Leonard Davis eager to prove himself

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Leonard Davis eager to prove himself

SANTA CLARA -- Leonard Davis has started every NFL game he has ever played. That's 155 starts, which includes a stretch of 64 straight games from 2007 and 2010. But what the three-time Pro Bowl guard wants starting with Friday night's preseason game against the Vikings is snaps -- as many as he can get."For me right now, as much as possible," Davis said. "I got to get out and play and get comfortable, and right now, it's not like I've been here, been around and know the system. . . . For me to go and play this preseason that is going to mean a lot for me."Davis signed a one-year deal with the 49ers the day veteran players reported for training camp. He has been cramming to learn the offense in the 15 days since."It was tough at first. We were doing a lot of installation, and what was crazy was we had to do an install and then I'd have to kind of learn everything from that day, and then the next day we're doing more, so it was kind of piling up. I was getting a little frustrated a bit at first," Davis explained. "I've ran all the same plays, but it's just a lot of nuances and how we go about executing plays. But from where I was from when I first got here to where I am now it's a big difference. I'm more comfortable with it now."Up until the 2011 season, Davis had never started fewer than 14 games a season, including all 16 regular-season games his rookie year in 2001. It is not hard to understand why. Head coach Jim Harbaugh described the 6-feet-6, 355-pound Davis as "probably the largest man I've ever stood toe-to-toe and knee-to-knee with in my entire life." He dominates with his size and strength. But his drive to keep learning and improving while he competes with Alex Boone to be the starting right guard, has impressed his quarterback."There are many guys that have played as long as he has that have a lot of egos especially when it comes to preseason," Alex Smith said. "A guy that's been the starter, been to Pro Bowls and all of sudden he's not in that role anymore. It's hard for them to handle that. He's a guy I really feel like checks his ego and just comes to work every single day no matter what's asked of him. . . . Whatever it is, he's willing and wants to get the reps and take advantage of it.""My thing was knowing the offense and getting as comfortable with it as possible," Davis said, "And also, while doing that, striving to work on technique and being conscious of what I'm actually doing and how I go about executing assignments."The only down year of Davis' career came last season. After starting 16 regular season games and one playoff game for the Cowboys in 2010, Dallas released him before the start of their 2011 training camp. The move reportedly saved the team 9.5 million in cap space. The Lions signed Davis halfway through the season but never activated him for a game. When a player with as much game experience as Davis misses an entire season, questions begin to arise over his future production. He worked during the offseason to provide answers.Davis is currently 20 pounds lighter than he has ever been in his career. He also underwent offseason foot surgery from which he is now completely healed. Physically, Davis feels good. He has no problems other than the usual nicks from practice. He is ready to prove himself, ready to be a starter again and ready for the usual nicks that come from taking snaps in a game. As many as he can get.

First round complete: Re-ranking 49ers' top 2017 draft needs

First round complete: Re-ranking 49ers' top 2017 draft needs

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers begin Day 2 of the NFL Draft without a second-round draft pick.

The team’s second-round selection turned into a first-rounder late Thursday evening.

General manager John Lynch packaged the 49ers’ second-round pick at No. 34 and a fourth-round pick acquired earlier in the day to move up to No. 31 for Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.

The 49ers are scheduled to have back-to-back picks early in the third round at Nos. 66 and 67 on Friday.

Here’s a look at the 49ers remaining top needs:

Defensive back
During the 49ers’ voluntary minicamp, Jimmie Ward was at free safety with Eric Reid at strong safety. Jaquiski Tartt is next in line.

The 49ers parted ways with a projected starting conerback Tramaine Brock after his arrest for an alleged domestic incident. The 49ers’ first-team cornerbacks are currently Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. Will Redmond and K’Waun Williams worked in at nickel back.

Ward’s versatility makes it possible the 49ers could go with either a cornerback or safety. There is some young talent already on the roster at cornerback, but most of it is completely unproven at this level. All things being equal, it would seem the 49ers’ next pick would be a defensive back.

Quarterback
Write it in ink: Brian Hoyer will be the 49ers’ starting quarterback in 2017.

The 49ers have two quarterbacks under contract – Hoyer and Matt Barkley – and they are certain to add a quarterback at some point. But regardless of whom they add at this point, Hoyer will be the starter. The top quarterbacks still available are Davis Webb (Cal) and DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame).

