Writer Dan Brown -- not the author of "The Da Vinci Code", but the author of the even more riveting San Jose Mercury News' 49ers Hot Read blog -- caught a critical tidbit this week on that very blog. An NFL Network analyst had remarked on air that he felt the 49ers would use their #10 overall pick on a wide receiver or a pass rusher. And this NFL Network analyst's opinion matters, because this NFL Network analyst has exclusive access to Coach Singletary and Scot McLoughan.
The analyst in question is one Brian "Baldie" Baldinger, the NFL Network's "49ers War Room" correspondent. He's the only reporter who will be given access to the 49ers' draft room during Saturday's NFL Draft proceedings. In comments still available at NFL.com, Baldinger offered his opinion that the 49ers would use their top pick on either a wide receiver or a pass-rushing defensive lineman. "I think they need a certifiable playmaker on offense, probably a wide receiver," Baldinger says. He continues, "I also think they need a playmaker on defense an outside pass rusher. Manny Lawson has not been that guy. They thought he would be."
It's troubling that the 49ers still need pass rush help, given that they've spent their previous three number one picks on Manny Lawson, Patrick Willis, and Kentwan Balmer. But Baldinger's sentiment is echoed by the estimable Clark Judge at CBSSports.com, who writes, "(Justin) Smith was good, but he needs help that wasn't there... Somebody please find this club another pass-rushing defensive end. "
They're out there, alright. Mel Kiper, Jr.'s latest mock draft has the 49ers grabbing one in Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin. Maybin, a first-team All-American and All-Big Ten player, is what Kiper refers to as "a speed guy." I'll never stop giggling whenever Kiper says that.
Also high on San Francisco's pass-rush wish list is Texas Longhor Brian Orakpo. Orakpo figures to be available at the Niners' #10 slot, and was the winner of the 2008 Lomabardi award for the nation's top lineman or linebacker. His 11.5 sacks in the 2008 season earned him the nickname "O-sack-po".
Don't worry, Brain. We can work on a snappier nickname for you if you play for the 49ers.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who also giggles whenever Mel Kiper, Jr. says a player is "a penetrator with outstanding size."