Welcome to the post-free agency edition of my San Francisco 49ers 2012 NFL Mock Draft.
Although the surprisingly exciting, and sometimes frantic (thanks, Peyton), free agency period was a successful one for the 49ers' front office—the main focus in the upcoming draft has not necessarily changed.
My selections, however, have.
Numerous NFL hopefuls have significantly altered their draft status since my last Mock Draft, either with performances at the NFL Combine or at their respective pro days.
While San Francisco didn't pull the trigger on any major free agency acquisitions, a couple valuable additions as well as a notable vacancy will slightly alter the 49ers order of priority heading into the draft.
The signings of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham at wide receiver have bolstered the passing attack and also lowered the importance of attacking the position in the early rounds as a result.
The 49ers biggest hole now lies at right guard, a position widely regarded as a need even before losing veteran Adam Snyder in free agency.
With the position's top prospects likely off the board long before pick No. 30, I've decided it's best for the front office to seek out a trade partner and slide back in the draft—bulking up on early-round picks in the process.
With that said, let's get this party started.
Note: For purposes of this Mock Draft, the San Francisco 49ers have traded their 30th overall pick to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for pick No. 43 (second round) and pick No. 76 (third round).
Zeitler is a first-round caliber lineman lost in a talent-laden draft class.
The 49ers found an eager trading partner in the divisional-rival Seahawks, who were aggressively seeking out one of the draft's top receivers and selected Alshon Jeffery with the 30th pick.
By selecting Zeitler 43rd overall, the 49ers have now addressed their biggest need with a first-round worthy guard and picked up a third-round pick in the process.
Sounds like a Trent Baalke-type move, if you ask me.
Zeitler is the next best guard prospect behind David DeCastro and Cordy Glenn and provides excellent value with a mid-second-round pick.
At 6'4", 314 pounds, Zeitler started all 14 games at right guard as a senior for the Badgers and has the ability to compete with Daniel Kilgore for a starting gig straight out of training camp.
Zeitler possesses excellent quickness when engaging his blocks, yet is powerful enough to blow the defender back, and continue driving him downfield.
Honestly, you just can't go wrong with Big Ten linemen.
Even with Gore and Hunter, there's plenty of room for Polk on board.
I had originally overlooked Polk (and the running back position altogether) in my previous Mock Draft.
Upon further inspection, he's just too good to pass up.
Polk's draft stock is soaring after an impressive performance at Washington's Pro Day. He measured up at 5'11", 212 pounds and improved upon his combine 40-time with the two pro day attempts coming in at just under 4.5 seconds.
Polk runs with excellent power and vision, a style so similar to Frank Gore, it's scary. He's also been described as a "passionate player and diligent worker, who truly loves the game," according to ESPN's scouting report on Polk.
Sound like someone we know quite well?
He's a patient runner that sets up his blocks perfectly and never strays toward the sidelines. Simply put, Polk is going to take the most direct route to the end zone, whether he is forced to go around, over or straight through would-be tacklers.
Despite playing on a disappointing Washington squad with an extremely sub-par offensive line, Polk racked up 1,488 yards in 2011 and reached the century mark in 10 of the Huskies' 13 contests.
Polk does have some injury concerns, given that he's been through two shoulder surgeries during his collegiate career. But Gore had similar troubles with his knees in college, and that didn't stop the third-round pick from leaving his mark on the NFL.
His injury history considered, Polk may be a slight reach here at No. 61 overall. But once again, the potential payoff is just too good to pass up.
Plain and simple, Polk could end up being the steal of the draft.
I think Spence would be a great selection here, with the 76th overall pick that was acquired from the trade with the Seahawks.
Spence displayed excellent athleticism and big-play ability as a linebacker at Miami, making him a perfect fit for the 49ers aggressive defense.
Another intelligent hard worker who's known for spending countless hours in the film room—Spence will need to direct some extra attention to the gym in order to overcome concerns of whether he's strong enough to survive in the NFL.
His technique could use some improvement as well, but he's clearly a talented prospect who's extremely passionate about football, and in due time can eventually develop into a starter opposite second-year phenom Aldon Smith at the outside linebacker position.
Hayward has the potential to develop into a solid nickel corner in the NFL.
This was my selection here a month ago, and I'm not changing it now.
Hayward is slightly undersized at 5'11", 192 pounds but displays excellent instincts and ball skills that should present him with ample opportunity to thrive in the NFL.
Coming out of Vanderbilt, Hayward faced top SEC receivers week in and week out and helped his talent-deprived defense keep the Commodores competitive throughout games in which they could have easily been embarrassed.
Hayward also racked up seven interceptions as a senior in 2011 and 15 altogether during his collegiate career, tying him for the school record.
Despite an already solid secondary that boasts a Pro Bowler in Carlos Rogers and surging second-year standout in Chris Culliver—the 49ers will want to keep Hayward on their radar in the early-to-mid rounds.
I know defensive backs coach Ed Donatell wouldn't be complaining about this pick.
McNutt has plenty of determination and athleticism to succeed in the NFL.
About time I took a receiver, eh?
McNutt is underrated in this year's draft because he was initially recruited out of high school to be a quarterback for the Hawkeyes and could still use some refining at receiver.
With that said, the 6'4", 215-pounder already has the size and athleticism to be an effective possession receiver in the NFL.
Aside from the previously-retired Moss, who typically only holds value as a deep threat, the 49ers have no receiver taller than 6'1".
Vernon Davis provides size at the tight end position, but Alex Smith is still deprived of that reliable big-bodied wideout that will consistently help move the sticks on third downs.
McNutt may need some time to grow accustomed to everyday life as a receiver in the NFL, but he has the potential to be a solid possession receiver for the Niners, despite lacking prototypical speed at the position.
Molk is a true leader and a potential long-term answer at center in SF.
Jonathan Goodwin is by all means still a serviceable center in the NFL, and that's putting it lightly.
Nonetheless, he'll be 34 this upcoming season, and some would say he's already on borrowed time as a lineman in the NFL.
Goodwin, a former Wolverine as well, would likely have no qualms with bringing in a fellow alum to become his understudy.
Although he's slightly undersized at 6'1", 298 pounds, Molk displays an unquestioned work ethic and tenacious attitude that would fit right in on the 49ers offensive line.
Molk won the 2011 Rimington Trophy with Michigan as the nation's top center in 2011, and with Goodwin, coach Harbaugh and the newly-acquired Manningham all being Michigan alumni—he would likely feel right at home in red and gold.
At this point, San Francisco is simply creating some training camp competition at wide receiver.
Owusu is a former Harbaugh product from Stanford who saw his draft stock plummet, mainly due to injuries and slightly inconsistent play late in his collegiate career.
With that said, there is still some potential here from a guy who ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and possesses above average route-running skills as well.
If he's hanging around this late in the draft, I don't see Trent Baalke and Co. hesitating to give the 6'2", 202-pound wideout a shot just so see what he's got.
Clearly another depth addition here, but what did you expect in the seventh round?
Walker is yet another competitive hard worker—nothing new as far as this mock draft goes.
While his ceiling is quite low in terms of being a starter in the NFL, the 6'5", 287 pound Clemson product is a smart, physical lineman capable of making an NFL squad, all the while providing serviceable depth at the tackle position.
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