2013 NFL Draft: Best Fit for the San Francisco 49ers at Every Position
At some point in the relatively near future I will get around to writing a review article about the San Francisco 49ers' 2012 season. In case some of my regular readers have not noticed, I have yet to write about the bitter ending to an otherwise great season.
That will come in due time.
As it is, today's article is going to turn the page to the 2013 NFL draft. I will take a look at each position and give you realistic options for San Francisco. I will take into account the myriad of picks that it has as well as its scheme.
Remember, this is not a mock draft.
San Francisco doesn't need to go out there and acquire a top quarterback prospect, not that there are many in this draft. Colin Kaepernick is its quarterback of the future for at least the next decade.
In fact, San Francisco might not even have to bring in a backup with the presence of Scott Tolzien on the roster.
With that said, there is no reason for the 49ers not to go out there and draft a developmental guy to learn as a No. 3.
This is where Zac Dysert comes into play. He struggles with mechanics and has a slow release: two things that can be fixed over time.
The one thing that Dysert does bring to the table is raw skills. He has a strong arm, can be accurate on the intermediate routes and understands when to check off to his second or third read. A lot of young quarterbacks don't possess that latter skill.
As of right now, the Miami (Ohio) product is considered a fourth-round pick. Reports indicate that he will miss the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, which could lead to an ever further drop come draft day. This increases the likelihood that San Francisco takes a look at him.
Why would the 49ers even consider going with a running back in the draft?
After all, they have Frank Gore, who tallied the second-most rushing yards of his entire career in 2012.
Kendall Hunter, despite a serious Achilles injury, should be ready to return by training camp. The Oklahoma State product has put up 1,100 total yards on 209 touches (5.3 average) since being selected in the fourth round of the '11 draft.
Meanwhile, 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James picked his game up towards the latter part of the year and was an important cog in the postseason. He will be an impact player for San Francisco moving forward.
This doesn't even take into account increased production from Anthony Dixon and talented youngster Jewel Hampton.
Well, the short-form answer is pretty simple.
San Francisco has too many picks in April's draft. You cannot expect over a dozen rookies to make its final roster out of camp.
This is where Marcus Lattimore comes into play. He was considered a first-round prospect prior to another serious knee injury this past season. The dynamic running back from South Carolina wants to be ready for the fall, but there is no telling that he will be able to show up and contribute.
Depending on how Lattimore's recovery goes leading up to April, he could fall to the mid-to-late rounds. If this were to happen, a reasonable explanation would be that he isn't ready to go for '13.
Why not pick Lattimore up and store him on the inactive list for a season? He could be a real steal moving forward.
Current Depth Chart
Delanie Walker struggled catching the ball this past season and is set to become a free agent next month. He might demand starter money from a team that doesn't have an elite player at this position like San Francisco has. The talent is most definitely there for Walker, so he could be in high demand on the open market.
San Francisco could make what would be an unpopular decision to go with a tight end with the 31st pick in April. It was linked to Coby Fleener prior to the 2012 draft.
Tyler Eifert is one of the most complete receiving tight ends to enter the draft in a long time. He has the speed, size and hands to be a dynamic playmaker for Colin Kaepernick in the passing game.
Here is my scouting report on the Notre Dame product.
Imagine Vernon Davis and Eifer lining up between the hashes with Michael Crabtree on the outside. This would cause a ridiculous amount of mismatches for defenses on a weekly basis. You have to believe general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh have thought about this.
Delanie Walker (free agent)
It isn't a secret that San Francisco is going to be in the market for a complementary No. 2 wide receiver in the offseason. Randy Moss, despite showing leadership on and off the field, really doesn't have what it takes to be a key contributor in the passing game.
Both Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham went out with serious injuries against the New Orleans Saints in Week 12 and will be limited in terms of workouts in the offseason.
Meanwhile, 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins was only active for a handful of games and failed to catch a pass. I will not even get into Ted Ginn Jr, who shouldn't even take up a roster spot for this franchise in 2013.
Outside of Michael Crabtree, the 49ers are in trouble at wide receiver.
They have, and will continue, to be linked to every possible veteran receiver on the market. Mike Wallace was a possibility last season and has been brought up again in the weeks following the Super Bowl. While Percy Harvin will require a draft pick or two, he has also been linked to San Francisco (via Yahoo!).
