49ers quarterback Alex Smith should have slept very well Thursday night.
For one thing, his team did not draft a quarterback (cough Jimmy Clausen cough) to eventually replace him. For two things, the 49ers did draft two offensive lineman to better protect him.
One is Rutgers offensive tackle Anthony Davis, whom they got after trading into Denver's pick with the 11th pick of the first round. The other is Idaho left guard Mike Iupati, whom they took six picks later at No. 17.
Consider them the Niners' answer to any questions about their questionable offensive line, and by extension, the pressing need to keep Smith upright as the unquestioned starting quarterback of 2010.
"Anytime that you can help protect the quarterback, it gives him that much more confidence in what he's doing," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said. "It gives him a little more time to think about, 'Where do I go with the ball?' rather than, 'Where do I run?'
"It's going to help Alex Smith a lot."
This will help more than Smith.
If all goes according to plan, running back Frank Gore can expect bigger holes behind Iupati, an extremely physical inside force, and Davis, who has the long arms of a tackle with the athleticism of a pulling guard.
In short, the 49ers drafted for a specific need after weeks of saying they were still a value-based team that preferred the Best Available Player approach.
"Teams talk about the value of this, the value of that," Singletary said. "Can the guy play? That's all I want to know.
"Our No. 1 priority was to upgrade the offensive line to allow us some flexibility with what we wanted to do offensively."
New draft chief Trent Baalke said they targeted Davis and Iupati with their two first-round picks a week ago when their draft board was finalized. He talked with Singletary on Wednesday night about the chance both players would fall their way.
Of course, they weren't all that sure Davis would be there. He was projected to go in the top 10, especially if there was a run on offensive tackles. The Raiders showed a lot of interest in Davis at No. 8, as did the Bills at No. 9.
Once the first 10 players were selected, the 49ers decided it was time to jump up from their No. 13 slot. Not because the Broncos or Dolphins wanted an offensive lineman at No. 11 or No. 12, but because other teams may have beaten them to the trade-up punch.
So they swapped their 13th overall pick for Denver's 11th overall pick, and threw in a fourth-round pick on top.
"We had no idea who could move in front of us," Singletary said. "Trent and I just felt instead of twiddling our thumbs and hope that we got the No. 1 need that we had, let's take all of the excitement out of it and let's move it."
There's nothing exciting about their picks, which is fine. Sexy picks don't block for quarterbacks. Devastating blockers do, and that's what the 49ers believe they just drafted.
"I like what Singletary is building over there," Davis said. "I can't wait to be a part of it and win some games."
OT Anthony DavisCollege: Rutgers (three years)
High school: Piscataway (N.J.)
Ht.: 6-foot-5 Wt.: 323 pounds
Scouting report: Very athletic for his size, enough so that he could pass for a pulling guard. ... Despite predraft questions about his dedication, Davis lost 40 pounds since his freshman year. ... Some think he could have benefited from playing another year at Rutgers instead of leaving early. ... Second-team All-American. ... He played right and left tackle in college.
Of note: Just 20 years old.
LG Mike IupatiCollege: Idaho (four years)
High school: Western (Anaheim)
Ht.: 6-foot-5 Wt.: 331 pounds
Scouting report: Extremely physical interior lineman with the potential to move to right tackle down the road. ... Finalist for the Outland Trophy, given to college's top interior lineman on either side of the ball. ... The first Vandal to garner first-team All-American honors.
Of note: Moved from American Samoa at age 14, when he began football as a defensive tackle.