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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Niners draft prospectus: Ted Ginn Jr.



By Thomas Sorrell
February 8, 2007

For the next several weeks, I am going to focus on an aspect of the football season that I know and love: the NFL draft. Specifically, the players who will likely be available for the San Francisco 49ers in the first and second rounds, and why the 49ers should or should not draft them.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances (such as the 49ers pulling a coup de grace in free agency and signing several big-name players the first weekend in March), this is what to expect on Mondays and Thursdays from RealFootball365. It will all culminate with my running draft diary and a detailed analysis of the 49ers' draft picks the following Monday. It should make for a good time.

With that, let's get started. First up is Ted Ginn Jr., the lighting-fast wide receiver from Ohio State.

Why the 49ers should draft Ted Ginn Jr.:

First, he's the fastest player I've ever seen on a football field. He moves laterally very well, but his straight-line speed is what is most impressive. He's the type of player who, once he makes a move, he's gone 99 times out of 100. It is very difficult for defenders to gain an angle on him because his stride is so long, it looks like he's not running as fast as he is.

Second, his natural athletic ability and concentration is something that has to be seen to be believed. His hands are amazing. Very rarely does he drop a pass that is within his reach. Also, Ginn was widely considered the best cornerback in the country coming out of high school, but thanks to a lack of offensive playmakers for the Buckeyes, he moved over to the offensive side of the ball without complaint.

The scary thing is that he's still learning the receiver position. Yes, he is still a bit raw, and his route running isn't quite where you would want it to be, but it's better than average. By the way, the same statements could be said of Vernon Davis last season, and Mike Nolan thought enough of him to warrant the sixth overall selection in the 2006 draft.

Third, Ginn is a good kid. He goes out every week and plays his hardest at all times. He blocks very well downfield. He never takes plays off. When he scores touchdowns, he hands the football to the referee and celebrates with his teammates. Forget what you might have heard about him being injured while celebrating his kick return for a touchdown in the National Championship Game; one of his own players slipped as he approached him and crashed into his ankle -- Ginn was simply standing in the end zone.

Something else that's well worth mentioning is that Ginn never once complained about a lack of touches while he was donning the scarlet and gray of Ohio State. Even though his receiving yardage dropped thanks to the emergence of other weapons, he never made a single negative comment about any of the players or coaches.

In the current NFL, where receivers are constantly yelling and screaming about not getting the ball (Antonio Bryant) while drawing attention away from the team and onto themselves with their off-the-field statements or shenanigans (Terrell Owens), Ginn's humble, soft-spoken, team-oriented attitude is more than a breath of fresh air -- it's the wind from a jet engine.

Fourth, the 49ers' offense lacks three things: a primary receiver, a "defense must account for him at all times" playmaker (Davis is good in space, but no one on the offense can help take the heat off him), and a true deep threat on the outside. Ginn can fill all three of those gaps by himself.

He is the type of player who can stretch the defense and take some of the heat off Frank Gore and the running game. Someone who can run two defenders off on a "go" route and free up some room underneath for Vernon Davis to catch the ball in space and take on smaller defensive backs one on one. Someone who can catch a quick slant and turn it into a 50-yard gain.

One of the 49ers' offensive staples last season was the end around, yet they lacked a receiver with speed to run it effectively. Bryan Gilmore and Arnaz Battle were the usual ball carriers, but the longest run by either of them was 22 yards. Ginn's speed could turn that 22 yards into 72. Something else to think about is what sort of impact a fake end around to Ginn followed by a quick handoff to Gore would have on the opposing defense. The 49ers' opponent would have to account for Ginn's speed around the edge, and by the time they realized he didn't have the ball, Gore would be past them.

One more possibility would be a favorite play of the Colts. Throughout the season (and especially in the playoffs), they lined their pass-catching tight end, Dallas Clark, up in the slot with Marvin Harrison flanking him. Clark then ran a streak route to clear out room for Harrison, who was running a slant route. If the 49ers drafted Ginn, this play would decimate defenses.

Finally, Devin Hester showed in 2006 that special teams are vital to the success of an NFL team (it's not as if that's been a secret, though). Players like Eric Metcalf, Brian Mitchell, Desmond Howard and Dante Hall all made their mark on special teams and helped their team to one or two victories a year with their play. The Niners do not have a player like this. In fact, their most consistent return specialist is Maurice Hicks.

Once again, Ginn would solve this problem immediately. In his three years at Ohio State, he returned six punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged 14.5 and 25.4 per return, respectively.

One of the knocks on Ginn is that he will likely not be a true No. 1-caliber receiver in the NFL, yet no one can establish any sort of legitimate reason to back up this claim. The most common factor I've heard referenced is his lack of "ideal size" (Ginn is 6-foot, 180 pounds). In my opinion, that is nonsense. To use a cliché, size simply doesn't matter anymore -- at least not when you're talking about NFL wide receivers. Don't believe me? Take a look at the top 10 players in yards receiving in '06. Out of those individuals, seven are 6-1 or shorter.

The 49ers may have more pressing needs, specifically on defense, yet an excellent case can still be made for the team to draft Ginn. And if you're still not convinced, head on over to YouTube.com and check out some of his highlight videos. I promise that you will not be disappointed.

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