It's finally here...the 2012 NFL draft.
The draft is an important event because it gives every team the chance to improve, no matter where you placed in the standings. Some teams will be looking to rebuild through the draft while others will see the draft as the missing piece to bringing home the Lombardi Trophy. The San Francisco 49ers certainly qualify as the latter as they went 13-3 and if not for a muffed punt return could of been in the Super Bowl.
When I mocked the following players to the 49ers I considered previous drafts and who the 49ers selected in those previous drafts. I noticed two trends, the first being that they ignore most red flags. And the second being athleticism is a trait the 49ers front office values highly. Even when I considered these trends it was still hard to determine who the 49ers would take as Harbaugh rarely show face.
Before we mock, let me just say congratulations to all of the college football players that have come this far, and I wish them the best in their NFL careers.
Shall we mock?
49ers first pick is the athletic Hill
It is true that the 49ers already addressed the wide receiver position in the offseason, but who knows if Randy Moss has anything left and Mario Manningham is only signed to a two-year deal. The 49ers would be wise to develop a wide receiver if the Moss experiment fails and Manningham does not return after his contract expires.
Stephen Hill could be available when the 49ers pick at No. 30. For those of you who don't know much about Hill, he was graded as a second-day pick a couple of months ago. Then the combine happened and Hill is now considered a first-round pick.
At the combine Hill was the MVP, having the fastest 40 times and performing well in the drills, including making a highlight-reel over the shoulder catch. He also put on a show at his pro day, where he supposedly ran quality routes, an area of his game scouts said he would have to improve upon.
If Hill is available when the 49ers pick, don't expect the 49ers to hesitate. The past draft showed that athleticism is a trait that 49ers GM Trent Baalke favors, as Baalke selected workout warrior Aldon Smith with the seventh pick, even though many didn't project him to be a top-10 pick. And Hill showed at the combine and his pro day that he is the most athletic receiver in this draft.
Hill will need time as he is not necessarily pro ready coming from the option offense Georgia Tech ran. If he was selected by the 49ers, though, Hill would not be pressured to start right away as the 49ers already have quality receivers. Also Hill can learn from Moss, who when he retires will go down as one of the greatest receivers of all time. Let's hope, though, that Moss' work ethic doesn't rub off on Hill.
Another reason why Hill is a good fit is, at 6'4" and having a 39-inch vertical jump, Hill can be the solution to the 49ers red-zone struggles. As mentioned previously, the 49ers do not want to rush Hill to the starting role, but they need to find something for him to do. Hill can come on the field when the 49ers offense is in the red zone.
It is concerning that Hill did not do that much in college, his career high in receptions being 28. Receivers that didn't produce at the collegiate level, but are ranked high because of their athleticism, rarely pan out in the NFL. However, Demaryius Thomas and Calvin Johnson, former Georgia Tech receivers, have found success in the NFL. Also you have to consider that Hill's lack of production was a result of playing in the run-oriented offense Georgia Tech ran.
Other mock drafts have projected the 49ers to select Coby Fleener, but the 49ers do not need another tight end. They already have one of the top five tight ends in the league, Vernon Davis, the underrated Delanie Walker and a quality blocking tight end in Nate Byham. It is true that Delanie Walker is a free agent after this season but the 49ers rarely let their own leave, especially players that began their career with the 49ers.
I have also seen other mock drafts projecting a guard. It is possible as the 49ers did not bring anyone in to fill the void Adam Snyder left when he signed with the Cardinals. One of the reasons why the guard position was not addressed, though, was because the 49ers already have young guard they like, Daniel Kilgore. The 49ers moved up in last year's draft to select Daniel Kilgore for a reason and will give him a chance to win the starting job.
Lastly, I have seen mock drafts projecting the 49ers to take a cornerback. This would also make sense as the weak point of the 49ers defense was the secondary. Instead of taking a cornerback in the first round, though, my mock draft has the 49ers addressing this position in the next round.
Has Janoris Jenkins Done Enough to Resurrect His Career?
As mentioned in the previous slide, the 49ers secondary was a weak point of the 49ers defense. Despite playing in front of a pass rush that didn't give the quarterback much time to throw, the 49ers pass defense was ranked only 16th.
The 49ers addressed this position in the offseason by bring back the Pro Bowler Carlos Rogers and signing Perish Cox for depth. Despite these moves, the 49ers still don't have a cornerback that can start across Rogers. Tarell Brown would be better suited in the nickel role and Perish Cox has been out of football for a year.
If you asked me a year ago if Janoris Jenkins could be available in the second round, I would have laughed. But a lot has happened to Jenkins since then, as he was kicked off the Florida Gators for his third arrest in the last two years, twice for marijuana possession. If Jenkins had stayed out of trouble it is likely that Jenkins would of been a top 15 pick. Instead he found himself playing for a Division II school, Northern Alabama.
Playing for Northern Alabama helped Jenkins turn out to be what he needed as it helped Jenkins stay out of trouble and it appeared he has turned his life around. Jenkins would go on to post impressive numbers at the combine and his pro day, and before you knew it he was back to being projected as a first-round pick.
But lately his stock has been falling to the point that some teams have taken him off their board. It was recently discovered that Jenkins has four kids with three different women. It is also troubling that his agent dropped him less than two weeks before the draft.
