Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Dec 2005

Barlow to Niners: I'm the Future, not Bush

The 49ers could go any number of ways in this April's draft. That's one of the benefits of winning four games in almost two seasons -- anybody you draft will most likely be an upgrade. Running back Kevan Barlow (he of the -6.3 DPAR), has let the organization know that he -- and not Reggie Bush -- is the future in San Francisco. The article notes that, "... the 49ers' stick-thin roster arguably is thickest at running back." And when you think about all the problems facing Mike Nolan, I don't think Barlow is anywhere near the top of the list.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 16 Dec 2005

39 comments, Last at 18 Dec 2005, 11:29pm by Drew


by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 12:52pm

Assuming the 49ers get the 1st or 2nd pick, they really should trade it. They're not going to draft a QB, and while Reggie Barlow isn't going to make anyone forget Emmitt Smith, RB is the least of their worries.

There will be teams willing to trade up this year, and from what I understand, (I don't see any college ball), they should be able to pick up a quality player a few slots lower than 1 or 2. Bush may be a once in a generation player, but unless Bush can play Tackle and Corner, San Fran need more than he can offer.

by Catholic Samurai (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 12:55pm

RE #1:

Who is this "Reggie Barlow" you speak of, my friend?

by MKEPack (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 1:02pm

The Texans and Niners are both so historically bad, and have so many needs, they'd be foolish not to trade down for more picks. Ironically, they are probably both deepest at RB.

Now, if we could just get Ted Thompson to trade up so the Packers get a shot at Bush...

by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 1:05pm

Cath Sam,

Our office Xmas party was last night, so I'm a little under par mentally today. When I see 'Kevan' I type 'Reggie'. Jush shome little mishtake. (Hic). :)

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 1:05pm

I think the 49ers should draft Bush and address thier O-line problems either later in the draft or through free agency (also by poaching a new line coach from Indy, NE, Den, Pitt or Atl). One player isn't going to turn the team around, but they desperately need playmakers, and the defense can be addressed with next year's top pick.

by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 1:14pm


Given the miracle he's worked in Miami, if the 49ers are going to poach an O-line coach, they should drive the bullion truck to Hudson Houck's house.

by David S. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 1:36pm

The article failed to mention how his little press conference ended, with him fumbling a microphone then trying to leave, but one exit had couple people milling about in front of it and instead of pushing through he danced around a bit then promptly fell down.

But seriously, Barlow should be playing for his roster spot against the Texans. If he lays yet another goose egg with that much on the line the Niners HAVE to take Bu- well... they really need to replace Kwame Harris and about 15-17 other starters, but still, they need another starting running back.

by OMO (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 1:57pm

I think they ought to pull a Millen and draft Leinert.

Then next year draft Brady Quinn.

by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 2:03pm

David, that's too funny to be reading at work ... gonna get me in trouble ...

by abes (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 2:07pm

In general I'd think it's best to give a coach many years to turn around a team, but living in the Bay Area and watching the Niners implode, I doubt Nolan's ever going to get the job done. Every day now there's some player-discontent issue (Barlow, Beasly, Jamie Winborn earlier in the season). I'm not much of fan, but it's sad to watch anyway.

I am, though, excited that the first NFL game I will attend is going to be 49ers-Texans on New Years Day. The Reggie Bush-Bush Leauge Bowl. I can't wait. Seriously.

by Frank Gore (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 2:28pm

Yeah Kevan, keep telling yourself you're the future of the 48ers.

by DNL (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 3:00pm

If Kevan wants Bush to stay outta SF, I have a simple solution:


This way, your team will win games, and will not be able to select Bush.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 3:06pm

From a PR standpoint, I don't think any team can trade the opportunity to draft Reggie Bush. It might be wise to go poach the best offensive line coach available, even if you have to pay him a coordinator salary, and then get some offensive line help via free agency, and through the second round pick.

The Texans should not get rid of Domanick Davis; it would be unwise in the extreme to have Bush carry 300-plus times. The smart team will keep his carries below 300 a year, have him catch passes, and make big plays on special teams. That means he needs a quality back-up.

If the situation is managed correctly, Bush can be making huge plays for more than ten years, maybe much more. Of course, the reason most teams are drafting number one is because they don't manage things correctly.

by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 3:17pm

I'm awfully tired of PR standpoints. The reason we drafted Alex Smith #1 overall was because of PR, when everyone knew we'd be much better off trading down and getting more picks. I might see sacrificing your own self-interest once for PR, but two years in a row?

