A few days ago, longtime draft specialist Mel Kiper Jr. released his projections for the first three rounds for the San Francisco 49ers. With the draft set to take place in just over two weeks from now, one has to believe these are Kiper's official and final predictions for the Niners.
I'm projecting the San Francisco 49ers WR Stephen Hill (rd 1), Miami (Ohio) OG Brandon Brooks (rd 2), & Michigan DL Mike Martin (rd 3).
— Mel Kiper Jr. (@MelKiperESPN) April 6, 2012
Not unusually, given the team's needs, Kiper has the 49ers selecting a wide receiver early, a talented offensive lineman second and a defensive line project with their third choice.
In the following slides, we'll break down the prospects and how they would fit in with the 49ers. We'll also examine why Kiper is confident these prospects will not only be available, but be taken by San Francisco.
In Kiper's final mock, the 49ers start things off with a bang by selecting Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill. At the NFL Combine, Hill registered the fastest 40-yard dash time with a blazing 4.36. One thing the 49ers have lacked at wide receiver is great breakaway speed.
Michael Crabtree is not known to be a fast receiver, but Hill's quickness could fill that void as his physical abilities would translate to the deep threat San Francisco has been missing. A lot of questions are in regard to the triple-option offense he was in at Georgia Tech or that he only had 28 receptions his last year.
However, those 28 catches went for a whopping 820 yards and five touchdowns. Hill averaged 29.3 yards per catch. He's also 6'4" and comes from the school that has produced Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. He could be the next big-time playmaker in the NFL from the wide receiver position.
Hill fits in well with the 49ers in that he would take the place of Randy Moss after this year. He could learn from Moss how to use his body and catch the ball at its highest point. Moss has been a jump-ball professional for over a decade, and Hill has the same physical tools to continue in his footsteps.
Hill's upside is tremendous, and with the 49ers coaching staff, he could reach it. To have Hill, Crabtree and Vernon Davis after the 2012 season gelling together could be a very effective.
With the 49ers second round selection, they draft Miami (OH) offensive lineman Brandon Brooks. Brooks played well in the East-West Shrine Game as well as putting on an impressive Pro Day which has earned him second-round status.
He is a big-bodied lineman with a 6'5", 346-pound frame. The 49ers really need help on the right side of the offensive line with only Alex Boone and last year's fifth-round selection Daniel Kilgore to compete for the position. Brooks has the ability to push people around and become a presence on an already-physical offensive line.
It's been said that he lacks the ferocity or tenacity of a mauler like say, Mike Iupati, but would provide excellence as a pass protector. The 49ers allowed a great deal of sacks last year with 44, and clearly need to upgrade in that aspect.
If Brooks can learn to use his body at the next level, he could be a great long-term addition to the 49ers. He's also a versatile guy which is great for the Niners' west coast offense; Brooks has experience at both tackle and guard. With the pulling schemes and creative plays San Francisco has installed, he'll need to be able to move and think fast.
This was an interesting choice for the 49ers, seeing as how dominant they were on defense in 2011. But for the record, I really like this pick. Mike Martin was one of the most physical players for Michigan and channels old-school toughness on the football field.
At 6'1", 306-pounds, Martin could eventually grow into a great 3-4 defensive end for the 49ers. He is a little undersized for what the 49ers may like in their nose tackle, but could be the potential heir apparent to Justin Smith in a few years.
Martin feeds off the physicality of the sport and has a high motor. As the only defensive player from Michigan to be invited to the combine, Martin most definitely caught Jim Harbaugh's attention. As a Michigan man, Harbaugh would love to add a fellow alum to his team if the situation made sense. And I believe this would be a good fit if it happened.
Martin's played a few different techniques on the defensive line, displaying his versatility. He's got a great attitude and is a well-spoken young man.
And as an 'undersized' defensive lineman, Martin knowingly plays with a chip on his shoulder, so he's got the 49er mentality already.
If this is the way the first three rounds fell for the 49ers, I think it would equate to another strong draft. These are each quality players that fill needs either immediately and long-term. They each bring something special to the table and with the 49ers coaching staff, it could be brought out of them.
Hill, Brooks and Martin are high-potential players that could flourish with a team that is already immensely talented.
It is unlikely San Francisco selects these exact three players, but this is definitely along the lines of their game plan. These are areas the faithful expect for them to address and in the appropriate rounds. Harbaugh and Trent Baalke will bring in prospects they feel are physical, high-character playmakers who can be franchise players someday.
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