With the first wave -- and then some -- of free agency concluded, the 49ers are a team with few vacancies on the depth chart.Alex Smith has committed to return, so the 49ers will have the same three quarterbacks that ended last season on the roster.The defense remains entirely intact with the recent moves to re-up cornerback Carlos Rogers and outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks.The only missing starter from a year ago is at right guard. Incumbent Adam Snyder was allowed to walk, as he accepted a five-year contract from the Arizona Cardinals. Daniel Kilgore will compete for the starting job against an opponentteammate to be named later.Perhaps the biggest need is at punt returner. Ted Ginn has taken free-agent visits to Detroit, Baltimore and Minnesota. He is looking for an opportunity to be more than just a "return specialist." And, obviously, the 49ers can't feel too secure with Kyle Williams handling the return duties.
There aren't many (or any) options available in free agency, so the 49ers might wait until the last weekend in April to find their return man in the draft."There are a handful of those players who can step in immediately and return punts in the NFL," said Wes Bunting of the National Football Post.Here's are a look at the top candidates:
Pos: Wide receiver School: Arkansas Height: 5-10 58
Weight: 179 Speed: 4.51-4.59 Vertical: 36 inches
The 49ers can't wait any longer than the second round to select Adams, who is the best return man in the draft."He is the cream of the crop," Bunting said. "He's a good wide receiver -- a better receiver than Ted Ginn, so he'd play right away on offense, too. He could play in the slot. The 49ers could use him like the Eagles use DeSean Jackson -- line him up off the line of scrimmage and run those deep crossing routes. He can play outside, as well."He averaged 16.9 yards on his 19 returns with four touchdowns. His touchdown return against Tennessee was an all-timer (check it out on YouTube).KESHAWN MARTIN
Pos: Wide receiver School: Michigan State Height: 5-11 12
Weight: 188 Speed: 4.42-4.44 Vertical: 39 12 inches
Martin, whom Bunting describes as a "poor man's Joe Adams," could be available to the 49ers in the third or fourth rounds. He also has value as a receiver, as he caught 66 passes for 777 yards and four touchdowns as a senior. Martin averaged 11.0 yards on 25 returns last season with one touchdown.
Pos: Wide receiver School: Fresno State Height: 5-9 12
Weight: 187 Speed: 4.38-4.42 Vertical: 39 inches
Like Martin, he could be a third- or fourth-round target. Wylie caught 56 passes for 716 yards and one touchdown as a fifth-year senior. (He sat out 2010 with a stress fracture in his foot.) Prototypical slot receiver: Very fast, accelerates quickly. Wylie averaged 15.4 yards on 29 returns with two touchdowns last season.
Pos: Wide receiver School: Miami Height: 5-9 78
Weight: 172 Speed: 4.31-4.37 Vertical: 38 inches
As a late-round option, Benjamin has tremendous speed. He caught 41 passes for 609 yards (14.9 average) and three touchdowns as a senior. His quick feet and ability to make the first man miss should enable him to be a dangerous return man. Benjamin averaged 11.0 yards on 11 returns last season.