers re-signed Garrison Heart. Second year back Kevan Barlow is strong, fast and talented and gives them depth. But Barlow’s durability and consistency are the reasons he lasted until the third round of the 2001 draft. FB Fred Beasley knows who, when and how to block, has good hands and is an asset. 

Receivers: The 49ers feel Eric Johnson can be another Brent Jones at tight end. Terrell Owens is a selfish and immature player who drops too many passes, but he also is a great receiver with tremendous size and rare ability. J.J. Stokes has never earned his salary and could be let go unless he agrees to play for less. 

Offensive line:This group of no-names always seems to play well, but age has to be a huge concern, and the team’s best young lineman, C-OG Jeremy Newberry, is a free agent. 

Defensive line: The 49ers would love to find a top pass rusher who can play left end or tackle, but they probably will not be able to. 
Linebackers:A solid group. 

Defensive backs: A cornerback who would allow the 49ers to match up better with the Rams and make Jason Webster their third corner would be a great addition. 

Special teams: This always has been a problem area. Free agent P Jason Baker and PK Jose Cortez are shaky. Five of Cortez’s last 15 field-goal attempts were blocked, and he kicks some low line-drives. The 49ers also need a return man. 

Summary: The perfect pick for the 49ers would be Miami CB-RS Phillip Buchanon, who excels in coverage and on returns. But unless they can deal way up into the first round, he may not be an option. They also must finally address their offensive line with some early picks, or it could fall apart in a hurry, especially if Newberry finds greener pastures. 

2001 draft analysis: Andre Carter developed into a solid pass-rushing right end by the end of the year and should only get better. He is a coach’s dream. Jamie Winborn was making his mark at linebacker by year’s end, and he is a fine special-team’s player. He is an explosive run-hit type of player but not a take-on type of guy. Barlow has the tools to be a franchise back, but he never has been consistent and may be a bit of a tease. Rashad Holman struggled as a third corner but should get better. Johnson, a pumped-up wide receiver with soft hands and an Ivy League pedigree, was very impressive at tight end and fits the 49ers’ style of play very well. That means he has fine pass-catching skills, runs good routes and can separate from the defender. But he is not that much of a blocker. Baker will have to improve in his second year to keep his punting job.