NEEDS RATING KEY
5.0 - High priority. This is a position that is a glaring weakness and there is the likelihood that this team cannot compete next year without making a major addition here.
4.0 - Medium Priority. This is an area that is an obvious weakness, but the team isn't quite desperate to make a major move here possibly because they have some young potential. But this is an area that if the team cannot fix via free agency, will definitely use one of their picks in the first three or four rounds to supplement.
3.0 - Upgrade Potential. This is a position that isn't a weakness per se, but there is significant room for an upgrade. If the right player comes along they will certainly snag him, but if they don't fix this position with a major free agent addition or early round pick, then it's not the end of the world.
2.0 - Depth Need. An area where there is a need to add depth. Perhaps there is an aging veteran and they might want to start to look at grooming his heir apparent or replacement. Not likely to be a high priority and a position that more than likely will be address in the middle and late rounds rather than with a top pick.
1.0 - Future Need. This is an area that is not a priority, and doesn't initially appear as a need. But there is some room to develop some depth for perhaps two or more years down the line. This is usually an area that a team will look at in the late rounds if at all.
0.0 - Non-need. This is a position that is a strength of their team, they have a solid starter, capable depth, and/or a young player at the position that they like and want to develop. Very little possibility this area is addressed and would be the equivalent of a wasted draft pick.
Top 7 Needs
1. QB - 4.0
2. LB - 3.5
3. CB - 3.5
4. OG - 2.5
5. WR - 2.5
6. RB - 2.0
7. S - 2.0
Position by Position Breakdown
Quarterback - Both Troy and Alex Smith are free agents after this year, and both have had their moments. Right now, given the long unproductive history of Alex, you have to think that Troy is the more likelier of the pari to return. But that will be influenced by who is the new head coach and coordinator. Alex is the more traditional dropback passer, while Troy can make plays with his legs. But regardless of who returns, their role will be most likely as a seat warmer, as the new regime will likely want to start fresh with a new passer at the top of the draft. NEED: 4.0
Running Back - Frank Gore is as solid as they come, but his durability has always been a question mark. Brian Westbrook adds value as a third down back, but they need someone that can spell Gore and allow him to stay fresh. And at Westbrook's age, they shouldn't bend over backwards to re-sign him. Anthony Dixon has flashed some tools, but they certainly would be smart to look at other options in free agency or in the middle of the draft. NEED: 2.0
Fullback - Norris is a solid lead blocker that is physical, but the team was also able to get production from Nate Byham in a H-back role. Either way, if they use a more traditional fullback or go to more two tight end looks next year, they should be okay here. NEED: 1.0
Wide Receiver - Crabtree's sophomore season didn't measure up to expectations, but he's still a talented asset to have. Morgan is a decent complement, but he has yet to showcase the sort of skill that suggests he should be more than a No. 3 receiver and backup. Ginn proved his worth as a punt returner, but still is limited on offense. The 49ers would be smart to either begin to groom another starting caliber receiver or to sign a veteran that can upgrade this unit. NEED: 2.5
Tight End - Vernon Davis is solid and is their go-to receiver. Delanie Walker when healthy is a nice hybrid slot/H-back option. And Byham shows potential as a blocker. They are solid here. NEED: 0.5
Offensive Tackle - Joe Staley has flashed top-level skills, but he is still a bit inconsitent. But it's unlikely the team is going to find a significantly better player at this point. Anthony Davis has had his share of struggles, but the team isn't about to give up on him. Snyder and Sims are serviceable reserves, but they could add another guy as an insurance policy in case Davis doesn't make the strides they want next year. NEED: 1.5
Offensive Guard - Iupati got off to a slower start than expected, but has improved enough for the team to think he'll be a fixture for years to come. Rachal hasn't improved much since his rookie year, and as a pet project of Singletary's staff, it's unlikely he'll earn any favors from the new regime. The team could move David Baas there next year, but he might be kept at center. Either way, it'd be a smart move to bring in some insurance to push Rachal at the very least if not outright replace him. NEED: 2.5
Center - Baas has played well as an injury replacement for Eric Heitmann. Both players have the versatility to play both center and guard. Baas is a free agent, but should be brought back for his depth potential alone. But some other team might try and snag him. If that happens, then they should probably look to draft some depth. But if both return next year, the loser can be their utility swing man, while the winner of the battle should help solidify the spot. NEED: 1.0
Defensive Tackle - Franklin is a free agent, and should return. There was some dropoff from last year, but he still is a key factor in Willis' success. Because of the success of core defenders like Franklin, Smith, and Willis, there probably isn't a high probability that their is a scheme switch. But in the event that happens or the loss of Franklin, they will definitely need to find some help here, since the rest of the interior players are backup-level talent. NEED: 1.0
Defensive End - Justin Smith is solid, and if you could combine Ray McDonald and Isaac Sopoaga into one player, they would be solid here. But since they are two separate entities, that leaves room for the possibility that they could still add a player that can provide that starter and allow those two to work as depth. But more than likely, they'll target a mid-rounder to develop down the road. NEED: 2.0
Linebacker - Willis is still a stud. Spikes is solid beside him, but he's a free agent and the new regime will have to decide whether it's worthwhile to bring the 34-year old. Bowman and McKillop are young guys that stand to merit from his departure. But more than likely, they would try and replace him with a veteran insurance policy if Spikes isn't retained. On the outside, Lawson is a free agent. He is a capable starter, but neither he nor Haralson are the caliber of pass rushers that 3-4 teams really need on the outside. It would be a good time to find someone early in the draft or free agency that is. NEED: 3.5
Cornerback - Shawntae Spencer is a bit too hot and cold. Despite a solid 2009 season, he should probably return to being their nickel corner rather than a starter. THey were high on Tarell Brown's future, but he hasn't made much impact this year. They should bring in another corner with No. 1 potential since Clements just turned 31. NEED: 3.5
Safety - Goldson looked promising after last year, but injuries have hurt his progress this year. He's a free agent, but should return. Mays and Reggie Smith are two young safeties with talent worthy of competing for a starting job. They don't need to address this spot in the draft because they are still young, but might want to bring in a veteran to solidify this unit. NEED: 2.0
Kicker - Nedney is the rare kicker that doesn't seem to make it through every season healthy. So they could bring Jeff Reed back for an open competition next year. NEED: 1.5
Punter - Lee has a booming leg and two more years on his contract, so they should be fine here. NEED: 0.0
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.