2012 NFL Rookie Draft: Can't-Miss Prospects for the San Francisco 49ers
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After a frenzied free-agency period, the San Francisco 49ers have very few voids left to fill on their 2012 roster. With that said, there is no team in the NFL that couldn’t improve through the rookie draft.
Unfortunately for the Niners, their biggest need is at right guard; a position that lines up particularly poorly with their late draft picks. Stanford’s highly touted guard David DeCastro is expected to be long gone by the Niners' 30th pick, and Iowa State’s Kelechi Osemele and Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler are both at risk to be drafted before the Niners' second-round pick.
While a top-tier talent like DeCastro may fall tantalizingly close to warrant trading up, it is far more likely the 49ers will draft the best player available. If the best available also happens to fill a secondary or tertiary role, that would be the most ideal situation.
The following is a list of such players, broken down into four categories: defensive tackle, cornerback, offensive lineman and receiver. If none are available, it may be time to trade back into the second round and pick up an extra draft pick along the way.
1. Defensive Tackle
LSU Monster Defensive Tackle Michael Brockers
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The 49ers are very fortunate they didn't incur any injuries along their defensive line last year, as they are paper-thin after Ricky-Jean Francois. With a draft class that figures to be heavy in top-tier defensive tackles, it is conceivable for one of these big bodies to still be on the board by the time the Niners pick in the first round.
Except for workout-freak Dontari Poe, most teams will likely draft the player who best fits their scheme, giving any one of the following players a chance to make it to the 30th pick.
In no particular order, those players are:
Michael Brockers, LSU: 6'5", 322 lbs
Devon Still, Penn St.: 6'5", 303 lbs
Jerel Worthy, Michigan St.: 6'2", 308 lbs
Fletcher Cox, Mississippi St.: 6'4", 298 lbs
South Carolina Cornerback Stephon Gilmore
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While Chris Culliver is no doubt a star in the making, the NFL has become a pass-first league, and no team can have enough elite corners. It also helps to have someone to replace an aging Carlos Rogers and an above-average Tarell Brown in the near future.
After Morris Claiborne is taken in the first six picks, the next three cornerbacks all have a chance of falling into the Niners' lap.
Those players are:
Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina: 6'1", 193 lbs
Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama: 6'3", 192 lbs
Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama: 5'10", 193 lbs
3. Offensive Lineman
Georgia Guard/Tackle Cordy Glenn Offers Versatility
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As mentioned previously, right guard is a glaring need on the 49ers roster. Daniel Kilgore may be the answer here, but a little competition never hurt.
Current right tackle Anthony Davis played guard in college and presents a unique opportunity for the 49ers to draft a rookie tackle and move Davis to his more natural position. After Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff are gone, the are still a number of top-tier tackles available, much more than at guard.
Jonathan Martin, Stanford: 6'5", 312 lbs
Mike Adams, Ohio St.: 6'7", 323 lbs
Cordy Glenn, Georgia: 6'5", 345 lbs
South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery Re-emerged as an Elite Receiver
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Randy Moss and Mario Manningham are great and economical additions to a struggling receiving group, but don't expect them both to still be around in two years. In the meantime, the Niners need to find a long-term solution at the position.
While Vernon Davis will be the undisputed starter at tight end for many years, there is one TE in the draft worth taking at No. 30 for his ability to line up wide.
Assuming Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd will be long gone by this time, the best available players are:
Coby Fleener, Stanford: 6'6", 247 lbs
Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech: 6'4", 215 lbs
Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina: 6'3", 216 lbs
Kendall Wright, Baylor: 5'10", 196 lbs