Short of adding one of these types of vets, San Francisco may have to spend an early-round pick on a wide receiver for the second consecutive season.
Cordarrelle Patterson just overtook Keenan Allen as my No. 1 overall wide receiver in the 2013 draft. Despite being a bit raw in terms of mechanics on the outside, the Tennessee product has the highest upside of any offensive player in the draft.
He can beat defenders deep with a solid double move and has absolutely no issue going up to get the ball.
In addition, Patterson has the size and speed to beat opposing cornerbacks on the outside. He reminds me a great deal of Demaryius Thomas with the Denver Broncos.
Considering where I project Patterson going, San Francisco will most likely have to trade up for him.
Randy Moss (free agent)
Ted Ginn Jr
San Francisco seems to be pretty set along the offensive line. In fact, it has five above-average starters with a couple Pro Bowl players mixed in there. Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and Joe Staley are among the best in the NFL at their individual positions, while Alex Boone is quickly accelerating towards that status.
In terms of backups, the 49ers might need to add a player or two. Daniel Kilgore saw a handful of snaps as a rover along the interior of the line, while veteran Leonard Davis acted as an extra blocker on a consistent basis.
Kilgore is a solid backup moving forward. Davis, on the other hand, might be one and done in San Francisco.
This leaves a position or two open.
Rick Wagner came into the 2012 collegiate season as a high-upside prospect. In fact, many considered him a first-round talent. He struggled with edge rushers consistently and doesn't possess the mechanics to be a solid starter out of the gate. This caused Wagner's stock to plummet during the year.
He is now considered a mid-round prospect.
I currently have this Wisconsin prospect as a better interior offensive-line prospect than at his original tackle position. This could bode well for a 49ers' team looking to add quality depth at every position along the unit.
Alex Boone (starting guard)
Leonard Davis (free agent, guard)
Jonathan Goodwin has been an above-average center for San Francisco since coming over from the New Orleans Saints prior to the start of the 2011 season. With that said, it could be concluded that he is a weakest link to the best offensive line in the NFL.
In addition, the former Pro Bowl performer is 34 and might only have a season or two of productive play left in front of him.
While Daniel Kilgore could switch over as an experimental center project down the road, he seems better fit as a backup at both guard positions.
Khaled Holmes is the best pass-protecting center in the draft. He has the athleticism and mobility to get to the second level on the pull and can go up against interior linemen in pass protection. This is one of the primary things that San Francisco will take a look at when scouting centers in the lead-up to April's draft.
He is a mid-round prospect as of right now.
At 6'4" and 359 pounds, John Jenkins is a massive representation of a man. He can anchor the front of San Francisco's 3-4 defensive scheme for years to come.
With Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois set to become free agents next month, San Francisco will be forced to look at this position in the draft. Even if it is able to retain one of those two veterans, this is still a position of need.
There will be questions about Jenkins' durability because of his size, but he is a perfect fit for the 49ers. The Georgia product will be available at No. 31. It remains to be seen, however, if he will be on the board at the end of the second round.
Yet another Missouri defensive lineman, Sheldon Richardson would be a mighty fine fit for the San Francisco 49ers. At 6'3" and 290 pounds, he can play both tackle and end in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme.
Equally as important, Richardson is just as good against the run as he is getting to the quarterback on the outside.
As of right now, Richardson translates more to being an end in a 3-4. He could come in and back up both Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, while eventually being able to take over for the former in a year or two.
We already know that San Francisco needs to acquire more young depth along the defensive line. Picking up Richardson in the first round would be a coup.
The issue with this is that he will go long before San Francisco selects No. 31 in the first round. It will have to trade up into the mid-teens in order to pick up this elite defensive lineman.
Will Trent Baalke and Co. make this bold move? I wouldn't bet against it.
Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks were among the best outside linebacker tandems in the NFL this past season. They combined for a whopping 26 sacks and raised havoc in the offensive backfield all year long.
With that in mind, San Francisco really doesn't have a whole heck of a lot of depth here. It brought in veteran Clark Haggans to play a backup role, but he didn't contribute a great deal.
In addition, Parys Haralson missed the entire season with an injury and is unlikely to return in 2013.
Cam Johnson and Darius Fleming, both 2012 draft picks, didn't make an impact on the field. Fleming tore his ACL in camp and didn't play a down. Meanwhile, Johnson was hidden on the practice squad and inactive list for a vast majority of the year.
