San Francisco still feels St. Louis is the team to beat and a strong secondary is the only way.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- When a team plays the St. Louis Rams and their gifted wide receivers Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Ricky Proehl twice a year, a strong pass defense is vital.
That's why the San Francisco 49ers were so pleased to get University of Miami cornerback Mike Rumph with the 27th pick of Saturday's NFL draft.
"Even though they lost the Super Bowl, I'd say the Rams may still be the team to beat," 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said. "They beaten us six times in a row.
"One thing that New England showed in the Super Bowl was that the corps of veteran cornerbacks matched up pretty darn well with the Rams receivers," Mariucci said. "We love big, physical cornerbacks and we got one -- there aren't a lot of corners that size in the NFL."
Rumph, who measures 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, started 36 games during his four-year career at Miami, recording 164 tackles and six interceptions. In his three years as a starter, Rumph did not allow a touchdown reception.
"He's very dominant," said Miami defensive coach and Youngstown native Mark Stoops in a telephone interview. "I think he's going to be a solid player in the NFL."
Terry Donahue, the 49ers general manager, said the team considered four cornerbacks worthy of a first-round selection: Rumph, Texas' Quentin Jammer (No. 5 by the Chargers), Miami's Phillip Buchanon (No. 17 by the Raiders) and Florida's Lito Sheppard (No. 26 by the Eagles).
Donahue said input from coaches and scouts played a huge role in the team's decision to take a cornerback.
"I don't think you have to agree on every player -- I don't want to paint a picture that we all see the world the same way," Donahue said. "But everyone should have a voice in the decision-making process and we did that here."
Donahue said the staff likes Rumph's background playing at the line of scrimmage.
"He's used to playing up there, so he'll allow us to play more press coverage," Donahue said. "He'll be big and physical -- some of those receivers will have a hard time getting off of him."
The 49ers' second-round selection -- No. 62 -- created some War Room debate. Tennessee guard Fred Weary was considered, but a neck condition prompted concern.
As the debate went on, trade offers were received from the Bills, Cowboys and Lions.
Donahue decided the Bills' offer of the No. 69 pick and the 102 pick was the best.
Second round pick
As the 69th pick approached, the War Room debate centered on Alabama linebacker Salaam Rasheed and Florida State safety Chris Hope.
Rasheed became the pick shortly after executive consultant Bill Walsh suggested that the team could easily pick up a safety in the fourth round.
Donahue also announced that starting wide receiver J.J. Stokes accepted a pay cut Friday, agreeing to a new two-year deal.
Stokes, a seven-year veteran, was due to earn $3.75 million next season.
"This frees up some cap space that will help in signing these draft picks," said Donahue, adding that Stokes' new contract is loaded with incentives.