49ers' defensive draft needs

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49ers' defensive draft needs

With the 49ers able to bring back nearly their entire defense from a year ago, there figure to be no starting positions up for grabs this season.Still, the 49ers do have some depth concerns on defense that the organization will seek to address throughout the draft, which runs April 26, 27 and 28:Defensive line
Who's here: LE Ray McDonald, NT Isaac Sopoaga, RE Justin Smith, Ricky Jean Francois, Demarcus Dobbs, Will Tukuafu, Ian Williams.
Draft needs: Smith played 91 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps, while McDonald was on the field 83.5 percent of the time. Jean Francois is the only backup lineman who saw significant action behind Sopoaga. With more quality depth, the 49ers would be able to create a regular rotation with their defensive front and keep Smith and McDonald fresh. The 49ers will be on the lookout for quality depth and potential future starters on the defensive line from the first round on.Linebackers
Who's here: OLB Ahmad Brooks, ILB Patrick Willis, ILB NaVorro Bowman, OLB Aldon Smith, OLB Parys Haralson, ILB Larry Grant, ILB Tavares Gooden, ILB Michael Wilhoite.
Draft needs: The 49ers carried only three outside linebackers on their 53-man roster last season. The lucked out a year ago. Depth was not needed a year ago, as everyone remained healthy. They would like to add an insurance policy at outside linebacker. Not a lot of help is needed at inside linebacker with Grant's return. He did not get an offer as a restricted free agent to start elsewhere, so he is back with the 49ers as their top inside linebacker backup for another season. But the 49ers will likely keep their eyes peeled for a player who also has special-teams value in the mid to late rounds.

Defensive backs
Who's here: CB Carlos Rogers, CB Tarell Brown, S Dashon Goldson, S Donte Whitner, CB Chris Culliver, CB Tramaine Brock, S C.J. Spillman, CB Perrish Cox, CB Curtis Holcomb, CB Cory Nelms, S Mark LeGree.
Draft needs: With the departures of reserve safeties Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams, the 49ers must add a young player to compete with Spillman for the top backup spot behind starters Goldson and Whitner. Also, the 49ers would like to create more competition for the cornerback jobs. The 49ers kept five cornerbacks last season. Shawntae Spencer was released, so there is an open spot for a newcomer to compete with Brock, Cox and Holcomb for roles behind Rogers, Brown and Culliver. And if the 49ers take a cornerback with the No. 30 overall pick not an unlikely scenario -- suddenly there becomes more competition for the top three spots, too.Specialists
Who's here: K David Akers, P Andy Lee, LS Brian Jennings, LS Ryan Pontbriand, LS Kyle Nelson.
Draft needs: Akers, Lee and Jennings all deservedly made the NFC Pro Bowl team last season. There's no reason to waste a draft pick on any of those positions. Where the 49ers could use some help is in the return game. They need another reliable decision-maker for punt returns behind Ted Ginn, so the 49ers could add a player who has return skills at some point in the middle of the draft.Projected starters in italics

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

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Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

There is no shortage of blame to go around for the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse in Super Bowl 51.

The Falcons built a 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter and let it slip away, ultimately falling to the New England Patriots, 34-28, in overtime.

Matt Ryan voiced one previously undisclosed factor in the collapse this week in an interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, pointing the finger at the new coach of the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan has been the focus of a lot of the blame, but critique from the league MVP was a new one.

The Falcons quarterback faulted his former offensive coordinator for taking too much time to relay the play calls. Ryan said he did not have enough time to change any of the plays – presumably checking out of called pass plays to run the ball.

Here’s what Ryan told Prisco:

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in. As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

The 49ers can point to mismanagement of the clock for their own Super Bowl heartbreak. The 49ers’ offense had the perfect play call at the perfect time against the Baltimore Ravens late in Super Bowl XLVII.

But with the play clock striking :00, coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to call a timeout from the sideline. A split-second later, the ball was snapped and it appeared the quarterback run would have easily ended up with Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.

Much like after the 49ers’ loss, the Falcons left plenty of room for second-guessing.

Two of Shanahan’s plays calls, which directly led to the collapse, will forever be scrutinized.

The first came with 8:31 remaining in regulation and the Falcons holding a 28-12 lead. On third and 1 from the Atlanta 36, Shanahan did not remain conservative with an expected run play. He swung for the fence.

Receiver Aldrick Robinson, whom the 49ers added this offseason as a free-agent pickup, was breaking free past the Patriots secondary for what could have been a touchdown. But just as Ryan was unloading, New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower hit him and forced the fumble. Running back Devonta Freeman whiffed on blitz pickup, which would have provided Ryan with enough time to target Robinson deep.

Ryan’s explanation does not appear applicable on this play, though. In watching the replay, the Falcons broke the huddle with more than 25 seconds remaining on the play clock and the snap occurred with :15 to spare.

The other questionable sequence came after the Falcons – leading by eight points -- got to the New England 22-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Falcons lost 1 yard on a run play on first down.

On second down, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Before that play, the Falcons broke the huddle with :19 on the play clock. The snap occurred with :04 remaining. The game clock was running, so the Falcons had reason to attempt to burn as much clock as possible.

In the fourth quarter, the Falcons never seemed rushed to get off a play. The closest they came to delay-of-game penalties were when they snapped the ball with :04 on the one play and :03 another time. The majority of their snaps occurred with :10 or more seconds to spare.

If the Falcons were guilty of anything when it came to the play clock, it was that the offense did not waste more time. After New England pulled to within 28-9 late in the third quarter, the Falcons ran only six offensive plays while the game clock was running.

On those six plays, the Falcons snapped the ball with :13, :09, :14, :20, :13 and :04 remaining on the play clock. If they’d snapped the ball with one second remaining each time, they could have shortened the game by 1 minute, 7 seconds. The Patriots scored the game-tying touchdown with :57 remaining in regulation.

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Until now, Kyle Shanahan’s hiring by the San Fracisco 49ers looked great because of his two-and-a-half predecessors – the last days of Jim Harbaugh, the misplaced concept of Jim Tomsula and the couldn’t-make-chicken-marsala-out-of-old-Kleenex problems surrounding Chip Kelly.

But now, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has told us all that Shanahan has a gift we in the Bay Area know all too well. Specifically, that Shanahan took too long to call plays to the Super Bowl the Falcons vomited up to the New England Patriots.

Now who does that remind you of, over and over again?

Yes, some things are evergreen, and too many options in this overly technological age seems to be one of them. Data in is helpful, but command going out is what bells the cow. Ryan said Shanahan was, well, almost Harbaugh-tastic in his timing.

“Kyle’s play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in,” Ryan told Bleacher Report. “As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you’re talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, ‘There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.’ You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

“With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You’re not being aggressive not running it there.”

And the reason this matters is because the Atlanta Shanahan had multiple good options on every play. In San Francsco, at least in the short term, he’ll be dealing with minimal options. That could speed up his choices, as in “What the hell, we don’t have Julio Jones.” But it could also mean more delays, as in, “Okay, him . . . no, maybe not . . . no, he just screwed up that play last series . . . oh, damn it, time out!”

In short, it’s growing pains season here, children. On the field, on the sidelines, and maybe even in Kyle Shanahan’s head.