Looking at 49ers’ options at outside linebacker

Finding a pass-rusher might be the 49ers’ biggest need heading into the draft. In the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme, the pass rush is expected to come from the outside linebackers.

Parys Haralson did a good job last season, recording a team-leading eight sacks. However, he is entering the final year of his contract. On the other side, the 49ers want to see if Manny Lawson can do the job. He has 5.5 sacks in 34 career games, and has been standing on the sideline in pass-rush situations.


Although the 49ers need to draft an outside linebacker, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will address that position with the No. 10 overall pick. This is a deep draft at that position, and it’s not as if the guys at the top of the class are flawless.


As reported yesterday, Penn State‘s Aaron Maybin is scheduled to visit the 49ers this week. He is scheduled to arrive today and complete his visit Friday morning.


(Mississippi tackle Michael Oher and Texas A&M running back Mike Goodson have similarly scheduled visits with the 49ers. Ball State quarterback Nate Davis, USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and Alabama tackle Andre Smith were scheduled to complete their visits today.)


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Maybin, Florida State’s Everette Brown and Texas‘ Brian Orakpo are generally considered the top candidates to fill that role of pass-rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Each of them emerged from relative obscurity to post big numbers in 2008.


Maybin (6-4, 249) played just two seasons at Penn State. He followed up a four-sack season in ’07 with 12 sacks last year. Orakpo had 11.5 sacks last year after recording 5.5 sacks in 2007. And Brown improved from 6.5 sacks in 2007 to 13.5 in ’08.


None of these guys is considered a “can’t-miss” prospect.


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Now, we turn to draft expert Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com to break down these players:


“I don’t like Maybin. He scares the hell out of me. He’s got some burst to him. The kid gained 30 pounds between the end of the bowl game and the combine. When I look at him, he looks like a physically young kid that has a lot of growing. He had just one big year and came out.


“Orakpo is almost like a finished product already. He’s so bulked up . . . I don’t know what he can do to become much better. He’s not really explosive off the snap as a defensive end. And in linebacker drills I’ve heard he was OK, but not great. If you liked him before, you still like him. He’s big, strong guy. When he closes, he closes with a thump. You have to use him strictly as a pass-rusher. If you drop him into coverage, he’s going to get beat because he’s just not quick enough.


“Everette Brown is the one I’m the highest on. When I watch Everette Brown, he’s the most explosive off the snap and he uses his hands better than anybody else in the draft. He’s quicker. He slaps hands away and uses swim moves and rip moves and the whole thing. For being a kid as young as he is, he’s pretty refined that way. But he’s also a little under 6-2, and that’s significant as well. When I watch him I think he has the most talent of the bunch, but there’s no denying he’s short.”


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Q: What about from the second round on, who might the 49ers consider?

Rang: “This is one of the strengths of this draft. There are a lot of guys there. That’s why I don’t think a team like the 49ers have to reach in that top 10 for a guy. There are a lot of guys there for them.


“Cody Brown of Connecticut is getting a lot of attention in the third or maybe fourth round. If you want to go up a round, probably Clint Sintim of Virginia. He played on one of the very few teams that run a 3-4 defense in college. He was coached by Al Groh, so he’s going to come in and be more pro-ready than a lot of guys. So he makes some sense.


“Zack Follett from Cal makes sense, probably in that fourth, maybe fifth. He’s a good football player. He comes off the edge hard and his very physical.”


Q: But is Follett is pass-rusher?

Rang: “He’s not bad. He’s not as big as some of the other guys. I think you can get him at a point where the value is good enough in the fourth or fifth round. He is pretty good off the edge. He’s not an elite athlete like some of the other guys, but he knows how to use his hands and he can adjust in space a little bit. He’s going to be more of a guy who can come in and compete early on and max out and you’re not going to get a lot out of him long term. Whereas if you have a guy like Cody Brown, he’s more of a defensive end. He’s a better athlete. Two years down the road, he’ll pass Follett. But the first two years, Follett will probably be a better player.”


Q: Which other guys do you like?

Rang: “Larry English from Northern Illinois. Now, he’d be second round. He’s not going to get all the way to the third. If somehow Clay Matthews is still available, he would make some sense. I think he’ll go late first. But he could slide to that point (No. 43 overall). . . . Maybe Lawrence Sidbury from Richmond. There’s a lot of these kinds of guys that people, as far as the ‘tweener types, including Paul Kruger from Utah.”


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From piecing together information from various sources, here is a list of the players who visited, or is scheduled to visit, the 49ers (day is when the player was scheduled to leave, as best as I could figure):


Monday: WR Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech), LB Rey Maualuga (USC), RB Arian Foster (Tennessee).

Tuesday: DL B.J. Raji (Boston College), QB Josh Freeman (Purdue). 

Wednesday: RB Kory Sheets (Purdue),

Thursday: QB Mark Sanchez (USC), OT Andre Smith (Alabama), QB Nate Davis (Ball State).

Friday: OT Michael Oher (Mississippi), LB Aaron Maybin (Penn State), RB Mike Goodson (Texas A&M).


Those are the only known visits at this time. In addition, all the local players with local ties will have a chance to work out for the 49ers at the team’s Santa Clara complex on Friday, April 17.


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The NFL will announce the 2009 regular-season schedule on Tuesday at 4 p.m. (PT). We’ll bring you all the information at that time. Just a reminder, the 49ers already know their opponents, they just don’t know the dates and times:


Home: Falcons, Lions, Bears, Jaguars, Titans, Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks.

Away: Vikings, Packers, Eagles, Colts, Texans, Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks.


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