2013 NFL Draft: 2 Players the San Francisco 49ers Should Keep Tabs on
In the 2011 and 2012 NFL drafts under the new regime led by Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke, the San Francisco 49ers revealed themselves to be methodical and successful. This organization takes it one game at a time, but it is clearly always thinking 10 steps ahead and planning for the future.
The 2013 NFL draft will be the third draft under Harbaugh and Co., and it will certainly begin to make the changeover in the organization that much more noticeable. With several players on one-year deals, expiring contracts, aging and outperforming their contracts where the Niners could not afford to keep them, San Francisco could be replacing players at key positions in 2013.
With the NCAA football season gearing up, there are a few players that should at least be on the 49ers' radar.
Montee Ball, RB - Wisconsin
On Tuesday, Frank Gore turned 29 years old and his injury history is no mystery. Gore still has plenty left in the tank, but his run in San Francisco could come to a close in the next two seasons.
At 5'11", 210 pounds, Ball would provide the integral third piece to the Kendall Hunter-LaMichael James pairing going forward. Ball is a different style of runner with unquestioned productivity. As a junior, the Badger totaled 2,229 all-purpose yards and tied Barry Sanders' NCAA touchdown record with 39 combined rushing and receiving touchdowns in a single season.
Ball averaged 6.3 yards per carry last season with Wisconsin and 7.1 yards when playing at home. He is an every-down back, while many doubt that either Hunter or James could ever handle that job. This trio would be young, viral and complementary of one another—they'd feasibly get stronger as a running team.
When it's time to see the 49ers' all-time leading rusher go, Ball would be a terrific front-man to fill his shoes in a dynamic trio.
Tyrann Mathieu, DB - LSU
The 49ers have begun workouts, intermingling the veterans and the rookies already, but of the notable no-shows is Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson. Goldson was tagged by the 49ers and has been avoiding team facilities as well as signing the one-year tag. His behavior could be early signs of a holdout, and the team's neglect to re-sign Goldson to a long-term deal could indicate it doesn't see him as "the guy" for years to come.
Enter the 2011 Chuck Bednarik Award winner and Heisman finalist.
Nicknamed the "Honey Badger," Mathieu has been an absolutely dominant player for LSU's elite defense—showing he can be everywhere on the field at once. The irony about Mathieu going to the 49ers would be that Jim Harbaugh had used the nature of the honey badger as a motivational tactic for his own squad. To add Mathieu would only confirm what sort of players he's looking for—it's definitely a good fit.
Scouts will say he is a little undersized at 5'9", 175 pounds, but no one is disputing the kid can play. He tackles well, he's a threat as a blitzer, he's always attacking the football and is an extremely athletic playmaker. Mathieu, if coached properly and inserted at free safety, could be the second-coming of Ed Reed.
The 49ers will need to look to add at key positions on both offense and defense, seeking out potential long-term starters to continue their dominance in the league. At this point, there is no predicting where these players could go in the 2013 NFL draft, so San Francisco could have a shot at bringing in at least one of them.
Both Ball and Mathieu could step in and be factors for the Niners in their first years, and better yet, could be incredible long-term solutions at positions that are very productive for San Francisco today.
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