Weakness in ’09 will determine how 49ers spend first-round picks

The 49ers have two first-round picks in the 2010 draft, and they would be wise to assess their needs this season before deciding the best way to use those selections.

The 49ers will have five games before the trade deadline on Oct. 20. I can’t recall the 49ers ever adding a significant player at the deadline. In fact, those kinds of deals are very rare in the NFL.


This is not baseball where a player’s skill set easily translates from one team to the next. Players are generally not able to adapt quickly from one team to another in football. That is why there is such a high rate of failure among football’s high-priced free agents.


It’s also why the most effective way of building a roster is through the draft – not free agency or trades.


Question: Any indication that the Niners might look to make a pre-week 6 trade? Is there any benefit to waiting until the season starts to negotiate such a trade? Will we just wait it out until next year’s draft? (Ted B.)


My response: The 49ers have two first-round picks for the 2010 draft, and they must use that ammunition to fill their biggest need(s). The 49ers traded their second-round pick to the Panthers in April for their first-round selection in 2010 for three reasons:


–They had their second-round sights set on linebacker Rey Maualuga or a cornerback, most likely Darius Butler, with the No. 43 overall pick. When both of those players had already been chosen, the 49ers would’ve selected offensive lineman Max Unger of Oregon. The 49ers felt the better value was to obtain another first-round pick in 2010.


–The 49ers looked at the Panthers’ 2009 schedule and were struck by its on-paper difficulty. After all, the Panthers have road games against the Falcons, Cowboys, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Saints, Patriots and Giants. It’ll be extremely difficult for the Panthers to come close to matching their 12-4 record of 2008. Niners fans will be rooting against the Panthers this season.


–The organization felt the trade was the best way of getting into an ideal position for next year, just in case they become in the market for a quarterback again. This season will give the 49ers a firm idea of where they stand at quarterback. Coach Mike Singletary says he’s happy to have Shaun Hill and Alex Smith competing for the starting job. That competition should be decided after the second exhibition game – if not sooner. But the 49ers were prepared to pay Kurt Warner in the neighborhood of $15 million a year to leave the Cardinals, so that tells you that the organization has its doubts about Hill and Smith.


If the 49ers deem after this season that neither Hill nor Smith is capable of taking the 49ers to a championship, they should have plenty of options in next year’s draft. The 49ers could use their first pick on a QB or package their two picks to move up higher to get the quarterback they’ve pinpointed.


And the 2010 draft is shaping up as potentially a good year to select a QB. Among those who could be first-round picks in 2010 are seniors Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow, and underclassmen Sam Bradford, Jevan Snead and Jimmy Clausen.


(Quick word on Tebow: He might be the greatest college football player I’ve ever seen, but I remain unconvinced about his pro potential. Watch him this season. I suspect he has been working hard to prove he can make all the NFL throws.)


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