San Francisco 49ers Mock Draft: Grading Matt Miller's Latest Picks

Ted JohnsonAnalyst IMarch 29, 2012

San Francisco 49ers Mock Draft: Grading Matt Miller's Latest Picks

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    No team has been more active in the free agency period than the 49ers. Look at the additions:  Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Perrish Cox, Josh Johnson, Rock Cartwright and then Brandon Jacobs.

    Two wide receivers (the former perhaps still an elite threat, the latter a solid slot receiver), a veteran cornerback, a competent backup quarterback, a special-teams standout and now a veteran power back.

    What’s more, each contract doesn’t seem to limit the 49ers' options with potential huge cap hits. Each will be expected to play important roles for a team that seems to be surging towards a specific goal: Super Bowl.

    General Manager Trent Baalke is loading up, and he’s going to get another shot come April in the 2012 draft. Bleacher Report writer Matt Miller laid out the league’s entire draft, and we’ll grade his selections as pass, fail or incomplete for the 49ers.

First Round: Peter Konz

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    The 6’5”, 315-pound center from Wisconsin is an insightful selection. Miller doesn’t think that current starting center Jonathan Goodwin ranks all that high in pass protection. I disagree, believing more fault falls on Alex Smith and the right guard slot. But with the loss of right guard Adam Snyder to free agency, there’s no doubt that the interior offensive line is an area of need.

    Is it the biggest need? That remains to be seen. The Niners drafted Daniel Kilgore in the fifth round last year, and there’s nothing to dispel the notion that the coaching staff feel he’s ready to play guard in the NFL. Also, there are other options with backup tackle Alex Boone working his way into the lineup and thereby bumping right tackle Anthony Davis down to the guard slot.

    Of note, Konz did not fully participate in Wisconsin’s pro day due to the ill effects of a dislocated ankle. Nonetheless, CBSSports rates him as the No. 1 center. Wisconsin linemen tend to do well in the NFL.

    I think Baalke still has his eye on a game-breaker. What’s more, he’s not afraid to move up or down in the draft. In 2010, he traded up in the first round to take Anthony Davis and also swapped picks in the third round and ended up with NaVorro Bowman. Last year he traded up in the second round to take Colin Kaepernick.

    The possibility for more dramatics remains high, and perhaps a Kendall Wright of Baylor comes to the Niners. Or even a bigger move up to get Michael Floyd of Notre Dame. That’s a possibility in Miller’s draft because he has Chicago taking Stanford tight end Coby Fleener at No. 19. Many mocks had the Bears taking Floyd in that spot.

    Grade: Incomplete

Second Round: Casey Hayward

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    This is the 61st pick in the draft, and with the addition of Perrish Cox it seems that a CB isn’t ranking very high in terms of need now. And if you read this on Hayward, who is only 5’11 and 185 pounds, he doesn’t sound like the big, strong, press CB the team needs.

    Of note:

    "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.”

    This is a miss by Miller. I expect that Baalke might package the pick with the 30th to move up 10 or 15 spots in the first round and nail a game-breaker.

    Grade: Fail

Third Round: Alameda Ta'amu

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    If Ta’amu is available in the third round, I see this as a steal for the Niners. He has more than two years of starting experience for the University of Washington, and adding more depth to the interior defensive line is a need. Ta’amu (6’3”, 348 lbs) has the size to play nose tackle to give Isaac Sopoaga some rest.

    This is Miller’s best pick so far.

    Grade: Pass

Fourth Round: Devon Wylie

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    The receiver out of Fresno State is another compelling pick by Miller. There are many NFL observers, including Baalke, who feel there are plenty of receivers in this draft. Wylie might be one of them.

    He’s 5’9” and 187 pounds, but to repeat an old saying, “He can hit the light switch and be in bed before the room gets dark.” Fast, really fast. The only problem is lack of experience. He started only five games as a receiver for the Bulldogs, but he was the team’s best punt returner. 

    The Niners already have a returner, Ted Ginn Jr. And due to the timing nature of the Niners' passing game (remember, it’s Alex Smith, not Tom Brady) a player of Wylie’s downfield skills are less needed.

    Miller isn't wrong, but I feel there might be an inside linebacker pick here.

    Grade: Incomplete

Fifth Round: Vick Ballard

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    Listing 250 or so players takes a great deal of time. Miller’s work is excellent in many cases, but here he might be a victim of timing. First, the signing of Brandon Jacobs negates the chance the Niners select a runner here. And Ballard (5’10", 219 lbs), a former juco player and two-year starter for the Bulldogs, doesn’t stand out. 

    Second, the Niners already have a running back out of Mississippi State named Anthony Dixon, the same Anthony Dixon who now has to be worried about his spot on the roster, in light of Jacobs’ signing.

    Grade: Fail (probably a victim of bad timing)

Sixth Round: Max Gruder

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    Selecting an inside linebacker is a good call. Adding depth to the position can help. I feel it will be done higher, however. The 6’1” 235-pounder started 52 games for the University of Pittsburgh, a remarkable streak of durability.

    Gruder rates as the ninth-best inside backer, according to CBSSports, but I think the Niners might think a little higher for this position. Mychal Kendricks of Cal, who had such a good showing at the Combine, leaps out at me in the fourth round.

    Grade: Pass

Seventh Round: Chase Ford

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    The 6’6”, 258-pound tight end out of Miami seems a good selection. But it depends. Ford isn’t the receiving threat they need in this position. The Niners have Nate Byham coming off IR as well as Konrad Reuland. The only tight end I see them going for is Coby Fleener because they can use him more as a spread receiver than an end-of-the-line player, a la Delanie Walker or Byham.

    Grade: Fail