The San Francisco 49ers had a great draft in 2011 and got big performances all season out of their rookies. Another strong draft in 2012 could position San Francisco to make a run towards the Super Bowl once again. Listed below are the five biggest needs the team needs to address in the draft this year.
Even after signing Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, the team still needs to add youth at the receiver position. Michael Crabtree is the best option returning at the position, but he is far from a number one receiver. San Francisco needs a game changer at wide receiver that can stretch the field and beat man coverage. With the recent free agent signings, this would give a rookie less pressure to produce right away and gradually get comfortable in the NFL game.
Interior Offensive Line
Mike Iupati is a talented young player but the other starters are not getting any younger. This is an area where San Francisco could bring in a player or two to develop and provide protection for Alex Smith going forward. They could use young players are both guard and center.
With the league focusing more and more on explosive passing attacks, San Francisco needs to bolster their secondary. The return of Carlos Rogers is nice but he will be 31 years old when the season starts. Tarell Brown, Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver are all average corners, but this is still an area the team can upgrade. NFL teams can never have enough depth in the secondary.
Another area where the current starters are good proven players, but depth is needed. Justin Smith and Isaac Sopoaga are very good players but are only getting older. These are also great veterans that can mentor young replacements. The defensive line set San Francisco apart in 2011 and is a position they should look to add a talented young player to the mix.
Yes, San Francisco already has four outstanding starters at linebacker. This would be an opportunity to draft for depth at the position. Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, and Ahmad Brooks are firmly entrenched as the starters. There isn't much depth behind them though. Drafting another rush linebacker and inside linebacker would be a great move for San Francisco.
Kyle Rapoza is a Featured Contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and grew up in Northern California rooting for the 49ers teams led by Joe Montana and Steve Young. Follow him on Twitter @kyler11.
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- Mario Manningham