Now that the NFL has descended on Indianapolis, more answers will be known about how and what general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh like about the upcoming prospects.
The 49ers PR office released a Feb. 23 press conference transcript in Indianapolis with Baalke, who reiterated that the Niners are not going to change their approach to free agency and the draft.
“The expectation is that we’re going to be very methodical like we were in the past,” Baalke said. “Our approach is not going to change. There are a lot of players that fit us. But we always take care of our own first, and we’re working through that now.”
Baalke added that both the offensive linemen and receivers in this group have “good depth at the top, at the middle and at the bottom of the draft. There are guys at the bottom who are going to end up as good players. We want to find the guys who are going to springboard up; find that nugget that will lead us to one of those guys.”
In a note of caution, however, is that Baalke stressed that he wants to find players that “fit our system.” In that perspective, we’ll analyze the mock draft for the 49ers posted at Drafttek.com.
The more I read about Sanu, the more impressed I am. He has the size (218 pounds) and height (6’2”) to overpower DBs in press coverage. That was a huge hindrance in last season’s passing game.
Sanu set the Big East record for receptions, with 115. He’s the conference’s career leader. All of this seems good and fine except that he played for Rutgers. But then I remembered that Anthony Davis, the Niners’ right tackle, played for Rutgers under coach Greg Schiano. It is a program that gets players ready for the NFL.
Baalke made a telling comment about 40 times:
Do you buy into the watch or buy into the film? There are guys who run 4.4s here and you watch the film and you don’t see it. Is that what they played to? And it goes the other way, too. There are guys who run 4.6 and watch them on the film and you swear they run in the mid 4.4s.
Sanu is reported to have supple hands as well as being a good blocker. But his future with the 49ers will not be settled in Indy, but in face-to-face meetings with team personnel as well as in more meetings in Santa Clara. Baalke and Harbaugh tend to go by what they see in the film.
There are three receivers—Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright and Michael Floyd—rated above Sanu, and there are plenty of teams drafting ahead of the Niners who need receivers.
Decision: Buy (but depends on his availability at No. 30).
James’ time in the 40 at Indy will be inconsequential; he’s already proven that he can get to the edge, and he’s stronger (5’9”, 185) than Kendall Hunter, which means he can run through tackles. That said, Draftek’s selection here is too high for James. There are other more pressing needs (right guard, another cornerback) that outweigh James’ value.
CBS.Sports.com’s draft analysis rates Hayward as the 21st-best CB in the draft and has him going in the fourth or fifth rounds.
More telling is this scouting report:
He is a very average athlete with ordinary speed and looks out of his element when flipping his hips in order to stay with receivers downfield -- obviously most comfortable in off-man coverage where he can face the action.
Hayward plays more like a free safety, struggling to find the ball and make a play after he's turned around and is ideally suited for a zone scheme where he can use his eyes and anticipation. He will be graded differently by every team depending on the scheme and he has NFL potential in the right defense, but teams know what they're getting with him.
If we go back to what Baalke said about overall depth of the draft class for offensive linemen, this selection seems spot on.
He definitely has the size the 49ers like. Here’s the scouting report from CBSSports.com:
Brooks was a four-year starter in college and went from a 290-pound freshman to 353-pounds as a senior, possessing the girth and overall framework that NFL teams seek in an offensive line prospect. He lacks the range and overall movement skills to be anything more than a short-area blocker and his on-field temperament leaves a lot to be desired. Brooks has the size and strength, but is still rough around the edges and is not yet a finished product ? a developmental guard prospect with definite pro upside who will need a strong positional coach in the NFL, but should fit somewhere in the top-125 picks.
Decision: Buy (if only to develop in two to three years).
I don’t see it. The Niners are pretty rich in safety; that is, if they keep Dashon Goldson and they have Colin Jones and Madieu Williams as backups.
The scouting report on Whitley (15) from CBSSports.com, which ranks him the sixth-best at his position
[From 2010]The returning starter at free safety … Is coming off a solid season in which he recorded 80 tackles, six pass breakups, two interceptions and two forced fumbles … Came up with a game-changing interception at UNC … Can play free safety, rover, either cornerback spot or in the nickel package if needed … A smart, talented player who the coaches would like to see make more plays … Will be one of the Hokies' leaders in 2011.
At 6’5”, 264, Crawford (81) is huge for an outside backer. He played defensive end for the Nittany Lions, and it seems at that size, shifting to the outside edge rusher is too big a reach.
At the same time, he began his football career as a junior in prep school, so he’s still young in the game. Also, he seems very bright, and that appeals to Baalke and Harbaugh. This is the type of player who will do the most to help himself with a good showing in Indy.
Decision: Sell. Another receiver will be brought in.
The 6’4”, 278-pound Crawford is rated by CBSSports.com as the 14th-best DE in the draft. At No. 7, that would constitute a steal, but then, it depends on him being able to play.
The scouting report:
Crawford has a strong, filled-out frame with adequate height and length for the position. He has good quickness for his size and looks coordinated in his movements, but he lacks the natural burst and get-off speed to be a consistent pass rusher. Crawford isn’t a quick-twitch player, but can move up and down the line of scrimmage with very good strength ? he is still raw and offers some upside as a base end in a four-man front or possibly as a five-technique in a 3-4 scheme and should hear his name early on the draft’s third day.
Decision: Sell. There will be more receivers brought in.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes (including the transcript) were obtained first-hand.