NFL Draft 2012: 4 Sleepers at WR the 49ers Should Target
However, deciphering which talents can make the transition from collegiate football to the NFL, requires much more than luck.
And thanks to the stellar 13-3 performance from a season ago—the 49ers are saddled with the 30th overall pick in each round—so it's a good possibility they'll be sifting through the bargain bin for receivers in the later rounds.
Considering the wideout position was arguably the weak link of the roster in 2011, and the 49ers currently have just two receivers from the 2011 active roster under contract—San Fran would be wise to stock its draft board full of pass-catchers this April.
With that said, here's four potential sleepers at wide receiver the 49ers should target in the later rounds of the NFL draft.
Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
In four seasons with the Sooners, Broyles racked up more total receiving yards (4,586) than many NFL wideouts accumulate throughout their entire career.
Broyles also broke the the all-time FBS career reception record early in 2011, but a torn ACL in his left knee ended his collegiate career late in the season.
After a mind-blowing 2010 campaign (131 Rec, 1,622 Yds, 14 TD), Broyles was once widely regarded as a potential first-round selection. But deciding to return for his senior season and then suffering the untimely knee injury has caused his draft stock to drop considerably.
A testament to his 347 career receptions—Broyles owns an excellent pair of hands—and he attacks the middle of the field with a fearless demeanor as well.
Broyles also has the ability to be an immediate factor in the return game while he's molded into an NFL slot receiver.
He only participated in the bench press at the NFL Combine and likely won't do much at Oklahoma's pro day while recovering from the ACL tear, but if Broyles is hanging around in the mid-to-late fourth round—he'd potentially be quite a steal for San Fran.
Marvin McNutt, Iowa
McNutt is one prospect that I believe is vastly underrated entering the draft.
At 6'2", 216 pounds, the Iowa product was arguably the Big Ten's top receiver in 2011. After piling up 1,312 yards and 12 touchdowns on 82 receptions in a conference loaded with some of the nation's top defenses, I find it troubling that a player of his caliber would go so unnoticed.
McNutt's crisp route-running skills and excellent hands are screaming that he's NFL-worthy, if you ask me.
The knock on him is that he's not all that elusive and lacks the breakaway speed that scouts drool over. Considering the big guy ran a very respectable 4.53 40-yard dash at the combine, I'm not too concerned.
Something to take note of as well, McNutt was a top-50 quarterback recruit coming out of high school and Iowa decided to convert him to receiver. He now holds the school record for receiving yards (2,861) and ranks second in receptions (170).
The 49ers would be crazy not to draft this stud if he's still available in the third round.
Juron Criner, Arizona
Criner is another option for San Francisco that would provide them with much-needed size at receiver.
Lack of speed is a concern for him though, and Criner's 40-yard dash at the combine (4.68) did little to ease the minds of scouts in that regard.
However, he does possess excellent hands in addition to his big frame and does a great job of finding holes in the defense on his routes as well.
Criner piled up 2,189 yards and 22 touchdowns his junior and senior seasons, and was one of the more consistent receivers amongst the collegiate ranks the last two years.
He may require a little time to refine his skills in the NFL, but he's certainly got the track record to suggest he can make a notable splash in the league when the time is right.
If other options are off the board, and the 49ers are still thinking receiver in the third or fourth rounds, I wouldn't be the least bit disappointed by adding Criner to the 2012 draft class.
Junior Hemingway, Michigan
Hemingway wasn't one of the highlighted receivers at the NFL Combine, but his impressive numbers at the event are definitely worth taking notice.
Not only did he surprise scouts with a 4.53 40 time, Hemingway led all wideouts in both the shuttle drill (3.98) and the cone drill (6.59) as well.
Not too shabby for a receiver who's 6'1" and 225 pounds.
Hemingway was equally as impressive on Saturdays at the Big House, but the Michigan product often lacked consistency at crucial times and has a spotted injury history as well.
I wouldn't jump for him any earlier than the fourth round, but the Wolverines have a rich history of pumping NFL-ready receivers into the draft, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see Hemingway follow suit.
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