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Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Change raises stakes for Mays, other 49ers

By Mike Sando

NEW ORLEANS -- Coaching changes alter the way teams value players.

That happened in St. Louis when Steve Spagnuolo arrived as Rams coach for the 2009 season. Players drafted among the top 52 overall choices only two years prior suddenly didn't fit. Defensive lineman Adam Carriker (13th overall) and fullback Brian Leonard (52nd) were sent on their way before long.

It happened again in Seattle when Pete Carroll took over as head coach last season. Building the defense around Aaron Curry, chosen fourth overall in the 2009 draft, became less a priority once the people responsible for drafting him were no longer in charge.

I would expect similar disruption in San Francisco, where Jim Harbaugh has taken over for Mike Singletary.

"The simple effect is that nobody is guaranteed a position," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said from the NFL owners meeting this week. "A new staff comes in, we have a new system offensively, defensively and on special teams. Very few holdover position coaches. So, it's going to be competition at its finest. Roll out the ball and may the best man win."

The pressure will be on some of the less established players -- second-round choice Taylor Mays comes to mind -- once the lockout ends and players return to their teams. A prolonged lockout will hamper preparations, another challenge to overcome.