Philosophically speaking, the Niners are a difficult team to figure out in terms of picking their groceries. There probably isn’t a more loaded team in the NFL. Last season, their rookies couldn’t get on the field, as they had by far the lowest number of rookie snaps in the NFL:
This year, the 49ers have a staggering 14 draft picks. The Niners own picks 31, 34, 61, 74, 93, 128, 131, 157, 164, 180, 227, 237, 246, and 252. What do you do if you’re the Niners?
- Do you package a handful of picks to move up for that “splash player” who you think can get you over the hump?
- Or do you just draft a lot of players who can begin to form that “next nucleus” to carry your team 5 years from now, while trying to occasionally trade picks this year for additional picks in 2014?
I would lean toward “Option 2,” but that’s just me.
If the Niners do stand pat, they’re going to get a good player anyway, and they land Alabama NT Jesse Williams at 31. Williams ran a freaking 4.91 at 323 pounds at the Combine, so he’s not your typical NT, as he’s athletic enough to play other spots along the line (he played end at Alabama in 2011).
The drawback to drafting a NT in the 1st round is the question of how many snaps you’ll get out of him. For example, last season, the 49ers only put NT Isaac Sopoaga on the field for 395 snaps, per PFF. And further complicating things, if you want to get Williams on the field in non-base defense situations, you’re already loaded at the other DL spots with Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Glenn Dorsey, and Ian Williams.
I see that as somewhat of an awesome problem to have. The Niners’ roster is so loaded that pretty much anybody they draft, aside from a position here or there, is going to find himself in a logjam. In the short term, Williams can focus on being a base defense NT, with his role expanding as the Niners vets age and/or move on.
With another pick right around the corner at 34 and Matt Elam and Eric Reid still on the board, the Niners can grab Williams here, and fill their most glaring need (safety) in 3 picks.