5 NFL Draft Prospects the San Francisco 49ers Could Trade Up for
General manager Trent Baalke and Co. aren't shy about swapping a pick or two on draft day.
In 2010—Baalke's first year in control of the draft room—he swapped pick No.13 and gave up a fourth-round selection to slide up just two spots and nab right tackle Anthony Davis in the first round.
Some may question whether Davis was worthy of such an early selection, but it was another draft-day trade in which Baalke pulled the trigger on that should long be remembered in 49ers' draft history.
San Francisco was equipped with the 79th pick in the third round of the 2010 draft, and Baalke had the itch to make another move. Instead of sacrificing another late round pick to move up, San Francisco exchanged their third rounder for San Diego's 91st pick (also third round), in addition to the Chargers' fourth-round selection in 2011 as well.
Wondering who the 49ers would choose with the newly acquired 91st pick?
That would be All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman. San Fran could've easily scooped up Bowman with the 79th pick in the draft, but there was a feeling he'd still be available later that round--a gamble that is already paying dividends for the Niners' tenacious D.
And the 2011 fourth-round selection received in addition to the pick used on Bowman?
Baalke and the boys spent that one on running back Kendall Hunter. Yet another job well done.
Starting to pick up on a trend here? After just two years in control of the 49ers draft room, Baalke has now manipulated the NFL Draft on both occasions with precise accuracy—sacrificing picks when necessary and replenishing them in the later rounds if the opportunity arises.
So what surprises might be stored away inside the 49ers draft room for this April?
The next five slides will provide you with an in-depth look on a handful of prospects the 49ers should highly consider trading up for when draft day arrives.
David DeCastro: OG, Stanford
The ESPN.com 2012 NFL draft profile on David DeCastro had a short, yet direct message in reference to his intangibles.
"Plays with a blue collared mentality and leads by example".
Sound like a fit in San Francisco?
I'm not sure any lineman takes his job more seriously than DeCastro. Whether he's protecting Andrew Luck as if he were his child, or paving expressway-sized lanes for running backs en route to the end zone—he completes his mission on each play with near-perfect accuracy.
In Week 3 of the '11 season, the 49ers replaced starting right guard Chilo Rachal with Adam Snyder, and the run game prospered as a result. But the offensive line never really clicked in the passing game, and DeCastro could immediately fill one of San Francisco's few glaring holes.
DeCastro measures up at 6'5", 316 pounds and moves with impressive fluency for his size. Head coach Jim Harbaugh got plenty of opportunities in his time at Stanford to see first-hand just how aggressive DeCastro can be.
Out of the six games I observed film on DeCastro during the '10 and '11 seasons, he was the first lineman off the ball each and every time. He owns remarkable awareness, unquestioned toughness and a motor that never stalls. In 2010, he had a tendency to engage with such aggressiveness that he sometimes overshot his blocking assignments in the run game. However the next season, I didn't notice the issue nearly as much.
The 49ers have a deeper need at wide receiver, but there are a plethora of options via free agency, and the 2012 NFL draft quite possibly offers the most talent-laden receiver class in years.
DeCastro impressed onlookers early and often at the NFL Combine and likely cemented his status inside the top 20 on draft day.
If the 49ers feel he's the long-term answer at right guard—as I believe he is—don't be surprised to see them cough up their late second- or third-round pick to move up from No. 30 and take DeCastro in the first round.
Jared Crick: DE/DT, Nebraska
It's been said before that I believe Crick is a Justin Smith in the making.
Crick's draft stock has suffered as the result of a torn pectoral muscle early in his senior year, but he was often referred to as a top-10 pick prior to the injury.
Crick's overall build and unquestioned effort resemble that of the 49ers' star defensive end almost perfectly. At 6'4", 285 pounds, Crick is a perfect fit in San Francisco's 3-4 defense and is extremely versatile as well. If Vic Fangio wants Crick, Smith and Ray McDonald all on the field at once, Crick and Smith each possess the ability to line up at defensive tackle without sacrificing production.
Crick isn't exactly a true edge rusher, but he displays a relentless motor that allows him to consistently drag down ball carriers from behind. He also displays the intangibles that generally attract the attention of Baalke and the 49ers front office.