None of these flags will concern Baalke, though, as draft after draft Baalke has shown that character concerns do not affect his decision. In the 2010 draft Baalke took Anthony Davis despite weight concerns. Also in that draft Baalke took NaVorro Bowman in the third round even though he had been charged with assault. In the 2011 draft Baalke made Aldon Smith their first-round draft pick even though draft evaluators said he would have trouble adjusting to the NFL lifestyle.
If you don''t believe those trends, just ask Baalke who has said that it doesn't matter what a player has done in the past, it matters what that player can do for the 49ers. Jenkins also has athleticism that Baalke cannot ignore, running a 4.43 and posting a vertical jump of 33.5 inches.
Jenkins would be a steal when the 49ers pick 60th. Jenkins is regarded as the best pure cover corner in the draft. In fact his coverage skills have scouts comparing him to Darrelle Revis. Though it is true that Vic Fangio's defense does not have its cornerbacks play man to man, instead having them play physical at the line scrimmage,
Jenkins played in multiple schemes in college, occasionally being asked to play bump-and-run. He also recorded an impressive number of interceptions in college, and one of the formulas to the 49ers success last season was creating turnovers.
Most importantly, Harbaugh and the 49ers veterans, such as Patrick Willis and Justin Smith, would keep Jenkins in line.The 49ers locker room has been able to keep NaVorro Bowman out of trouble and as a result Bowman has been able to harness the potential that had scouts grading him as a potential first-round pick before he was arrested. If the 49ers locker room can help Jenkins be the player he's been compared to, the 49ers should pull the trigger.
Meet Justin Smith Jr.
You may ask yourself why the 49ers would draft a defensive lineman, especially one this early, when they have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. The 49ers defensive line could use some depth though. Justin Smith isn't getting any younger while Isaac Sopoaga is a free agent after this season. The 49ers should groom a young defensive lineman to take over in the future.
Why not groom a Justin Smith Jr.? That's who you think of when you watch Derek Wolfe play. Like Justin Smith he has a motor that never quits and a bull rush that can knock offensive lineman off their feet. He also is surprisingly athletic for his size, running a 4.94. What the 49ers might like most about Wolfe is his scheme versatility, as Vic Fangio defense uses a lot of defensive packages. He could play a defensive tackle in a 4-3 or a defensive end in a 3-4, using his strength to occupy offensive lineman or using his speed to rush the passer.
One area of concern is that he is a late bloomer. Before his senior season he was inconsistent and was said to not be 100 percent dedicated to football. Like Jenkins, though, the 49ers locker room will not let him go back to his old ways.
The 49ers will be looking for Gore's replacement in this draft. This was indicated when the 49ers had over five running backs visit the team facility. One of the running backs they had visit was Robert Turbin from Utah State.
Turbin caught my eye immediately at the combine, flexing the largest biceps I have ever seen on a man. And I was even more impressed when a man with such large biceps was able to run a 4.44. Despite posting these impressive numbers, scouts are not that high on him as he has an injury history, missing the 2010 season.
Also he did not play against that high level of competition during his time at Utah State. Still even if it was against weak competition his stat line is impressive, rushing for over 1,500 yards and at 6.1 yards per carry.
What I like most about Turbin is that I see so much of Gore in him. Gore was a mid-round prospect whose stock was hurt because of multiple injuries he suffered in college. The 49ers took him in the third round and since then Gore has only made teams regret passing on him.
Like Gore, Turbin is put together well and uses his body to run downhill. He also has the blocking skills to help protect the quarterback on blitzing downs. Though he does not have the receiving skills that Gore had coming out of college, he should improve in that area serving as Gore's understudy. And when Gore is ready to call it quits, I believe the 49ers will have a replacement ready in Turbin.
He also is a guy that you can't help but root for. He has had a tough life and the 49ers can give him a chance to make it better. Click on the link to read about Turbin's bio.
#70 could give Kilgore competition
As mentioned in the previous slide, Kilgore is expected to win the position battle for right guard. Kilgore, though, may not be ready to win the position battle as one has to remember that he played for a Division II football team. The 49ers should bring in some competition just in case.
Desmond Wynn of Rutgers is a player the 49ers should consider at pick No. 165. He plays much stronger than his listed size and is a good fit for the power blocking scheme the 49ers offense run. Wynn also could be developed into a center which is a position the 49ers will need to address sooner or later as Jonathan Goodwin is 33 years old.
Does Burris have the speed to be an effective rush linebacker?
Another pass-rusher? You must think I'm crazy. Well if you think I'm crazy then you must think the 49ers are crazy. According to sources, the 49ers have their eye on Miles Burris from San Diego State.
Burris had a productive collegiate career and was effective at getting to the quarterback. The question is whether or not his pass-rushing skills will translate to the NFL, as the few times he played against higher levels of competition, such as Michigan, he was ineffective. He also did not participate in any of the combine workouts making it even harder to determine if he will be effective in the NFL.
The 49ers can afford to take a gamble on Burris, though, as they are already well off in the pass-rusher department.
Can the former Stanford receiver recover from all those concussions?
I had to have the 49ers drafting at least one Stanford player.
The Stanford player they take is Chris Owusu. Owusu was projected to be a second-day pick before the 2011 season but his senior season was a disaster. He suffered two concussions and as a result his play suffered, only catching the ball 35 times for 376 yards.
He has the athletic talent, though, to play in the NFL as he ran a 4.36 and his most productive season was when Harbaugh was still coaching at Stanford. It just comes down to if he can avoid getting another concussion. He's had three total and another one could end his career. Still spending a seventh-round pick on Owusu isn't much of a risk.