Two players to watch are Nathan Peterman (Pittsburgh) and Brad Kaaya (Miami), who come from pro-style offenses. Both could still be available when the 49ers go on the clock in the third round.

Running back
Oft-injured Carlos Hyde is entering the final year of his contract, and he has something to prove to the new coaching staff. Veteran Tim Hightower is the only other proven NFL back on the roster.

There will be plenty of solid options at running back in the final two days of the draft.

Coach Kyle Shanahan has a knack for identifying unique traits in running backs and scheming his offense to put those players in advantageous spots to make plays on third downs.

Supply is greater than demand at running back in the draft, so Shanahan is certain to identify someone capable of making an impact in a specific role.

Wide receiver
The 49ers parted ways with Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton, while adding Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson. Big-bodied receiver Eric Rogers, who dominated in the CFL, is still rehabbing from a torn ACL sustained last summer.

The 49ers have room on their roster to develop a young receiver who can learn the ins and outs of the professional game from Garçon. It’s part of the reason the 49ers made him their most-lucrative free-agent acquisition.

Edge rusher
Sure, the 49ers already selected a defensive lineman. And while the 49ers believe Solomon Thomas can play the pass-rusher spot in the team’s new defense, his best attribute is his versatility.

Teams can never have too many pure pass-rushers, and the 49ers still have a shortage in that area. They can still use an edge rusher to compete with and push Arik Armstead, Aaron Lynch and Ahmad Brooks to fight in order to hold onto their jobs.

Kicker
The 49ers signed veteran Robbie Gould in the offseason and awarded him a $500,000 signing bonus. Gould, 35, was targeted to replace ultra-reliable Phil Dawson. Gould signed with the Giants in October of last year. He made all 10 field-goal attempts but missed three of his 23 extra-point tries.

It’s not a huge priority, of course, but it remains possible the 49ers add a kicker on Day 3. They could draft someone, such as Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez, or bring Stanford’s Conrad Ukropina to camp to compete as an undrafted rookie.

49ERS 2017 DRAFT PICKS
1. First round, No. 2: DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford
2. First round, No. 31: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama

3. Third round: No. 66 overall
4. Third round: No. 67 overall (from Chicago for No. 2 pick)
5. Fourth round: No. 109 overall
6. Fourth round: No. 143 overall (compensatory)
7. Fifth round: No. 146 overall
8. Fifth round: No. 161 (from Washington in 2015 trade for TE Derek Carrier)
9. Sixth round: No. 198 overall (from Baltimore in trade with C Jeremy Zuttah for No. 186)
10. Sixth round: No. 202 overall (pick acquired from Denver in 2015 trade for TE Vernon Davis)
11. Seventh round: No. 219 overall (pick acquired from Cleveland in 2015 trade for Andy Lee)

49ers: Solomon Thomas capable of playing anywhere on D-line

49ers: Solomon Thomas capable of playing anywhere on D-line

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected defensive linemen with their top picks in the final two drafts under general manager Trent Baalke.

The 49ers fired Baalke at the conclusion of the team’s 2-14 season, and new general manager John Lynch stepped into a tear-down project.

That complete rebuild began Thursday evening with Lynch’s selection of another defensive lineman. The 49ers traded back one spot and selected Solomon Thomas of Stanford with the No. 3 overall pick.

“We see a special football player, disruptive football player, who has tremendous versatility,” Lynch said. “I think he fits in with the current group that we have because he’s a little different than the guys we have. And when I think of Solomon, I think of speed and quickness and disruption.”

The 49ers expect to play more of an aggressive, attacking style of defense under first-year coordinator Robert Saleh. Perhaps, the team’s biggest need is at the “Leo” position, the weak side end that is considered more of a pass-rusher.

Thomas appears better-suited at the other end or at a defensive tackle position, but the 49ers are keeping an open mind about using him at nearly every spot along the defensive line in the team’s new 4-3 scheme.

“There are four defensive linemen and what’s intriguing about Solomon is he has the ability to play all four of them,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s what makes him so unique. That’s why I think John says he’s a little bit different than some of the guys we have, because you can move him around. He has the quickness and speed to play on the outside. He has enough sides to play on the inside, so you don’t want to put him in one spot.

“We don’t think he has to be one specific role. Obviously, he is a defensive lineman, but there’s four spots he can play at and I think that’s going to depend on down and distance, whether we’re expecting run, whether we’re expecting pass and the type of personnel we’re going against.”