There was one thing most of us expected out of this year's draft: it was going to be unpredictable. But then, to our amazement, Pioli picked the guy we were all clamoring for in the 1st round. "Ok", we said, "now let's see if he'll pick Golden Tate and Terrance Cody to make this the draft dreams are made of!" To our shock and horror, we saw Pioli pick arguably the two positions we had the least need for. Who could possibly explain why Pioli would reach for these guys in the 2nd while leaving such gaping holes at NT and ILB? I'll give you my take after the jump.
With the first 3 picks of the draft, Pioli addressed 3 very special needs in all three phases of the game. Haley's "musts". These needs are very tough to fill in free agency. Teams often have to snag these special players right out of college and make them franchise names. Let me explain:
1. Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
The thing that's killed us the past few years has been the devistating long yardage plays that developed from misreads and blown coverages. Pollard was inconsistent and Brown was past his prime. Eric Berry's purpose will be to significantly reduce those types of plays and I think we all expect that he will for many years to come.
2. Dexter McCluster, OW, Mississippi
We all know the advantages of having an offensive mismatch. Tony Gonzalez was sorely missed last year and McCluster is this year's answer. His speed in the slot will be tough to deal with but it's his unique versatility that I think will give most teams trouble.
3. Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama
Our return game last year was, at times, embarrassing. The only thing worse than having your backs against the wall and then having to start an offensive drive behind the 20 yard line is fumbling a kickoff or punt for a turnover in enemy territory. When fixing this problem is a must, it's hardly a reach to snag one of the best punt returners in college history.
To recap, Pioli added the following strengths through the 2010 draft:
1. Contain big yardage plays and decrease opponent scores by bringing in a Safety with impressive speed, instinct, and intelligence.
2. Bring in additional offensive weapons to take care of the lack of first downs. Increase clock control and let the defense rest as a result.
3. Decrease the amount of offensive yards required to score touchdowns by bringing in a return specialist.
4. The biggest intangible here is leadership. Why all the team captains? Leaders find a way to win.
There are needs you can fill in FA and needs you can't. Pioli looked for guys in the draft with special talents that would help resolve some of the team's more difficult challenges. The players he drafted have special skillsets they couldn't find anywhere else but out of college. The holes that weren't addressed in the draft are being addressed in free agency. NTs, LBs, OL, and WRs have been brought in to help lift up the level of play and odds are that a handful of those guys will make a difference.
Will there still be holes? Absolutely. But solving a few unique and difficult challenges with a high level of talent will make a bigger difference than many realize.