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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 22, 2010

NFL draft: 49ers should go big and boring in draft

By Tim Kawakami
San Jose Mercury News

Message for Jed York, Trent Baalke, Mike Singletary or whoever will be making the calls in the 49ers' draft room on Thursday night:

You have been quite the excitement-packed franchise for the last few weeks, so maybe this would be a good time to get a little boring.

Go for stability, strength and a long-term foundation. Veer away from the front-office, roster-shaking drama.

And draft the best two offensive linemen you can possibly get with your first-round picks, 13th and 17th overall. That might be boring but also could pay off with the richest dividends.

Yes, sometimes boring is good.

For the sake of argument, let's say that talented but raw Rutgers tackle Anthony Davis will be there at 13 and versatile Idaho guard Mike Iupati at 17.

That's a fairly successful draft already, right there, and the 49ers would still have five rounds left to go.

(The 49ers could select Florida cornerback Joe Haden at either first-round slot, and I would not argue with that. But for now let's go with the offensive line theme.)

Now, far be it from me to ignore the intriguing prospect of the 49ers going hard after Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, either with their No. 13 pick or by trying to move up to get him.

If they love the guy, and I believe they do, then Jed & Co. should investigate every possibility of landing a potential Pro Bowl quarterback.

But it doesn't look to me that Clausen will slip past Seattle at No. 6 or at the latest, Buffalo at No. 9. And I don't think the 49ers have the inclination to pay the guaranteed $28 million or more for a quarterback selected in the top eight, if they trade up.

In that case, there are still plenty of non-OL options for the 49ers, though none seems quite to fit this Singletary moment.

Clemson tailback C.J. Spiller was the most exciting player in college last year, but he's a scatback, and Singletary wants a power runner (such as Stanford's Toby Gerhart, maybe in the second round).

Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant is a dominant talent, but the 49ers are already paying huge money to Michael Crabtree. So it's unlikely they would load up with another young wideout.

And Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams, Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson and Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle all could add layers of talent to the 49ers' defensive fortifications.

But none addresses the 49ers' biggest hole, which is on the offensive line, where the need is multiple, not singular.

On that point, let's travel back to 2006, when the New York Jets had the fourth and 29th picks in the first round, with temptations to use those selections in many exotic ways.

What did they do? They took tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold and sneaked tailback Leon Washington in the sixth round.

A few years later, after a few more drafts, they have the best offensive line in football, and they're coming off an appearance in the AFC title game.

By the way, the Jets are also a model for the Clausen Scenario, since they moved up in the draft last year to snag USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and paid him huge money. That turned out all right, too.

But without that offensive line and power-running attack the quarterback wouldn't matter much.

Which brings us back to the 49ers, Alex Smith and their chance to plug in Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati.

Davis needs coaching new hire Ray Brown seems like a perfect mentor candidate but Davis can play either right or left tackle, with Joe Staley manning the other bookend. And Iupati probably can fill either guard spot.

The 49ers might be able to get Gerhart on Day 2 with their 49th pick. They can examine the cornerback and inside linebacker inventory in the third round.

They can take a look at a quarterback of the future Cincinnati's Tony Pike? with a fourth-rounder.

But the best way to start it all off on Thursday would be to go big and boring, and hold off on the drama just a bit. Unless Clausen is there, of course. Then let all hell break loose.