There are always surprises in the draft. Justin Blackmon seems destined for St. Louis at No. 6, but could find himself a Brown as the fourth pick. Seven years ago, Aaron Rodgers thought he'd be a top-five pick no sweat. He lasted until 24.
Go back 24 years and find that a sure-fire first-rounder from Oklahoma State fell to No. 40. Meet Thurman Thomas, now the Buffalo Bills’ all-time leading rusher and, some feel, a player who has a strong claim to be in the Hall of Fame.
Unexpected drops, unknown consensus building for "sleeper pick" and, of course, confusion, all come into play during the draft.
If there is one thing that San Francisco 49er general manager Trent Baalke seems incapable of, it’s being surprised. He even alluded to a “certain player” that will be available when the team uses the 30th pick Thursday night in New York.
But strange things happen. No one’s really sure what the team will do until the name is announced.
Here’s a rundown of what should happen, but there will be an alternate pick, just in case Baalke is surprised.
The Desired: Coby Fleener, tight end, Stanford.
Why: He’s 6’6”, can run and catch, has the poise and maturity that makes Baalke sleep with a smile on his face and he plays wide, in the slot or at the end of the line.
Questions: Some wonder if a player like Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech, a receiver with blinding speed, might be a better fit, and he might well be. Which makes him…
Alternate pick: Hill. If Fleener is gone, and I think he will be, then Hill makes a lot of sense. He’s had only 49 receptions in his college career, suggesting that he’s raw. But he is 6’4” with a 4.37 time in the 40.
The Desired: Amini Silatolu, the 6’4”, 311-pound guard out of Midwestern State.
Why: The Niners love his aggressiveness. He’d be another Mike Iupati for the right guard slot. And by this time Kevin Zeitler, David DeCastro and Peter Konz are all off the board, so Silatolu would represent great value.
Questions: The conference that Silatolu played in isn’t major college by any means. There’d be an adjustment period in dealing with the size and speed of the NFL.
Alternate: The best running back available, like Doug Martin of Boise State. Frank Gore isn’t getting any younger.
Desired: Mike Martin, 306-pound defensive end out of Michigan.
Why: Martin (68) adds size and spirit to an interior defensive line whose stalwarts include Isaac Sopoaga and Justin Smith, both of whom are reaching their mid-30s. Time to give these guys more rest.
Questions: Martin is 6’1” and possesses a nonstop motor, but does he have the versatility to play the nose or the 3-gap?
Alternate: Alameda Ta’amu, DT out of Washington. Another Sopoaga.
Desired: More speed, so it's Chris Owusu, wide receiver, Stanford.
Why: Three months ago, I said Marvin Jones of California would be a great pick, but Jones has been rising on the draft boards. He won’t last this long.
Questions: Owusu, who suffered three concussions last year, might not get drafted at all due to injury concerns. He’s been cleared and the Niners don’t want to take the chance that his sub-4.4 40 time goes elsewhere.
Alternate: Devon Wylie, Fresno State. He’s 5’8” and slicker than three-in-one oil-on-ice. The chance for the Niners to develop their own Wes Welker.
Desired: More speed on the edge, potentially from Josh Kaddu, linebacker, Oregon.
Why: He’s 238 pounds and runs well, making him a great addition outside the tackles but also on special teams.
Questions: He played inside for the Ducks but now he’d be backing up Parys Haralson, Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith.
Alternate: Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State. Explosive personality meets ultimate team-first coach. Interesting mix.
Desired: Cornerback. Baalke like players from small schools. He continues the trend with Chris Greenwood out of Albion (quick, check Wikipedia!). He’s got the size (6’1”, 190).
Questions: Can he run with Larry Fitzgerald but also handle Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Jermichael Finley and all the other big-time tight ends and receivers on the Niners’ 2012 schedule?
Alternate: Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia. Great press coverage technique.
Desired: Special teams depth, so it’s Sean Richardson (21) out of Vanderbilt. He’s big (6’3”, 216), which means he can stick with Marshawn Lynch when the Seahawks back comes through the middle.
Questions: Speed, oh, is there enough speed? 4.52 at the combine.
Alternate: Duke Ihenacho, San Jose State.