Do you want to get better, or do you want to win the PR bowl?

by TomS (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 3:44pm

What a nice package deal that would make?

Kevan Barlow, et. al. for your team's draft picks so we can draft the undisputable bestest player ever to come along, savior of the franchise, etc. etc...

where have we heard that before?

But really, Kevan! have I got your attention? I might suggest that you start packing your bags for the likely draft day trade out of town!



by BlueStarDraftnik (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 3:49pm

The problem with having the number one pick last year was that there were no takers for trading down. Smith wasn't really rated that much higher (to many he was actually ranked lower) than Edwards, Brown, Williams, and Benson. The 49ers were pretty much stuck.

Trading down this year should be a real possibility. But the 49ers Oline might not be in as bad shape as it appears at this point. The two rookies, Baas and Snyder, should still have some upside. And Jennings should be coming back next year.

If I'm San Fran I'm looking to drop down and maybe add a DB like Jimmy Williams.
Then with probably two early second round picks, they could look to add help on the O-line (Jean-Gilles would be awesome and since he's a guard could drop out of the first round; Marcus McNeil might drop, or Jon Scott, or Winston, or Justice), along with more help for the secondary, Greg Blue, say, or Anthony Smith.

Actually, if I were any of the "top" draft picking teams, I would go for a strategy along these lines.

by Browns Dude (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 4:34pm

"Who is this “Reggie Barlow� you speak of, my friend?"

He used to play for the Jaguars in the late '90's.

Duh :)

by Sean (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 5:12pm

#14: The reason the 49ers drafted Alex Smith is because nobody wanted to trade up. They worked the phones for four months straight and couldn't get a bite, so they made the best of a bad situation. It had nothing to do with PR.

Sure, you can make the argument that the 49ers have lots of needs and therefore would be best served by moving down. But really, what the team suffers most from is a complete lack of explosiveness at any skill position. At some point, when you're really bad, you need to step up and add cornerstone players. You need to use the #4 pick in the draft on Edgerrin James, or the #5 pick in the draft on LaDanian Tomlinson. You need to grab Larry Fitzgerald with the #3 pick. (And of course it goes without saying, you really, really need to draft Peyton Manning or Carson Palmer, rather than trading down so you can address that niggling hole at left guard.)

All teams need guys like that, and right now the 49ers don't have any.

by big_adventure (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 7:04pm

18 - Sean, nice name, but, to nitpick I will paraphrase Sesame Street:

Edge, LT, Manning, Palmer, Fitzgerald?

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn't the same. One of these things is not like the other, now it's time to play our game, it's time to play our game...

Manning - #1 DVOA, #1 DPAR
Palmer - #2 DPAR, #3 DVOA
Edge - #1/#3 DPAR, #5/#5 DVOA record-level Success Rate
LT - #5/#21 DPAR, #4/#30 DVOA

Fitzgerald - #7 DPAR #22 DVOA, relatively high DPAR by virtue of a #2 in the league 137 passes thrown his way.

Incidently, Plax leads the way with 139, than Fitzgerald, than Holt at 135, than Boldin at 131. The top two for AZ have been targetted at least 40 more times than any other duo in the league.

I'm not saying Fitzgerald isn't a very good player, I just don't know that he proves your point like the rest of the selections in that group.


by Drew (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 7:21pm

Post 11 cracks me up on multiple levels. First, I thought it was funny that Frank Gore would misspell the name of his own team. Then I remembered that he scored in the single digits on the Wonderlic test.

by Sean (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 7:29pm

Re 19:

Fitzgerald is in the "That LT is pretty good, too bad he's going to get used up on a 4-12 team for his entire career" phase. He doesn't have the full compliment of talent he needs around him, but as the pieces start filling in, he'll really come into his own.

I mean, he did have Josh McCown throwing to him for half the season.

by Drew (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 7:36pm

I'm not sure why we're assuming that Bush will even be available to the 49ers unless they lose to the Texans and get the #1 pick.

Anyhooo, I think that whoever gets the #1 pick will be in a pretty sweet position, unlike last year. Taking Reggie Bush is the safest and most popular thing to do, and it nets an explosive player. And this year there will probably be multiple trade-down offers to choose from.

