Questions About 49ers Pick
by Glenn Dickey
Apr 18, 2005

FOR SOME TIME, Iíve written that the 49ers should take Aaron Rodgers with their first pick. Here are some of the questions Iíve gotten from readers about that, and my responses:

Q: Why not trade down and get more picks?

A: I canít say thatís a bad idea because, among others, Bill Walsh has suggested it, but this is a bad year for trading the No. 1 pick because thereís no clear consensus on the best player, so teams are reluctant to give up much in exchange.

In the last couple of weeks, there have been rumors that Minnesota and Tampa Bay, two teams that have two first-round picks, might trade for the Ninersí pick. The Vikings would like to draft wide receiver Braylon Edwards to replace Randy Moss, who was traded to the Raiders, and they know they can't get him with the No. 7 pick they got from the Raiders. The Bucs run a version of Bill Walshís offense, and coach Jon Gruden would like to get a quarterback to run it.

My feeling is that you should never trade a very high draft pick because you have a chance to get a great athlete there. One great player means more than two good ones.

Q: Speaking of Walsh, why havenít the 49ers asked him to evaluate the quarterbacks in the draft?

A: Walsh told me he couldnít help the Niners because he hasnít been following the situation. In addition, heís divorced himself completely from the 49er operation, though he doesnít say so publicly. Heís very unhappy with their concentration on computer analysis at the expense of having good football people making evaluations, and when he was working as a consultant, neither owner John York nor then general manager Terry Donahue took his advice.

Q: Since they need help at wide receiver, why donít the 49ers use that pick to take Edwards, who has been compared to Terrell Owens in ability, though hopefully, not in temperament.

A: Picking a wide receiver is no sure thing. Ira Miller, the excellent NFL writer for The Chronicle, had a graph in this morningís paper showing that, in the last 15 years, there have been an equal number of quarterbacks and wide receivers taken (21) in the first 10 picks, and the quarterbacks have actually done better. Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb have each been named to five Pro Bowls, for instance, and Drew Bledsoe four, while only Tory Holt and Herman Moore among the receivers have been named four times.

And, the importance of a wide receiver is not as high as a quarterback. A wide receiver is having a great game if he catches 10 passes, but the quarterback is involved in every play.

Q: Since itís risky to draft a quarterback, why not take another player on the first round and pick up a quarterback like Jason Campbell of Auburn on the second round?

A See answer to above question, as to risk.

There is more attention paid to quarterbacks, which is the primary reason for the mistaken belief that it is riskier to draft a quarterback. I think the two biggest reasons quarterbacks fail are (1) They donít get the proper coaching; and (2) Coaches and scouts are overly impressed by a strong arm, while forgetting that decision making and leadership are really more important qualities for a quarterback. Remember Jeff George?

On the first point, itís important that Mike McCarthy, the 49ers new offensive coordinator, has a reputation as being a very good quarterbacks coach. On the second point, Rodgers is the complete quarterback, a highly accurate passer who can make all the throws, and is a good decision maker and a great leader.

Campbell? He reminds me of Kyle Boller, a quarterback with a very strong arm who had one good year. Boller may still make it because heís playing for a coach, Brian Billick, who knows quarterbacks, but I was not high on him when he came out of Cal and I still have my doubts. He has a bazooka of an arm, but heís never been a highly accurate passer and his decision making is questionable.

Q: What about the Jeff Tedford influence? His quarterbacks have often looked better in his system than they have in the NFL.

A: Forty-Niner coach Mike Nolan has discounted that, noting that each of the quarterbacks is a different case. For instance, Nolan noted that there were doubts on Akili Smith at draft time that year, and Smith washed out, apparently because he had little passion for the game. He was a versatile athlete who had once played minor league baseball; perhaps, he should have stayed with that sport. At Houston, David Carr seems ready to blossom.

Tedfordís system emphasizes good decision making and good mechanics. It amuses me that some scouts have labeled Rodgers as ďtoo mechanical,Ē which I assume means he does it the same way every time. Unless a quarterback has the unusual play making ability of a Michael Vick or Steve Young, thatís really what a coach wants.

The 49ers need help in many areas, but it all starts with the quarterback. This is the 49ers chance to make the right choice, and it should be Aaron Rodgers.

NOTE TO READERS: I am going to a 49ers lunch today with Mike Nolan and personnel chief Scot McCloughan, which means, Iíll probably update this later or even do a separate story on their comments, so if youíre reading this in the morning, you should check back in late afternoon.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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