49ers’ draft picks fit team’s tough identity
SANTA CLARA – There’s a common theme to the eight prospects selected by the San Francisco 49ers in this year’s draft.
“These players are guys who will hit you,” coach Mike Singletary said Saturday. “When you look at the identity of the 49ers, I think every one of these guys that we pick fit the identity.”
Singletary is building a tough, physical squad in San Francisco, and the four players selected by the team Saturday to complete the draft definitely fit the mold.
They also fill needs as the 49ers selected power running back Anthony Dixon, blocking tight end Nate Byham and wide receiver/punt returner Kyle Williams in the sixth round, then added physical cornerback Phillip Adams with their final pick in round 7.
Each comes to San Francisco with the type of attitude the 49ers have come to expect from their players.
“I like to bloody noses,” said Byham, a two-time All-Big East selection at the University of Pittsburgh who was considered one of the nation’s best blocking tight ends last season. “I don’t shy away from contact. I’m going into the hole and I’m trying to hit somebody. I’m trying to inflict pain when I’m in there as a tight end.”
Byham has premier size for a tight end at 6-foot-4 and 268 pounds, and he is one of three players selected by the team over the past three days that could make San Francisco bigger and better along the offensive line.
The 49ers envision themselves as a power rushing team, and they added to their power up front offensively during the draft with Byham and first-round selections Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati.
Davis, a 323-pound tackle selected No. 11 overall, and Iupati, a 331-pound guard picked at No. 17, are the first offensive linemen selected among the top 20 picks in the draft by the 49ers since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger.
The 49ers also added a pair of aggressive defenders, 230-pound USC safety Taylor Mays and 242-pound Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman, with their second- and third-round selections Friday.
“We want to build a physical football team, and generally speaking, in order to do that you have to be big,” 49ers director of player personnel Trent Baalke said. “That’s how we addressed it. In terms of this draft class, this takes us up a notch in being more physical. We went in thinking big, and that’s what we got.”
Dixon is a 233-pound prospect who was considered one of the best power backs in the nation last season at Mississippi State. Dixon led the Southeastern Conference in rushing as a senior with a school-record 1,391 yards.
He gives the 49ers the big back they want when their offense gets near the goal line and will challenge Glen Coffee for carries as the primary backup to two-time Pro Bowler Frank Gore.
“I enjoy contact and I embrace it,” Dixon said. “My game is very physical. I love the game of football and I feel like I can be an every-down back. I’m coming in now trying to assume my role.”
Williams, whose father Ken is general manager of the Chicago White Sox, is a small but speedy prospect who led Arizona State last season as a senior with 57 receptions for 815 yards and eight touchdowns. He’ll get an opportunity this year to work into the receiver mix with the 49ers, whose starting wideouts at the end of last season were rookie Michael Crabtree and second-year player Josh Morgan.
Williams also received All-Pac-10 honors last year as a punt returner, a role in which he’s certain to get an opportunity with the 49ers. San Francisco is looking for somebody new to fill that role this year after Arnaz Battle left the team in free agency last month.
Adams also fills a need for the 49ers, who were hoping to come out of the draft with a cornerback. An All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference selection in 2009 at South Carolina State, Adams figures to challenge for a backup role as a rookie.
“We took the opportunity over these three days to make this football team better and I’m confident we got there,” Baalke said. “I like this draft class and think we’re going to be a better football team in the fall because of it.”
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