That's a roundabout way of addressing the example of LT from posts 18 and 19. The pick for LT was obtained via a trade, when San Diego decided they could live without the last once-in-a-generation superstar (4 years = 1 generation apparently). People are treating this as a choice of taking a superstar OR filling multiple holes. I think this year, the team with the #1 pick has a good shot at doing both... so long as they can live without Reggie Bush.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 7:38pm

The problem with having the number one pick last year was that there were no takers for trading down. ... The 49ers were pretty much stuck.

they WERE stuck with the #1 pick, but they WEREN'T stuck with Alex Smith, necessarily

(they done that on they own)

by booneyjr (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 8:26pm

#7 & #11 - Funny, thanks i needed that! My opinion is that Reggie Bush would absolutely help this team. They should tank the game against Houston (tough, because it'll be who wants to lose it more), then they should trade Barlow to another team for some equipment (maybe Gatorade...)

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 8:47pm

Like I said there wasn't a lot to differentiate Smith from the other top prospects. No one can't fault the 49ers for not trading down because they didn't have anyone to trade with. And I don't think so many people should be faulting them so much for drafting Smith because he was the consensus highest rated QB prospect. If the 49ers really wanted to go the PR route then they would have drafted the California kid Aaron Rodgers (a la the Lions taking Charles Rogers with the 2nd overall pick in 2003). If I remember right, Smith is even a little younger than most draft picks, so even though his numbers are utterly terrible he might still be able to turn it around. The 49ers biggest mistake was in going to him so early this year - they should have gone the Bengals/Carson Palmer route and let him chill for a year.

by David A. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 8:48pm

My dream scenario: Niners get the first overall pick, trade down to number three, plus a couple picks in later rounds. Texans trade down in similar fashion. Jets/whomever take Bush, Raiders/whomever take Leinart, Niners take D'Brickashaw, Texans select Joe Montana, and after realizing the mistake and trying to retract the pick, Tagliabue screams "No backsies!"

by David A. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 8:50pm

#20- The only way an English speaker scores in the single digits on the Wonderlic is if they don't care and don't bother trying.

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 10:07pm
by MJK (not verified) :: Sat, 12/17/2005 - 12:06am

I granted am not a Niners fan and don't know much about the team, but typically, when a team is really, really bad, I think the best place to start is building a good D-line and linebacking corps, and then a good defensive coordinator and offensive line coach. A secondary and an O-line can be patched together if you have good coaching and free agent veterans, and it's pointless to pick up skill players in the secondary until you trust your front seven (as several teams have lately proved), and skill players at the QB or RB position until you have a good line to block for them.

But D-Line or LB are positions that very talented young players can make an immediate impact. Lots of examples of that this year. How good are the D-lines and the LB's of the NIners and the Texans, anyway?

by Sean (not verified) :: Sat, 12/17/2005 - 12:15am

I would have drafted Cadillac Williams and stuck with Tim Rattay as the starter, but I don't have a problem with taking Smith. He's a good prospect, and he'll likely put this horrid year behind him. He would have definitely been well served by a full year on the bench, though.

by Sean (not verified) :: Sat, 12/17/2005 - 4:14am

MJK- I don't think it's pointless at all to take skill position players. It's not like they vanish on you- LaDanian Tomlinson and Drew Brees were still around when the Chargers got their offensive line into shape, and now they're doing fine. The same goes for Chad Johnson, Rudi Johnson and Carson Palmer. The same will also go for Anquan Bolden and Larry Fitzgerald. If anything, you want to grab the skill position players first, as there is a much bigger drop off from an elite quarterback or wide receiver to replacement level than there is from an elite offensive lineman to a replacement level one.

by Podge (not verified) :: Sat, 12/17/2005 - 8:09am

I think the Niners have to take Bush if the opportunity arises. Any team should really. Think about it. Say the Niners trade down so they can take D'Brickashaw (although Parcells will be after him to add him to DeMarcus and DeThomas and DeDave or whatever all those guys are called). Then what? they can use an extra second round pick? And maybe a third? So say they hit big on all those picks, thats 1 1st, 2 2nds and 3rds. 5 players, and even if they manage to get 5 insanely good player they'll still be what? 12 starters from a half-way decent team?

