Who Are the Experts Predicting to SF 49ers in the First Round of the NFL Draft?

Dan MoriCorrespondent IMarch 26, 2013

Who Are the Experts Predicting to SF 49ers in the First Round of the NFL Draft?

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    The San Francisco 49ers currently have 14 selections heading into the NFL draft. With their all-important first-round selection, the 31st overall, the 49ers cannot afford to whiff.

    In 2012, the 49ers drafted wide receiver A.J. Jenkins with their first pick. Although it's too early to pass final judgement on Jenkins, he showed nothing this past season. Jenkins had no receptions and was inactive for almost every game.  

    The 2013 draft appears to be very deep with solid talent throughout the first three rounds. Looking at their first selection, the 49ers need an impact caliber player that can step in and play right away. He doesn't need to be a superstar, but he should be able to contribute to the success of the team.

    There are several options being bandied about for the 49ers' first-round draft selection. Let's take a look at some of the players the so-called experts are touting.

Tyler Eifert, Tight End

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    Drafttek has the 49ers selecting Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert with their first-round pick. While Eifert is a fine player with star potential, this would be a bad move by the 49ers.

    The 49ers already have Vernon Davis as their starting tight end, so Eifert would, at best, be the 49ers' second tight end. In 2012, Eifert caught 50 passes for 685 yards. This followed up 2011, when Eifert caught 63 passes for 803 yards.

    Eifert would replace Delanie Walker, who recently signed with the Tennessee Titans as a free agent. Even with the loss of Walker, the 49ers have other needs they must address with their first-round selection. A backup tight end is far from the ideal solution.

    A recent update now has Draftek calling Johnathan Hankins, a defensive tackle from Oihio State, as the 49ers' top pick.

Kawaan Short, Defensive Tackle

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    Dylan Desimone of Bleacher Report has Kawann Short going to the 49ers with their Round 1 selection. Short is a 6'3", 299-pound defensive tackle from Purdue University.

    In the 49ers' 3-4 scheme, Short would probably need to move to the defensive end position, as he's probably just a bit too small to play the nose tackle spot. Short also needs to work on his body as he carries too much weight around his midsection.

    In 2012, Short accumulated 43 tackles, including seven sacks. He has very good upper body strength, but questions about his "motor" have surfaced periodically. 

    As a defensive end, Short needs to be a little bit better at rushing the passer. As a nose tackle, Short needs to be a bit bigger. He is a good player with significant upside, but he would be a reach at No. 31.

    The signing of free agent Glenn Dorsey gives the 49ers depth and a good rotational defensive lineman that can either start or fill in at all three line positions. The 49ers need a nose tackle or a strong pass-rushing defensive end and there will be better options available than Short.

Sylvester Williams, Nose Tackle

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    Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com, which is powered by NFLDraftScout.com, has the 49ers taking nose tackle Sylvester Williams, out of North Carolina.  

    Williams is very strong against the run and merely adequate against the pass. He has a low center of gravity and can be tough to root out of the middle on running plays.

    Although fairly quick off the ball for a big man, Williams lacks the explosive power and athleticism needed to be a sack producer. He completed his senior season at North Carolina with 42 tackles and six sacks.

    Ideally, Williams is someone who should go in the middle of the second round. If the 49ers do not get a nose tackle with either of their first two picks, they could trade up into the middle of round two to nab him. That's really where Williams' value lies. Making him a first-round pick would be a reach.

    If 49er GM Trent Baalke makes this selection, hopefully, it works out better than the last Tar Heel defensive lineman the 49ers took in the first round, Kentwan Balmer.

Zach Ertz, Tight End

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    Scott Wright's Draft Countdown has Zach Ertz going to the 49ers.

    Ertz has improved steadily in every year of his collegiate career. In 2012, Ertz caught 69 passes for 898 yards and six touchdowns. He has the speed necessary to get down the field and also very good hands to catch the ball.

    Ertz is reminiscent of former 49ers' tight end Brent Jones. A smart player, fundamentally sound, with good hands and decent speed.

    Unfortunately, he is not the right fit as the 49ers' first-round draft pick. Similar to the Notre Dame tight end, Tyler Eifert, Ertz would not beat out Vernon Davis and with the 49ers having other more pressing needs, a second-string tight end is an unwise pick.

Johnthan Banks, Cornerback

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    Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com, powered by NFLDraftScout.com, has Johnthan Banks as the 49ers' first-round selection. 

    The 49ers' defensive secondary was a major source of weakness late in the 2012 season and in the playoffs. The secondary was also victimized in the Super Bowl by Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens.

    Banks is a tall cornerback at 6'2" and 185 pounds. With receivers like Percy Harvin and Larry Fitrzgerald in the NFC West, the 49ers need to bolster their pass coverage.

    NFL.com rated Banks as the fourth-best cornerback at the recent scouting combine. Banks played all four seasons at Mississippi State and in his senior year had 63 tackles, four interceptions and 11 passes defended.

    Banks also has experience returning punts, which will be a valuable asset for the 49ers.

    The biggest concern about Banks is his strength and ability to handle physical receivers. He has the height but, at only 185 pounds, can get overpowered.

    The 49ers need a safety before a cornerback, so although Banks would not be a bad pick, he's not ideal.

Jesse Williams, Nose Tackle

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    Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com, powered by NFLDraftScout.com, tabs Alabama nose tackle Jesse Williams as the 49ers' Round 1 draft selection. 

