A look at the 49ers heading into the 2011 NFL Draft; San Francisco has the 7th pick in the first round.


Record – 5-11, the 49ers lost their first five games and six of their first seven. That led to all sorts of changes in the coaching staff, as first offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was fired and then head coach Mike Singletary as relieved of his duties. Jim Harbaugh is now the head coach, stolen away from Stanford.

Finish – third in the NFC West, just a game behind division leaders Seattle and St. Louis at 7-9. The Niners finished one game ahead of Arizona.

Playoffs – It’s been awhile for San Francisco, as they haven’t had a winning season or tasted the post-season wine since the 2002 season. They won the division that year.


A 7-9 and then 8-8 seasons in 2008-09 seemed to have the Niners pointed in the right direction. That forward momentum blew up last year, especially when they lost the first five games of the season. That included a 21-point loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

This is not a team without talent, as they have some very good offensive and defensive playmakers like WR Michael Crabtree, TE Vernon Davis, RB Frank Gore, LB’s Patrick Willis, LB Manny Lawson and CB Nate Clements. But they are missing a real threat at QB and their secondary needs an infusion of young talent as well.

There’s a new regime installed in the Bay Area, with GM Trent Baalke being promoted from the Niners personnel department and head coach Jim Harbaugh lured away from Stanford where he did such a good job reviving that program. Harbaugh is the fifth head coach the team has had since the start of the 2002 season.


Offense – averaged 313.3 yards per game to rank No. 24 among the league offenses. They scored 29 touchdowns. Leading the running game as he’s done for years was Gore (203 carries, 853 yards and 3 TD runs.) League veteran Brian Westbrook was of marginal help (77-340-4.) Davis led all receivers with 56 catches for 914 yards and 7 TDs. Crabtree added 55-741-6 scores. Alex Smith got the majority of the snaps with the San Fran offense at QB and he had 14 TDs to 10 INTs, throwing for 2,370 yards and an 82.1 passer rating. Troy Smith got an opportunity, but had his struggles completing just 50 percent of his passes and throwing for 5 TDs compared to 4 INTs and a 77.8 passer rating. San Francisco passers were sacked 44 times or every 12 passing plays.

Defense – the Niners gave up an average of 327.8 yards per game; that ranked them No. 13 in the league. They gave up 34 touchdowns and 25 TD passes. They struggled against the pass, allowing 231 yards per game. Former Mizzou star Justin Smith led the team in sacks with 8.5 out of the club’s 36 sacks. Clements, LB Takeo Spikes and CB Shawntae Spencer all had 3 interceptions each. Overall, the Niners defense forced 22 turnovers.

Special teams – K Jeff Reed came over after he was cut by the Steelers and hit 9 of 10 FGs. He replaced the injured veteran K Joe Nedney, who made 11 of 13 FGs. P Andy Lee is one of the more consistent punters in the league and the ’10 season was no different, as he averaged 46.2 yards per punt and the Niners net average was 38.2 yards. Ted Ginn became San Francisco’s returner last year and he produced a 78-yard punt return for a TD. The coverage units gave up a 92-yard kick return score.


There have been a lot of changes around the 49ers in the last year, including Harbaugh coming in as head coach and Baalke being promoted to general manager. Plus, they’ve added Tom Gamble as Director of Player Personnel and Joel Patten as the Director of College Scouting. Gamble’s worked for the Eagles and Colts, while Patten spent time with the Rams, Texans and Redskins.

Its Harbaugh’s first shot at being in charge of NFL players and Baalke’s first chance to be in charge of the football operations of an NFL team. Both have extensive backgrounds in football, with Harbaugh growing up the son of a football coach. Baalke moved up through the ranks of the personnel side of football operations.

Ownership headed by Jed York gets involved, but that’s only in the early stages, when setting things like priorities and budgets.

Who has the draft room juice? We’ve yet to see how this marriage will work, but its doubtful Harbaugh made the jump to the NFL without having a major say in who is on his team and who isn’t.


1. Quarterback – Only one quarterback is under contract for next season. Obviously there’s help needed. The Smith Brothers can still be had, in Alex Smith and Troy Smith, but both have proved wanting in the past, as recently as last season. Harbaugh needs his Oliver Luck, his QB at Stanford, and the only man who fills that look would be Mizzou’s Blaine Gabbert. It seems the perfect place for Harbaugh to start building his Niners.

2. Cornerback. San Francisco’s defense against the pass left something to be desired, as they gave up 231 yards a game and 25 TD passes. Starters Nate Clements and Shawntae Spencer are solid players. But Clements has never played to the huge contract he signed four years ago. Reportedly, he’ll be asked to take a cut in pay and if he refuses, he’ll be on the street. It’s a position of need for San Francisco.

3. Running back. It’s time to provide some help for Frank Gore, who is coming off a hip injury that ended his season early. Gore has been hurt in each of the last four years, plus the coming season is the last on his contract. Veteran UFA Brian Westbrook likely will not return and rookie Anthony Dixon had his moments, but proved to be too inconsistent. It’s time to find the future.


The 49ers have not done a horrible job of drafting over the last five years. They have had some notable busts that displayed a lack of understanding about who they were selecting in the drafts. Picks like ’08 first-rounder DT Kentwan Balmer, who was traded last year to Seattle for a sixth-round pick.

And, there’s RB Glenn Coffee taken in the ’09 Draft with a third-round choice, who is out of the game, retiring for personal reasons.

The Niners have spent money on free agency over the years, with players like Justin Smith, Takeo Spikes and Clements. But two out of every three starters was acquired through the draft.

2006: They got three starters out of this group, with TE Davis and OLB Lawson leading the group. They also hit on a fifth-rounder.

2007: Three starters from this class, topped by LB Willis and LT Staley. They also found FS Dashon Goldson in the fourth round.

2008: The Niners missed badly on first-round DT Balmer, but they got a pair of starters in G Chilo Rachal and WR Josh Morgan.

2009: WR Crabtree is the only player of note from this draft class.

2010: All 8 draft choices are still on the active roster and two made the starters group by the end of last season – RT Davis and LG Iupati.


The best defensive players are off the board – DT Marcell Dareus, LB Von Miller, DE Da’Quan Bowers and CB Patrick Peterson at this point, along with QB Cam Newton and WR A.J. Green. That leaves QB Blaine Gabbert available to the 49ers. They may also consider Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara.  I think they’ll go for Gabbert.

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