In short, San Francisco needs to add more young depth here.
Brandon Jenkins was considered a first-round prospect prior to missing the final 12 games of his senior season with a lisfranc injury. While the Florida State product did play with his hands down in a 4-3 scheme in college, he translates better as an outside linebacker and edge rusher in a 3-4.
His athleticism and pass-rush skills are off the charts. The talented defender has multiple moves, including a great swim technique to get past offensive tackles on the outside.
Teams will have to check in on his injury issue during the combine and leading up to the draft in April. If Jenkins checks out, he could go as early as the second round. That being said, he should be available in the third round.
Parys Haralson (injured)
Darius Fleming (injured)
I honestly don't understand how Larry Grant hasn't gotten a starting gig in the NFL. He was an unrestricted free agent last offseason (seventh-round tender), but got absolutely no play on the open market. It would be wrong of me to assume that Grant will be back in a backup role.
Meanwhile, Tavares Gooden is also set to become a free agent. He is about as solid as they come in special teams, but he hasn't played a role on defense since coming over from the Baltimore Ravens in 2011.
NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis are the two best inside linebackers in the league. It just so happens that they play right next to one another on the same team. This doesn't mean that San Francisco can roll the dice on one not getting injured during the season.
A.J. Klein is a mechanically sound linebacker that can come in and spot-start immediately. He doesn't do any one thing great, but he is darn good across the board. This would be a selection for a backup role player, nothing more.
Larry Grant (free agent)
Tavares Gooden (free agent)
I find it alarming that Chris Culliver and Tarell Brown, who were considered San Francisco's two best defensive backs during the regular season, fell flat on their faces in the postseason. It seems that the biggest stage was just too glaring for these two talented cornerbacks.
Carlos Rogers regressed a great deal throughout his second season with the 49ers and really isn't a true No. 1 cover corner in the NFL anymore. While San Francisco will likely bring him back in '13 due to a less-than-friendly cap hit, it will need one or two upgrades at cornerback.
Enter into the equation Desmond Trufant, who is my favorite cornerback in the entire draft. He possesses a swagger on the outside that reminds me of the best players in the NFL. On the surface, that doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot, but confidence is extremely important for young defensive backs in the NFL.
Meanwhile, Trufant is as physical at the line as any cornerback I have seen come down the pike in a long time. He doesn't struggle running with receivers on the outside and does a darn good job playing the ball in the air. In short, the Washington product can be a truly elite shutdown corner in the NFL.
Right now, I have him going to the 49ers with the 31st pick in my most recent mock draft.
Let me put this out there right now. San Francisco will have to trade multiple picks in order to move up and obtain Kenny Vaccaro, who is the consensus No. 1 safety in the entire 2013 NFL draft.
The Texas product can play both free safety and on the strong side. He hits like a maniac between the hashes and can cover with the best of them over the top.
While general manager Trent Baalke values his picks a great deal, acquiring someone of this quality would do wonders for the 49ers' defensive backfield. He would provide an All-Pro caliber player along all levels of their defense, something that no other defense in the NFL can really say.
Even as a rookie, Vaccaro would be an upgrade over Dashon Goldson in coverage. In fact, he would change the entire landscape of the secondary.
I guess it doesn't take a psychic to understand exactly how high I am on him.
If San Francisco stays put at No. 31, which is a likely scenario, Jonathan Cyprien from Florida International will definitely be a target. He impressed scouts a great deal during Senior Bowl Week and seems to be jumping up draft boards as I type this.
For good reason.
I have been able to watch some tape on the talented strong safety and he jumps out as one of the most athletically gifted defenders in the draft.
He possesses great on-ball skills from the back end of the defense, something that Donte Whitner struggled with a great deal this past season. As a strong safety, Cyprien is dominating in the box against the run and can beat blockers at the line of scrimmage.
There really isn't much not to like about this small-school prospect. Much like Vaccaro in the slide before, Cyprien would represent an immediate upgrade.
Not much to write down here. Dustin Hopkins is the No. 1 kicker in the draft and San Francisco boasted one of the worst kicking games in the entire NFL.
It goes without saying that David Akers will get his walking papers some time between now and March. Short of signing another veteran kicker, San Francisco will end up targeting Hopkins in the fifth or sixth round.
It's a pick they will likely have to make.