Work in Sports
All defense, all day
49ers bypass QB, spend four picks on other side of ball
Posted: Saturday April 15, 2000 08:31 PM
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Drafting a quarterback of the future took a back seat to resolving the San Francisco 49ers' gaping defensive holes.
Armed with two choices in the first round for the first time in six years, San Francisco used the 16th overall selection Saturday on pass-rushing linebacker Julian Peterson of Michigan State and the 24th pick on cornerback Ahmed Plummer, a three-year starter at Ohio State.
The 49ers continued the defensive trend in the second round with Virginia Tech defensive end John Engelberger and Texas A&M cornerback Jason Webster.
"We have filled needs. We have hopefully drafted a couple of starters," coach Steve Mariucci said. "We're building a young defense. You know that. It's going to be youthful and full of speed. We hope they're as good as we think they are."
There was plenty of speculation about Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington as a potential heir apparent to Steve Young, San Francisco's 38-year-old quarterback who hasn't played since a head blow at Arizona on Sept. 27 left him with his fourth concussion in three years.
Young, who has said through his agent that he's leaning toward resuming his playing career this season, is expected to meet with the 49ers in the next couple of weeks to discuss his future with the team. Though medical reports on Young have been encouraging, team officials said he still has not been cleared to play again.
Mariucci said the 49ers considered Pennington but opted to pass, deciding their defensive troubles were too pressing and they could draft another quarterback later. The New York Jets grabbed Pennington with the 18th selection, two picks after San Francisco got Peterson.
"We have to rectify our problems on defense," Mariucci said. "We can have a Steve Young and Joe Montana standing next to me on the sidelines and if you give up 45 points in a game, no quarterback can make that up."
The 49ers already envision Peterson, whose 25 sacks in two years at Michigan State ranks second on the school's all-time list, as the starting outside linebacker replacing former Pro Bowl selection Lee Woodall, let go as part of San Francisco's offseason $24 million salary cap purge.
"We felt that Julian was going to be a guy who's going to have an impact at his position this year starting when we play Atlanta in our opener this year," Mariucci said. Peterson brings together a rare combination of power and speed -- he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds, giving the 49ers a linebacker they can blitz as well as use in pass coverage.
"When he comes off the edge, look out," Mariucci said.
Plummer, who ranks sixth in Ohio State history with 14 career interceptions, fortifies the 49ers' most troubled secondary position.
While Jeff Garcia returns after playing relatively well in filling in for Young at quarterback, San Francisco's secondary was unsettled through the 1999 season with seven different players starting at cornerback. The 49ers surrendered a league-high 36 touchdown passes, fourth most in NFL history.
"We needed a guy like him," Mariucci said of Plummer. "He was tested time and time again in the Big Ten and oftentimes they preferred to throw away from him because he was the shutdown guy."
Plummer said he likes the notion of coming in as a projected starter.
"I'm looking forward to playing and contributing," he said. Peterson, who also forced 10 fumbles in his two seasons at Michigan State, said he believes it won't take him long to make his mark in the NFL.
"I have a lot of confidence," he said. "I always felt I had the ability to be a first-round draft pick. I'm trying to be the best. I'm trying to become my own icon." (Copyright 2000 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-04-15-00 1926EDT