Take Bush, protect him a little by using Gore and possibly Barlow, and build a team for the long-term. No matter how good a trade you get (unless Indy offer you Manning + their entire O-Line) taking Bush has more long-term upside.

by Ruben (not verified) :: Sat, 12/17/2005 - 7:34pm

think this year, the team with the #1 pick has a good shot at doing both… so long as they can live without Reggie Bush.

I think the book has been closed on who one out in the Vick trade; while the Falcons have been to the NFC championship, I'd argue the Chargers have played consistently better, against more difficult teams, over the same stretch with Brees/LT than Atlanta with Vick/no one else from that trade.

Unintelligible Pro-Vick Rant: "he has lots of weapons" "He's exciting to watch"

There, just thought I'd get that out of the way in advance... :-D

by Ruben (not verified) :: Sat, 12/17/2005 - 7:36pm

Whoops, meant this: That’s a roundabout way of addressing the example of LT from posts 18 and 19. The pick for LT was obtained via a trade, when San Diego decided they could live without the last once-in-a-generation superstar (4 years = 1 generation apparently).

Talk about unintelligible...

by Drew (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 1:13am

Re 34

Sorry if I didn't convey my meaning very well. It wasn't meant to be pro- or anti-Vick.

What I meant was, the last time a draft pick had this kind of buzz surrounding him, it was Vick. So whenever someone says that Bush is a once-in-a-generation talent and you just have to take him, it always reminds me of Vick, and how well San Diego made out by not taking him. Then someone cited LT as a reason you have to draft a superstar when the opportunity comes along, but I happen to think he demonstrates the exact opposite.

But as for who "won" that trade, I'd say they both did. At least they're both better now than they were beforehand. It seems like the rare trade where years later, both sides feel like they got a good deal.

by Moses (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 1:34am

First, the 49ers didn't trade down last year because the top of the draft was not well differentiated. It's difficult to trade down when one player hasn't clearly seperated himself from the pack.

Second, the 49ers line is as bad as any line has been in recent years. They just do the job and Barlow is hit in the backfield more than any back in the NFL.

Third, Barlow is a what as known as a "down-hill" runner. That's NOT a power back like Earl Campbell. That's not a slasher like Marshall Faulk. That's a back with outstanding long-speed and enough size and power to break poor/arm tackles. The back most like Barlow in the NFL is Steven Jackson of the Rams who has great games and horrible games behind his erratic (but better than the 49ers) line. (One should note that these types of running styles are based on physiology and can't be significantly changed. There are no 6' 2" running backs with great NFL CoD skills - center of gravity is too high and legs are (typically) too long.)

Behind the (pathetic) 49ers line, Barlow can't run because he's having to play to his weaknesses (CoD) instead of his strengths. While the two slashers (Hicks and Gore) with superior change-of-direction abilities are playing to their strengths.

Anyway, most of the discussion on Barlow ignores the type of back he is and why he's failing. And that's because the majority of fans don't seem to realize that different types of backs have different requirements to be successful and have different big-play potentials. Barlow is a "big play" back. But to get those big plays, his line has got to give him 3 yards of clear realestate on a consistent basis. And when they do, you've seen what he can do.

So, Barlow's not nearly as bad as the detractors would say. Because they're somewhat uninformed and tend to be overly emotional in their investment of opinion.

OTOH, I (personally) can't stand these tall down-hill runners and love the short slashers and wanted Lamont Jordon. But then, they're not going to listen to me and my rule of "never draft a back over 5' 10"."

by Ruben (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 3:57am

Drew (35): My mistake; I guess I read too much into your first post. I mostly remember the 2001 draft, when many bobbleheads were ranting about how the Chargers were sunk, for settling for LT and taking Brees as a consolation prize (also got Tim Dwight in that trade).

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 9:16pm

Inre: #35, that is an excellent point. But could you imagine the situation in SD if they had taken Vick? Rivers, Vick, Brees...maybe they could line Vick up at tailback?

by Drew (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 11:29pm

Re 38

Well, I doubt they would have taken Brees if they'd taken Vick in the same draft.

Hypothetically, if they were still looking for a RB in round 2 after taking Vick, the next one taken was Anthony Thomas, followed by Lamont Jordan and Travis Henry. Some other good players taken early in round 2 were Chad Johnson and (gasp!) Alge Crumpler.