49ers, Raiders face different needs in NFL Draft 

click to enlarge Niners general manager Trent Baalke could look to bolster the team’s defense in the upcoming draft. - JOHN FROSCHAUER/AP FILE PHOTO
  • John Froschauer/AP file photo
  • Niners general manager Trent Baalke could look to bolster the team’s defense in the upcoming draft.

This week's NFL Draft will be important to both the 49ers and Raiders for different reasons.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has spent two years ridding the roster of all the overpaid underproducers Al Davis signed as he desperately sought one last successful run before he died.

For the most part, McKenzie has succeeded and he's spent a busy offseason signing free agents who could help. He got the veteran quarterback he wanted in a trade for Matt Schaub so he doesn't have to draft a quarterback in the first round. He also traded Terrelle Pryor, who still thinks he can play quarterback in the NFL.

If he hangs on to the No. 5 pick in the first round, McKenzie might be able to snag Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. Usually, NFL teams don't think receivers are worth a high first-round pick, but Watkins is an exception.

Otherwise, McKenzie will be looking for players who can either push starters or be good enough to start themselves. He will draft a quarterback, but likely not until later in the draft because he feels he has a good backup in Matt McGloin.

Across the bay, if the 49ers are going to maintain their success, general manager Trent Baalke is going to have to start with a trade up in the first round to get a quality defensive player. Baalke has stockpiled draft picks to be able to do just that.

The 49ers' great success in getting to the NFC Championship Game each of the last three years and to the Super Bowl one year, has been based on a great defense and excellent field-goal kicker.

Against the strong teams, the 49ers' offense has often stalled in the red zone, so kicker Phil Dawson saw plenty of opportunities.

That defense has been anchored by a very good pass rush, led by Aldon Smith, who has 42 sacks in his first 43 career games. But there are very serious questions about Smith, whose latest scrape had him claiming to have a bomb when he got impatient about getting through the boarding experience at LAX.

If you or I had done that, we'd likely still be in jail but Smith appears as though he will get off with a scolding because ... well, because he's a star athlete.

Baalke picked up his contract option through 2015 with a statement saying that Smith was dealing with his off-field issues. Baalke didn't add, "At least, I hope so," but that had to be in his mind.

Smith still has to deal with felony gun charges from during a party at his house and a DUI. Even if Smith skates on the charges, which could happen because he's a star athlete, he will certainly be disciplined by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with a suspension.

Another star linebacker, NaVorro Bowman, is rehabbing from a torn ACL, which will sideline him for an unknown number of games, and in addition the Niners are thin at cornerback with Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers departing in free agency.

So, it seems likely they'll go for defensive help early and often.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at glenndickey36@gmail.com.

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Glenn Dickey

Glenn Dickey

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