    The 49ers lost both of their nose tackles, Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois, in free agency. Although they signed defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey, he is not the prototypical nose tackle.

    Williams stands 6'3" and weighs in at 323 pounds. He is a nose tackle and would be an excellent selection at No. 31, for the 49ers.

    Like Justin Smith, the 49ers' star defensive end, Williams has a never-ending motor and would fit perfectly with Smith. Williams is very strong & can also collapse the pocket in pass-rushing situations.

    If the 49ers select Williams, they would have their nose tackle for the foreseeable future and he also fills a position of need.

Margus Hunt, Defensive End

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    Todd McShay, ESPN Insider, and Rob Rang of CBSSports.com, both have the 49ers taking defensive end Margus Hunt with their first-round draft pick. He was the star of the NFL scouting combine and no player shot up the draft boards more than Hunt.

    At 6'8" and 277 pounds, Hunt is an impressive physical specimen. However, his actual performance in college did not measure up to what he did at the combine.

    At SMU this past season, Hunt had 31 tackles and eight sacks. He played all four seasons at SMU and accumulated only 16.5 sacks for his career.

    Many times we can be wowed by players with outstanding physical gifts, but their performance on the field does not match those gifts. Many GMs have lost their jobs over these types of mistakes.

    Hunt was not a dominant college player and to take him with their first-round pick would be a huge gamble for the 49ers. There are many proven collegiate players that would be wiser selections for the 49ers.

Matt Elam, Safety

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    Matt Binstock of FFToolbox.com has Matt Elam as the 49ers' first-round pick. 

    Elam, a safety from Florida, appears to be ready for the NFL right now and can play either safety position.

    Elam is 5'10" and a very sturdy 208 pounds. He is a fierce hitter and very solid coming up against the run. Elam can play the slot receiver or drop back into deep zone coverage.

    In 2012, Elam had 76 tackles, including 11 tackles for loss and two sacks. He also had four interceptions and was credited for nine passes defended and a forced fumble,

    With the departure of Dashon Goldson in the free-agent market and the weakness of Donte Whitner in coverage, Elam is just the player the 49ers need. If he's available, he would be a tremendous selection by Trent Baalke. 

Datone Jones, Defensive End

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    Mel Kiper Jr. from ESPN has the 49ers selecting Datone Jones as their top draft pick in 2013. WalterFootball.com also has the 49ers taking Jones at No. 31.

    Jones would fit well in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme as a defensive end, especially in passing downs. Jones amassed 62 tackles, including 5.5 sacks this past season. He has a quick burst off the line of scrimmage and good speed to get around the pass-blocker.

    Jones can also play as a pass-rushing linebacker in obvious passing downs. Many analysts have Jones gone before the 49ers' pick, but if he's still there, he would be a good choice.

    WalterFootball just changed their selection and now have the 49ers taking Notre Dame tight end, Tyler Eifert.  

Eric Reid, Safety

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    Jesse Reed, from Bleacher Report, has the 49ers taking Eric Reid with their first-round pick in the upcoming draft. Reid is a quick, athletic safety from LSU. 

    At 6'1" and 213 pounds, Reid has the size and speed to play either safety position. In 2012, Reid made 91 tackles, had two interceptions. He has a nose for the football and is a good tackler, something the 49ers look for in all of their defensive players.

    Reid was an All-SEC performer and is good against both the run and the pass. With the departure of Dashon Goldson, safety is one of the biggest holes the 49ers need to address. Reid is an ideal choice and could also step in for Donte Whitner, if necessary.

    Jesse Reed just changed his pick for the 49ers to Margus Hunt. He was right the first time, the 49ers would be better off with Eric Reid. 

The 49ers Have Major Needs That Can Be Addressed in the Upcoming Draft

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    The San Francisco 49ers have had a very busy offseason. Gone from the team are starters Dashon Goldson, Randy Moss and Isaac Sopoaga. Also, role players Delanie Walker, Ricky Jean-Francois, Larry Grant and Tavares Gooden are moving on. Place kicker David Akers has also been replaced.

    GM Trent Baalke has brought in free agents Glenn Dorsey, Dan Skuta, Marlon Moore, Phil Dawson and Craig Dahl. All have been signed under very reasonable contracts. In addition, the 49ers also acquired receiver Anquan Boldin in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick.

    Heading into the draft, there are two major needs that can be addressed with the 49ers' picks at No. 31 and 34. These positions of need are safety and nose tackle.

    At safety, Matt Elam, Eric Reid and Jonathan Cyprien would be excellent fits for the 49ers. The top nose tackles who should be available with one of these picks include Jesse Williams and Jonathan Jenkins.

    The 49ers also could use one of their top two selections to get a top flight defensive end. Datone Jones would be that option. If one of the top cornerbacks is available, such as Xavier Rhodes, Jordan Poyer or Desmond Trufant, that would also be an outstanding selection.

    After their first-round selection, the 49ers have two picks in the second, third and fourth rounds. This gives them a great deal of flexibility to make deals and get the players they truly covet.

    GM Trent Baalke has 14 total picks at his disposal, so look for a lot of action surrounding the 49ers on draft weekend. There is no way Baalke ends up with 14 picks, as there will never be that many openings on the roster.

    Look for the 49ers to trade up, bundle picks to acquire higher selections or trade out of certain picks to get additional assets for 2014. This will be the 49ers' most exciting draft in recent memory.