Sanchez to 49ers? Niners will be watching USC pro day

The board is wide open for the 49ers with the No. 10 overall pick. The 49ers are likely to choose whomever they deem to be the best player on the board after the first nine selections are made. And it should not matter which position he plays.

Unfortunately, the 49ers have not let me stare at their draft board and scribble notes of their rankings, so I really have little idea what they’re thinking (other than what some agents have told me and some other tidbits I gleaned at the combine last month).

 

There is a lot of mock drafts that match the 49ers with USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. These mock drafts are generally done by people who try to fill a need at a team’s perceived weakness. And it’s clear that people across the country feel the 49ers have a need at quarterback.

 

They’re not that far off the mark in one sense: If the 49ers felt secure at QB, why did they aggressively go after Kurt Warner when Warner had made it abundantly clear he wanted to remain with the Cardinals?

 

I’ve been of the belief all along the 49ers would probably not choose a quarterback with the No. 10 overall pick. My opinion has been based on the 49ers’ situation, whom is likely to be available, and comments from Mike Singletary and Scot McCloughan. But things can definitely change.

 

McCloughan is scheduled to attend USC’s pro day on Wednesday. He will get a chance to see Sanchez up close. Does Sanchez have a chance to make an impact on the 49ers’ “trigger man”? Sure. But the 49ers are also at the mercy of the nine teams choosing ahead of them. If Sanchez “wows” the scouts, coaches and GMs, he might be gone when it’s the 49ers’ turn to pick.

 

I don’t think I’d be shocked if the 49ers chose a quarterback at No. 10 – only mildly surprised. But the 49ers do have reason to have questions about their top two quarterbacks. Alex Smith is coming off two shoulder injuries and he has not played a healthy game for nearly two full seasons. Shaun Hill has done an outstanding job when given the chance, but there are plenty who believe he lacks the physical tools to make the adjustments over a full season.

 

Still, I’m just not sure any quarterback the 49ers might be able to pick at No. 10 would give the 49ers immediate help. It’s doubtful you’re going to see another successful first-year-QB story along the lines of Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco in this draft.

 

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By the way, the worst rumor I’ve heard is that the 49ers have taken Matthew Stafford off their draft board. The whole thing about the team psychologist interviewing Stafford at the combine is simply not a big deal. I think Stafford tried to crack a joke about the situation in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated, and the quote has taken on a life of its own.

 

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Anyway, here are the latest quotes from Singletary concerning the 49ers’ situation and the possibility of drafting a quarterback. Singletary made these comments last week at the NFL owners’ meetings:

 

Q: Is quarterback an open competition or is it something you’ll address in the draft?

Singletary: “Anything can happen on draft day. We’re still evaluating and looking for the best athlete available. The quarterback position, we’re very thankful to have Shaun Hill and Alex Smith competing for the No. 1 spot. I feel very good about what they’re doing.”

 

Q: When you look at this draft, what positions fit with what you’re looking for?

Singletary: “The receiver position is really intriguing. A lot of speed – a lot of depth there, depending on what you’re looking for. You’ve got some tall guys who can fly, some smaller well-built guys – (such as) the kid out of Florida (Percy Harvin). It’s pretty well-stocked.

“Obviously, the quarterback is not as deep. Maybe there’s some guys in a couple of years can work into your system, but that first-year availability, there’s not a whole lot.”

 

Q: When you look at the rookie quarterbacks, such as Mark Sanchez, and you look at what Ryan and Flacco did so well last year, has it changed the mindset of what a rookie QB can do?

Singletary: “It fits more the personality. There are a lot of intangibles that are there. You look at Joe Flacco going to Baltimore. Baltimore‘s system really helped him early on. They’re going to run the football. As they developed the run, then play action. That’s tremendous for a young quarterback coming in.

“The same thing at Atlanta, both those systems had a running game in place. What happened to rookie quarterbacks who have not been as successful, they don’t have a running game, they don’t have an offensive line, they don’t have receivers. What you have is a chaotic situation where the quarterback is going to lose confidence and the fans and the coaching staff are going to get down on him.

“That’s what happens to a lot of guys. Normally, the teams that are going to draft a quarterback, they’re not very good. There’s a reason they’re drafting early.”

 

Q: Sanchez started 16 games at USC. How much of a factor is that?

Singletary: “It works both ways. No. 1, you’re happy the kid hasn’t taken a lot of hits. He’s fresh. But on the other hand, how many games do you need? If a kid has it, he has it. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t. He can play 10 years, if he doesn’t have it, he doesn’t have it.

“The quarterback position is such an interesting position. Mark Sanchez, the position is such an interesting position. It’s more about confidence and accuracy. Is he going to a team that has an effective running game that can help him? They don’t have to put the game on his shoulders so he doesn’t have to start right away. I just think it comes down to the team the kid goes to.”

 

Q: Sanchez played in pro-style offense, how much difference does that make?

Singletary: “The guy who plays in a pro-style offense has a slight advantage coming into the pro game given the fact the team he’s going to does the same thing. But I think that guy who plays in that pro-style offense has a slight advantage because he’s seen it from the same steps and the line of scrimmage and there’s a comfort level. Where if you came in as a shotgun quarterback your reads are different — just 1 or 2 yards make a tremendous difference for a quarterback, I get a chance to see my reads and my mismatches early. Not only are you not just playing zone, but the safeties do a better job of disguising.”

 

Q: Alex Smith has gone through the wringer with just about everything that can happen to a quarterback picked No. 1. Where he is?

Singletary: “I’m very excited about Alex for a number of reasons. No. 1, there’s a different look in his eye than when he first came. All of a sudden there’s a chip on his shoulder. There’s a fire in his gut. And he’s ready to prove something.

“He is a confident quarterback. He’s more confident now than he’s ever been. I’m very fortunate that we have (offensive coordinator) Jimmy Raye and (QBs coach) Mike Johnson. They are very detailed on all the little things he has to do to in order to be the best he can be.

“I’m very thankful that he has the competition of Shaun Hill, so they both are an iron-sharpening-iron process with both those guys. I think it’s going to be a very interesting progression from start to finish for both those guys. I’m excited by it.”

 

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I’ll be following anything USC coach Pete Carroll has to say on Twitter tomorrow. Yes, I’ve joined the Twitter team. Please add me to your list. Thank you.

 

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