The Rest of the West: Part 2: San Francisco 49ers

Series: A look at the other three teams in the most wide open division in football.

Blaine Gabbert. Photo from After yet another regime change, is it finally time for the 49ers to admit that the Alex Smith Era is over? Drafting Blaine Gabbert would say yes.

What a difference a year makes.  A year ago at this time, the Rams were the team no one wanted to be.  A team in chaos, who was coming off a 6-42 span that saw the epic collapse of what once stood as an offensive haven.  When the first round ended, the Rams had addressed their biggest question — quarterback.  Fast forward a season  and the Cardinals, 49ers and Seahawks now have that unsettling, uncomfortable feeling at quarterback.  Will the other teams follow the Rams’ approach and try to answer their quarterback question in round one or could they go after a guy that is going to sack Sam Bradford?  Here’s a look at the draft options for the Cardinals, 49ers and Seahawks.

San Francisco 49ers

On the morning of September 12th, the San Francisco 49ers were the overwhelming favorite to win the NFC West. By the end of the day, the 49ers had been knocked out by the Seahawks in a devastating 31-6 loss.  Over the next four weeks, the 49ers would run into four playoff teams in a row.  By the end of that span, the pre-season favorites were 0-5 and looking up at the rest of the division.  The disappointing 6-10 season cost Mike Singletary his job, making way for the arrival of the hottest coaching commodity of the off-season, Jim Harbaugh.  Harbaugh takes over a team that does have some real talent.  Between Frank Gore and Vernon Davis, the 49ers are the home of some of the best offensive talent in the NFC.   However, there is plenty of room for improvement on a team that ranked 24th in points scored and 30th in first downs

My pick for the San Francisco 49ers – Blaine Gabbert, QB – Mizzou. 

Jim Harbaugh has expressed support for retaining free agent quarterback Alex Smith.  Perhaps Harbaugh is sincere when he says that he thinks Smith is on the brink of finally living up to that number 1 pick status.  With the chance that both Cam Newton and Gabbert are off the board by the time the 49ers get to pick at 7 overall, Alex Smith could be the best option for the 49ers.  However, I think it is a smoke screen.  On draft day, when the option to take a franchise quarterback presents itself, I don’t think Harbaugh and company will pass it up.  There is a common trend that new regimes in the NFL typically mean new quarterbacks.  Could Blaine go earlier?  Certainly.  I think there is some sort of chance Blaine goes to 5 out of the 6 teams in front of him with the exception being the Browns at 6.  Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback himself,  would be a great coach to groom Gabbert — a quarterback NFL Network’s Mike Mayock has labeled as the number one quarterback in this draft.  Remember, coming out of Parkway West High School, Gabbert committed to Nebraska and Bill Callahan’s West Coast offensive scheme, which is the same scheme Harbaugh will run in San Francisco.  Gabbert could easily fit into an offense that requires a quick release and accurate passing ability on short and intermediate routes.  In addition, Harbaugh attempted to recruit Gabbert to Stanford.  This could be Harbaugh’s second chance. 

We look at other options for the 49ers, after the break.

Other options:

 Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU

Again, to me Peterson is the best prospect in this draft.  Last year, the 49ers finished 24th in passing defense and 17th interceptions.  Peterson could go a long way to curing that.  There is some good young talent at the safety position with Dashon Goldson at FS and last year’s 2nd round pick-Taylor Mays at SS.  Peterson would be an upgrade at the corner position.   

Robert Quinn – OLB – UNC

I think Quinn will be gone by this position, but if he isn’t it means at least one of the two players mentioned above has gone in front of him.  One thing the 49ers did well last year was stop the run.  They finished 6th in the league in rushing yards and 2nd in yards per attempt.  However, getting to the quarterback was not as easy of a task.  The OLB positions of Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson produced  a total of 6.5 sacks last year.  The OLB position is in need of an upgrade.   

Why Gabbert over the other two options?

New regimes mean new quarterbacks.  If Gabbert makes it to 7, the uncertainty of other options will make the 49ers pick him.  A second round quarterback is certainly an option.  This year’s draft features an abundance of second-tier level quarterbacks with the likes of Jake Locker, Ryan Mallet, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, and Andy Dalton.  However, the 49ers do not pick again until 45.  At that pick, there is a high risk that not only their guy (whoever it may be) is gone, but all these quarterbacks are gone.