Nebraska's star D-lineman may not be making the splash that his fellow teammate Ndamukong Suh created in the NFL Draft two years ago, but his future has the potential to be just as bright. And likely less criticized, for that matter.
Injuries are unfortunately a part of football and are for the most part unavoidable, but Crick's season-ending blow just may serve as a blessing in disguise for the 49ers.
Crick's name is generally being thrown around in the late-first to early-second rounds of the NFL Draft. If San Fran stays put in the first and addresses a need at either wideout or guard, it would be worth scrapping a late round pick in order to move up in round 2 and snag this potential gem.
The 49ers are developing quite a niche for digging up overlooked prospects, and I have no doubt that Crick fits the mold.
Rueben Randle: WR, LSU
Randle is another first-round option for San Francisco on draft day.
Recently rumored as a potential pick for the Houston Texans at No. 26, Baalke and Co. shouldn't have a tough time moving up a few spots to snag him before Houston is on the clock. This year's draft class is once again loaded with talent, and plenty of teams will likely consider moving back a couple slots in order to collect an extra late-round sleeper.
Randle's 6'3", 210-pound frame is an asset the 49ers desperately could use, and his exceptional ball skills are nearly unmatched amongst receivers in the 2012 class.
In fact, Randle claims he wants to play the same brand of football as "Megatron"—arguably the NFL's top receiver.
“I try to model myself after Calvin Johnson, he’s a big body receiver," Randle said. “He makes a lot of plays deep down the field and also yards after the catch. I try to model myself in that kind of way.”
His effort has been questioned at times; LSU's run-oriented offense seemingly lulled him to sleep on more than one occasion.
But Randle has made it clear he expects great things from himself in the NFL, and Harbaugh's no-nonsense approach should provide him with ample opportunity to meet those expectations.
Mohamed Sanu (Rutgers) and Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina) are also intriguing options at receiver that may cause Baalke to consider moving up in the first round. But Sanu was somewhat of a one-year wonder and lacks elusiveness despite typically impressive hands.
McShay's comments on Jeffery have me continuing to question his commitment levels, and McShay also labeled Sanu as "overrated" and said that "he can't get open."
Almost every draft prospect enters the NFL with glaring potential concerns, but Randle's question marks seem more manageable than the rest. It's much easier to teach a receiver to run proper routes than it is to get down the field and pluck the ball with amazing efficiency.
Randle's ball skills are unquestionable, and they're more than welcome in San Fran if you ask me.
Cordy Glenn: OG, Georgia
Glenn is one of many prospects drawing rave reviews at the combine, and he's another potential answer for the 49ers issues at guard.
The Bulldogs' behemoth of a lineman stands at 6'6" and 345 pounds, and scouts are quickly falling in love with his amazing speed and footwork—size considered.
Glenn pulled off a 5.19 in the 40-yard dash and also ripped off 31 reps of 225 lbs. in the bench press. He's not nearly as polished as DeCastro, but Glenn is an absolute mauler in the run game and could anchor the guard position along with fellow big man and first-round pick Mike Iupati (6'5", 331 lbs.) for a long, long time in San Francisco.
It's quite rare that a guard cracks the first round of the NFL draft, and even less common to see one taken off the board in the top 20.
With that said, guys like DeCastro and Glenn each possess invaluable qualities that would benefit the 49ers immensely, and immediately.
If DeCastro is off the board first and the 49ers want to shore up the guard position once and for all, don't be shocked to see Baalke make a move on Glenn—before he's gone as well.
Stephen Hill: WR, Georgia Tech
Hill is another example of a receiver who possesses big play ability, but wasn't given ample opportunity in college to feature his talents.
Georgia Tech's top wideout was often overlooked in the option offense, as the Yellow Jackets ran the ball 718 times in 2011, as opposed to just 167 pass attempts.
As a result, Hill racked up just 28 catches on the year. But the 820 yards (29.3 YPC) can attest that he certainly made the most of his chances.
One could say that Hill took advantage of his invitation to the NFL Combine as well.
The wideout featured blazing speed, officially posting a 40-yard dash time of 4.36. He's also a great blocker (something 49ers' wideouts are often asked to do) and now could disappear as high as the second or third round.
If teams are still wary of his disappointing production in college, and he slips to the third round—the 49ers could easily afford to jump up and grab him off the board.