The 49ers get a "B," but then the champions are so deep at most positions they had the luxury of drafting for situation players. Top pick Dexter Carter, a small but tough running back out of Florida State, adds an element to the offense they've been after for some time -- a quick, darting runner who can catch the ball and return kicks. A highlight film shows that Carter carries everything in his left hand even when changing direction, something San Francisco coaches may want to correct.
The development of Darrell Pollard as a starting cornerback, the signing of former All-Pro Hanford Dixon from Cleveland as a Plan B free agent and the drafting of Eric Davis of Jacksonville State in the second round enabled the 49ers to trade disruptive Tim McKyer to the Miami Dolphins.
Defensive lineman Dennis Brown, a 305-pounder from Washington, was taken in the second round with Davis. He can play end but prefers nose tackle, giving the 49ers a potential replacement for Michael Carter, who is coming off foot surgery and turns 30 in October.
The 49ers had everyone from the outside believing their draft priority was a linebacker, even if they had to deal their prized backup quarterback Steve Young. None of that materialized.
"Can you get by with what you have at linebacker?" coach George Seifert was asked.
A smile broke over Seifert's face. "We expect to do more than just get by," said Seifert, fortunate to have at his disposal a title-spoiled owner with a bottomless wallet for trades and free agents.
"There is a certain sense of security with the veteran players and leaders that we have," Seifert said. "The players who beat them out will have to be very good."
CHICAGO: The Bears' No. 1 objective was defensive improvement, especially in the secondary, where USC safety Mark Carrier was their first pick. Seven other choices on defense included Texas Christian tackle Fred Washington and Fresno State linebacker Ron Cox in the second round. Florida State quarterback Peter Tom Willis was a third-round selection. Grade: B.
DETROIT: Quarterback Andre Ware from Houston, weaned on the run-and-shoot offense, was the ideal first-round selection for the Lions' scatter-gun attack and passing coach Mouse Davis. That Ware is a junior didn't scare the Detroit brain trust, which saw Barry Sanders, who left Oklahoma State after his junior season, finish second in the league in rushing last season. Six of the next seven choices went for defense, including Pitt's Marc Spindler, who had been projected as a first-round pick. Grade B+.
GREEN BAY: The Packers used first-round picks on linebacker Tony Bennett from Mississippi, projected as a second-rounder by some, and running back Darrell Thompson from Minnesota. All-America cornerback LeRoy Butler from Florida State, a school that produced three 49ers picks, was taken in the second round and may be a remedy for age at that spot. Grade: B+.
MINNESOTA: Ten Plan B signees gave the Vikings some leverage to look for an outside linebacker and an offensive tackle, two positions they wanted to upgrade with the draft. But with no picks in the opening two rounds because of the Herschel Walker trade with Dallas, their best choice may have been Pittsburgh cornerback Alonzo Hampton in the fourth round. Coach Jerry Burns says his team is "solid from bottom to top." It had better be. The Vikings also have no picks in the first two rounds of the 1991 and 1992 drafts. Grade: C-.
TAMPA BAY: The Buccaneers' draft has to be graded on a curve. Coach Ray Perkins didn't seem to care that linebacker Keith McCants, who played for him at Alabama and was once the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft, would need arthroscopic knee surgery and can be a discipline problem. He still took him in the first round. The second-round pick, running back Reggie Cobb from Tennessee, also is a talent but is a repeat drug abuser. More running help to keep the heat off quarterback Vinny Testaverde came with the predraft acquisition of former San Diego Charger Gary Anderson, but the defensive line is still lacking. Grade for now: C+.
DALLAS: The Cowboys are on a course to rebuild America's Team in a hurry. They signed the most Plan B free agents, swapped with the 49ers to obtain running back Terrence Flagler and defensive end Danny Stubbs and then traded up to draft Florida running back Emmitt Smith in the first round. Having only five picks, however, may have left coach Jimmy Johnson short of defensive help. The No. 2 pick was defensive end Jimmy Jones from Miami, who shared playing time most of his four seasons. Grade: C+.