49ers Q&A: Is quarterback likely the pick at No. 2 overall?

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Without delay . . .

Cousins to the Niners?

The 49ers at the behest of new head coach Kyle Shanahan could push to trade for Kirk Cousins if he receives the franchise tag, or the team can choose to sign him outright if Washington allows him to walk.

Either way it would require San Francisco making sure Colin Kaepernick opts out or is at least released with a $4.9M penalty in dead cap, likely followed by coughing up draft picks and making Cousins the highest-paid quarterback in the game.

If that were to be the case, Shanahan in his first year would have an instant fix behind center, and could take comfort in having an established relationship with Cousins and knowing that Cousins can run his system at a high level. That could be a relief to both the staff and fans.

But is Cousins the one to take the Niners back to the Super Bowl?

It’s easy to appreciate him for his moxie, completion percentage numbers and willingness to chuck it, but he leaves a lot to be desired. Like with Kaepernick, a lot of plays are left on the field. Therefor grooming a hand-picked, untainted rookie—with Shanahan being there for every step of his development—may be the more appealing route.

Though a majority of fans may celebrate if the 49ers manage to land Cousins this offseason. But it seems to me if they're going to sign him to a long-term deal, it'd be best if they at least wait a year if he's tagged and avoid giving up any significant compensation that would hamper the rebuild.

Player evaluation

Talking to coaches, teammates, family, and the player himself, is one way to get to know a draft prospect or free agent. Lynch and/or Shanahan getting one on one time with the player, getting to know where they come from, their story and their drive will ultimately aid in their decision to draft the player or extend an offer. Production, of course, is also a factor. But, in the end, they’re going to want football-obsessed guys.

They’re going to want players that do the extra work without having to be told because to them football is an obsession, and less of a job. The wiring of the players they’re going to be welcoming into the building is going to be vital. Everyone’s got to be on the same page and willing to go the distance, and meet the new standard.

And the only real way for Lynch and Shanahan to do that is by leaning on their own character judgment. They’ll do their homework and after looking at the sum of the parts, try to look at the total package.

But when evaluating potential incoming talent, teams do misjudge character, if they don’t neglect it altogether.

So, we’ll start getting a good idea of how Lynch and top assistant Adam Peters get a read on players. If you start seeing players come in and overachieve on the field, while remaining quality citizens off it, it’ll reflect highly on the new front office. It’ll be a sign that they’re at least on the right track, executing the plan they originally laid out.

Continued front office restructure

The departure of Tom Gamble makes a great deal of sense. John Lynch is the new GM and had no previous relationship with Gamble. Added to which, Lynch already chose his right-hand man, and that was big fish Adam Peters of the Denver Broncos. So, Gamble, as the assistant GM, really had no place within the organization anymore.

Lynch is the new face and shield of the remodeled 49ers front office. But Peters, as a talent evaluator and polished front office executive, is just as important a figure and will be integral in the reconstruction of the franchise. With Gamble out, the 49ers will be leaning on this duo, along with Shanahan and Martin Mayhew.

Looking at QB early?

It’s two months before the draft, so a lot can happen between now and then. That being said, it’s hard to see the 49ers selecting a quarterback early in the first round, regardless of what happens in free agency.

There’s been no indication of that besides mock drafts from numerous outlets. On top of that, these two bits, one from Shanahan, and one from a former colleague of Shanahan, may provide a little more clarity on how the new 49ers head coach thinks.

Shanahan told KNBR with regards to the quarterback quest:

"Everybody wishes and hopes you can take that quarterback who is going to be there and be that franchise guy for the next 15 years. But that’s just what you hope for. You don’t draft people based off of what you hope. You’ve got to draft people based on what you truly believe is the right answer. Knowing no one has all the right answers, there’s nothing that’s going to guarantee you’re going to be right.

“You’ve got to think very clearly. What I mean by that is you can’t just hope for stuff and wish things to happen. You’ve got to look at each situation differently. You’ve got to see what’s available. If there is a quarterback there that we believe can match that criteria and we believe he can be a franchise quarterback for us, then, of course, you don’t hesitate on that. But if you don’t see that and there’s other good players -- if there’s a pass-rusher, if there’s a linebacker, if there’s an O-lineman -- whatever it is, you need to get the best player possible who you think will help your team the next 10 years.”

Then there was this, a telling draft story from NFL Network analyst and former NFL GM Charley Casserly – and as Casserly tells it, Shanahan influenced the Houston Texans to take Mario Williams at No. 1 overall in 2006 over USC legend and one-man offensive freak show Reggie Bush.

“I went around the room and asked all of them who they thought we should draft, and I started with Kyle because he was the youngest,” Casserly recalled Wednesday, per Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News. “Kyle said we should take Mario Williams, because he was the best player for the franchise.

“Think about that. He was an offensive coach, we needed a running back, and he said we should take the defensive player. That’s why I always thought he would be a head coach, because he can see the big picture,” Casserly added.

Given the strengths and weaknesses of this draft, along with the 49ers’ plethora of needs and where they select, it’s hard to see Shanahan placing top-10 or even top-15 value on a quarterback. Not with players like Jonathan Allen, Solomon Thomas, Reuben Foster, Mike Williams, Corey Davis, Derek Barnett and many other highly graded players at positions of need.

Shanahan, and Lynch for that matter, will want the surest thing they can find to an instant franchise player at No. 2 overall, regardless of position. Pro-readiness and production will speak the loudest come draft day.

Media courtesy MMQB, SI and 49ers.com

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