San Francisco 49ers Draft 2012: 10 Compelling Picks the Niners Can't Pass Up
There are clearly needs on the offensive side of the football, where the red and gold ranked 26th in yards per game. The running game was a strong point, but the passing attack was rarely a force to reckoned with.
On defense, they would also be wise to add a few pieces in the event players such as Carlos Rogers and Ahmad Brooks leave for free agency. In fact, even if they don't depart, the 49ers should use at least two picks to help add depth to both their secondary and linebacking corps.
With depth at many positions in this year's draft, the 49ers can pick and choose where to deal with certain areas of their team.
In the early and middle rounds, though, they must make selections that will improve upon the current group of players.
With that in mind, here are 10 players the 49ers can't pass up.
There is no more glaring need for the 49ers than the one that exists with the wide receiver corps. They do not currently have a playmaking end-zone presence on their roster.
The first round is where they can solve this problem.
After a record-breaking junior season for Rutgers, 6’2” wideout Mohamed Sanu is one of the top receiver prospects in this year’s draft.
With 115 receptions for over 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns this past year, he is exactly what the 49ers need.
With his addition, the 49ers would immediately have the No. 1 wide receiver that they have lacked for over a half decade. Sanu can clearly make plenty of catches for big plays, while his height allows him to have an advantage against smaller corners and safeties.
If he is available at 30th overall, the 49ers would make an immediate impact by selecting him.
If Sanu is off the board by the end of the first round, the 49ers should turn to their other glaring offensive need: the offensive line.
With a 6’7”, 323-pound frame, Mike Adams would be the large body that unit needs.
He could provide a strong blocking presence for the running attack, while also preventing defenses from getting to the quarterback. Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick would all enjoy his presence.
With his selection, the 49ers would help solidify their offensive front, allowing them to address holes in other areas.
Due to his size and potential, Fleener is the wild card in this draft for the 49ers. At 6’6”, 244 pounds, Fleener played tight end at Stanford and was one of their biggest receiving threats.
Over his final two seasons with the Cardinal, he collected 17 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards.
The difficulty is that he possesses the size and receiving ability the 49ers need at a position that already has two starting-caliber players.
However, depending on the circumstances, the 49ers may be well served to draft Fleener anyway. If they miss out on Sanu and are not convinced they can lure a top wideout in free agency, he could be the best option to complement Vernon Davis in the passing game.
In drafting him, the 49ers would turn themselves into a West Coast version of the New England Patriots.
Mitchell Schwartz is the next player the 49ers can’t pass up if they choose to go with Sanu in the first round and miss out on Mike Adams.
As with Adams, Schwartz would step in as a force on the offensive line to help pass protect and run block.
However, Schwartz would also be able to provide versatility. In 51 games at Cal, he started 35 of them at left tackle and 16 at right tackle.
Not only that, but Schwartz is used to operating with a run-based system like Jim Harbaugh’s. In the three seasons he started on the offensive line, he blocked for current NFL running backs Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen, while this past year helping Isi Sofele gain over 1,300 yards.
Having dealt with their two most glaring needs to open the draft, the 49ers can turn to the defense. If Ahmad Brooks leaves, Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman will likely be the starting linebackers.
After that, though, depth is a problem.
Josh Kaddu is a 6’2” Oregon product who could help in this area and is projected to go in the third round.
He is an incredibly athletic talent who, while large, is still able to move quickly across the field. In his senior season, he recorded 47 tackles en route to being named to the All-Pac-12 Conference first team.
The 49ers would be wise to grab him if he’s still around when they make their third selection.
Even though Dequan Menzie is probably one the least recognized players from the vaunted Alabama secondary, he is incredibly skilled.
He would be a valuable pick to the 49ers for two reasons.
First, while with the Crimson Tide he played both the corner and free safety positions.
With Carlos Rogers and Dashon Goldson hitting free agency, the 49ers will likely need to draft a defensive back. In Menzie, they would get a player capable of replacing either of them.
Secondly, in his senior season, Menzie led Alabama with 11 pass breakups and 37 tackles. These abilities would help the 49ers, as they struggled at times this year with opponents going to the air for big plays.
As the featured running back for Utah State, Turbin had an outstanding junior year. He rushed for over 1,500 yards and collected 19 touchdowns.
At 5’9” and 216 pounds, he is almost physically identical to Frank Gore, but nearly seven years younger.
Kendall Hunter showed enough promise in 2011 that he will continue to be used more liberally in the 49ers offense in the coming years.
Gore, on the other hand, may not be. His body, along with the power style running game that Jim Harbaugh employs, may not allow the 49ers’ leading rusher in 2011 to continue much longer.
By selecting Turbin, the 49ers would give themselves insurance in the event Gore’s body breaks down more quickly than expected, while also setting themselves up well for the future.
Unless the 49ers get very lucky and have Kaddu fall to them in the third, they will have gone through at least three rounds without adding any piece to their linebacking corps.
By the time the fourth or fifth round is over, that will not be the case.
As a Texas Longhorn, Keenan Robinson started 51 games at outside linebacker and registered 296 total tackles.
In his standout junior season the 6’3”, 240-pound Robinson had six games where recorded eight or more tackles, including an incredible 19-tackle performance against Oklahoma.
If the 49ers have not drafted a linebacker after the first few rounds, they would be making a mistake to pass on Robinson.
Even if the 49ers come away with Dequan Menzie, they will need to continue to add depth to their secondary. Florida State cornerback Mike Harris will be someone they should keep in their sights.
As a junior college transfer to Florida State, he collected 91 tackles, including 11 against Clemson this past September.
At 5’10" his size has dropped him in the draft. However, if his tackling ability translates over into the NFL, he would be a steal for the 49ers.
He could be used situationally to begin his career, then moved into a starting role depending on his development and performance.
After Sanu and Fleener, the 49ers would be wise to add depth to their wide receiving core later in the draft. This would be a player who is unlikely to start, but has enough upside that he is worth a selection.
Standing at 6’3”, Gerell Robinson has the height that should entice them.
Projected to go in the fourth or fifth round, Robinson had a solid senior season amidst an inconsistent collegiate career. With 1,156 receiving yards this past year, he had the fourth-best season of any wideout in Arizona State history.
He is not a flashy pick, but for a team that needs receivers with height, he is someone the 49ers should not pass on if given chance to pick him.